I recently went out for lunch and ran into this sign:
Which I think is about the best thing in the history of time. It is a breakdown of the ingredients in each of the restaurant’s dishes, indicating which contain dairy, fish, nuts, and so on.
Unfortunately I’d already eaten lunch, or I would have eaten there out of sheer appreciation. As I’ve mentioned before, I have food allergies and am dating a vegan, both of which can make eating out difficult. Everywhere I go, I need to check if meals contain hidden dairy, which is the case more often than you’d think. I always have to request its removal, sometimes in very explicit terms. I have on more than one occasion requested a salad not be served with feta cheese, only to have it arrive covered in parmesan or the like. I appreciate the attempt at providing me with an alternative, but in my case, it’s not actually helpful.
Then there’s the number of places that genuinely seem to have no idea what’s in their food. I’ve been assured many a time that there is definitely no dairy in a product, only to come home with my tongue swelling. And these are just the ingredients I can definitely detect; I have no doubts that my vegan girlfriend has been lied to about the presence of fish or oyster sauce in a stir-fry.
The odd thing is, it’s only a problem when eating out. I’m sure you’ve noticed the food labelling that comes on pretty much everything we get now, excluding fresh foods. All food sold is required to come labelled, with the exception of foods that have almost no nutritional value – which means up to and including my last packet of gum. They also universally have allergen information, which is very useful when unexpected ingredients arise. For example, the last packet of bread crumbs I bought contained not only milk solids but also fish meal. This is my fault, at least in part, for not checking before I bought the packet, but who on earth expected dairy and fish in breadcrumbs? I’m a little concerned about that, frankly.
I realise it would be immensely difficult to have food labelling on every menu and every item at every restaurant in Australia. But I do wish there was some kind of balance between the total lack of information available now, and the total calorific and nutritional breakdown of every piece of toast. Baker’s Delight now has the capability, when asked about a product, to print off a list of every ingredient in the given product – delightful. For those wondering, coffee and date rolls, and apple and walnut scrolls are both dairy free.
Maybe it would just be a good idea if people preparing and serving food had some idea what was in it. My allergies won’t kill me, but my friend K has a fish allergy that has ended with her in anaphylactic shock. I think that’s the kind of thing we ought to be careful with.