[Sca-cooks] Minor rant - allergies and following directions
trekatz at yahoo.com
Mon May 7 22:25:06 PDT 2012
I copied this from my blog, because the final question is relevant here, and something I'm interested in some input on. When do I finally say "it's not my problem"?
I'm the head cook for the upcoming Insulae Draconis Coronet
Tournament this weekend. For those of you who may not know, at most SCA
events in the UK (and generally mainland Europe as well, from what I can tell), food for the weekend is included in your site fee.
I am very concerned with making sure everyone gets enough to eat, and
that the balance of nutrition available for each person is appropriate
(i.e. making sure there is a reasonable protein option for vegetarians,
not just a bunch of side dishes.) In order to accommodate this, I need
to know ahead of time what allergies and other dietary restrictions I'm
In the past, I've cooked for events where someone came up to me on the day and said, for example, "I'm allergic
to onions; what's safe to eat?" Ack! Onions go in almost EVERYTHING! I
then scramble to make an extra dish or two without onions (or try to
find something that the onions haven't gone into yet to pull a portion
out that is then safe for the allergy). This was someone who apparently
had told the reservation steward for the event, and the information got
lost along the way so I never received it.
I've gotten vague information from the reservation steward such as "Lady Gretel says she's allergic to Fructose". Fructose? What exactly does
that entail? I know it's in fruit...so anything with any fruit, fruit
juice, dried fruit...is it used as an additive...Ack! When I then go
back to the reservation steward who then goes back to Lady Gretel and
asks about it, I get an answer such as "I'm not really sure what all I'm allergic to, and it's not that bad anyway, so don't worry about it."
Really? REALLY? So even if I "don't worry about it" and don't do
anything different, I still worry a bit that something she eats will
make her sick.
So in order to avoid some of this
confusion and frustration, I've come up with a new method for getting
the information I need all consolidated into one spot. I made a form
through Google Docs, have it posted on the website (or e-mailed out on
the group list or individually to people who have made reservations)
with a plea to PLEASE fill out the form - because the cool thing about
the Google Docs Form is that it consolidates all the answers for me onto ONE spreadsheet. I don't have to worry that I've forgotten to put
someone's information in, or that the reservation steward missed
someone. ALL the information for the specific event is on one sheet.
Since I write the questions for the form, I can even make sure that they are
worded in a (hopefully) fool-proof manner to get the information I
actually need. For example, one of the questions I have on the form is
"Do you have any plant-based allergies?" With the explanation that "I
sometimes cook with items which are not always thought of when listing
food allergies, such as nettles and hedgerow berries." This means that I find out ahead of time if I have people allergic to nettles before
mixing them into the cooked greens or making a nettle soup. (Honestly -
if it's not listed in the name of the dish, how many people are going to look at an ingredient list for Nettles if they don't have any food
allergies?) I can also ask, on the form, for the person's name and
e-mail in case I have further questions regarding their dietary needs.
I don't know if people realize that this form is as much for my peace of
mind as it is for their health and safety. Now, the reason for this rant is that - even after having a link to the form on the event website,
and sending several e-mails to the group e-mail list and posting it on
the Principality's facebook group, when I got the list of event
reservations from the reservation steward, there are STILL people listed on there, with allergies listed that they sent on their reservation NOT on a form, who have not filled out the form so I have the information
ALL IN ONE PLACE.
Granted, this is only the second
event I've done the form for, but I don't think I could have been any
more clear. I have people even in my local group who have said "you know my allergies, right?" and even though I've asked them to please fill
out the form anyway, so it's on the combined information list, here we
are four days before the event, and they still haven't done it.
I do have to say, though, that there is one lovely lady who has several
allergies that I have gotten used to working with. She asked if she
needed to fill out the form even though I have her information, and was
quite understanding when I explained that yes, I did need it separately
for each event, but that a "short list" instead of full explanations
would be fine now. So basically now she can just write "no alcohol"
instead of having to list "no alcohol, including wine vinegars, but
cider vinegar is fine". We've worked out the specifics of her allergies, I just need the note so I remember that yes, she'll be there and if I'm making things ahead of time I know which vinegars went into which
dishes, or I remember to cook the stew with broth instead of beer as a
So, with it being four days before the event, and people still not filling out the form as requested...when do I just say "It's not my problem", even though they gave the information someplace
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