I’ve known that I’m allergic to nuts for as long as I can remember.
The first incident was when I eat a walnut whip when I was aged about four. Even now I can vaguely remember the consternation as I came out in a rash and had a mild asthma attack.
For the rest of my childhood I was able to steer clear of them except for twice when my Dad was solely responsible for me!
One was a trip to the football when I was eight years-old. The first time I ever saw Coventry City play, it was against Nottingham Forest, 1-1 if I remember rightly and the game went on forever! Somehow under his watch I managed to eat a nut.
Some years later my Dad took me and my sister to the cinema to see the Disney film Pinocchio and once again I somehow managed to eat nuts. Perhaps I should conclude he was trying to kill me, I can only imagine what trouble he was in with my mother when we got home.
Not long after that my parents took me for a test where tiny quantities of various allergens including different types of nut were injected into my arm.
The resulting swellings revealed I was allergic to virtually everything including pollen, animal hair and feathers. I could also see which nuts had the biggest affect on me – Brazil nuts came out top with walnuts and hazelnuts not far behind and almonds barely registering.
Since then when I’ve been responsible for my own consumption I must have inadvertently ingested nuts once every few months to the irritation of myself and Mrs Jones. Nuts turn up in the most unexpected of places and avoiding them really is a minefield.
After a few high profile tragic cases where people have died after eating nuts it’s good now there’s so much more awareness of it.
Trouble is most restaurants approach the issue as a risk to be managed rather than as an attempt to help and inform a sufferer.
Simply labelling everything ‘May Contain Nuts’ including items which actually are nuts and those that couldn’t possibly contain nuts is no help at all.
It’s meant that I hesitate to tell restaurants I’ve got a nut allergy in case they go over the top and, fearing a lawsuit, tell me there’s virtually nothing I can eat.
That’s why it was such a delight to eat at the restaurant chain Mowgli last night. It took all the worry out of ordering by simply producing a table with on one axis all the menu items and on the other all the allergens.
The list of allergens is a long one including usual suspects such as gluten, milk, eggs and nuts through to the less well-known like mustard, sesame, lupin and sulphur.
I could immediately rule out just a few items that had nuts in it and choose with confidence from the rest of the menu which made life so much simpler. No asking the waiter who then needs to check with the kitchen.
How easy is that? Why can’t every restaurant do it? How hard can it be to just tell people what’s in the food they’re eating?
The allergen table came with a health warning that was fair and sensible: Every dish in Mowgli is freshly prepared in small kitchens that handle allergens and each dish contains spices that are ground externally. For this reason, we CANNOT GUARANTEE the absence of any allergens in any of our dishes. Customers with life-threatening allergies and intolerances must take the significant risk into consideration before choosing to dine with us.
That’s fair enough, it gives the diner the information they need and leaves it up to them.
Congratulations to Mowgli, the food was great too, a modern and creative twist on Indian dining.