[Sca-cooks] Minor rant - allergies and following directions

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue May 8 17:39:14 PDT 2012

Tre <trekatz at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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 
> dealing with.


> 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 else?

I would say that at this point it's not your problem, you really have done all you can. Just make sure that everyone gets a list of all the dishes with their concomitant ingredients at each meal. Truly, if people have food sensitivities and allergies, you are too close to the hour of the feast to adjust everything, and it is THEIR responsibility to look out for their own health.

I think Phlip has made some clever suggestions for making the seriousness of the situation clear - and that will be useful during the registration process for your NEXT feast.

Our feasts are relatively small out here in the West - supposedly about 60 registered diners plus comped royalty so 72 or fewer, and often fewer than that if the weather is bad, although in the past i have cooked for 80 and 150 diners. I always post to a whole bunch of lists with the basic menu - including some ingredients and i ask that people with food issues contact me. I think i have had maybe 3 people over about a decade let me know about them. I am not a mind reader. If i don't know, i can't accommodate.

So, i always print out a list of the meal course by course and include each dish with all the ingredients listed - one list for every diner - handed out at the beginning of the feast (i call it a menu, although that isn't really what it is). That way people can be responsible for themselves.

At one feast i had someone run into the kitchen just before a course went out to request that her salad have no vinegar on it - fortunately we hadn't dressed the salad yet.

And at my 26-dish Greco-Roman feast, both the Prince and the Princess of the Principality had different food issues - including her deathly allergy to nearly all nuts except pine nuts and his keeping sort of kosher. I also was accommodating vegetarians (about 10% of the diners), and one or two people with fish allergies (hey, it was Roman, and featured lots of fish sauce). So we prepared all the dishes up to a certain point - before the addition of nuts, dairy, and fish sauce - then divided them into 3 or 4 groups - a plate without dairy for the Prince - a plate without nuts for the Princess - enough to serve all the vegetarians and fish allergics (i used soy sauce for them - not period, but at least salty and umami like fish sauce) - and the rest with the requisite nuts, dairy, and fish sauce.

As for vegetarians, here we're only dealing with one single meal, so i'm not worried about them getting enough protein - i'm an ex-vegetarian, i don't eat meat every day, and i rarely cook it at home, so i am familiar with the issues. I just try to make sure that every dish except the meats are meat-free. If vegetables are supposed to be cooked in broth, then i use a vegetable broth - not necessarily period, but i don't want to exclude my vegetarian friends from the ability to enjoy an historical feast.

Other that, i expect adult diners to behave like adults - if i don't know beforehand, i can't accommodate them, and they have to take care of themselves. I DO try to make sure i don't have the same COMMON allergens in every dish in a course - at my first feast i had at least one course with almonds in almost everything and i don't do this anymore. But if someone is allergic to cloves or onions or cumin and i don't know, it's up to them to take care of themselves. I can try my best to make sure there is NO cross-contamination in the kitchen, but i can't alter the dishes after they're cooked.

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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