That’s what we’re becoming.
I was reading Pete Wells’s comment from the per se kitchen during the Keller-Achatz dinner that when sent to inquire as to food allergies, captains reported that the first 8 tables, of 16 I believe, requested that the kitchen amend the menu for them in some way due to food allergies (I trust not simply preferences). The ninth table was probably a deuce. Pete didn’t expand on further requests. One of the requests came from the editor of a prominent food magazine.
One of my dearest friends got angry with me for sending him an article noting that so-called MSG allergies have been thoroughly debunked. He is insistent. What causes this irrational and senseless belief that our bodies react violently to any number of fruits and vegetables and livestock?
My favorite stories are from servers who tell of customers who claim to be allergic to dairy—so no milk, cream, or butter—and then order the cheese at the end of the meal.
People allergic to grapefruit? Or sweet peppers? Please. Fennel? Come on.
As Harold McGee writes in On Food and Cooking, an estimated 2% of the adult population have food allergies. I ate a handful of hazel and brazil nuts at a Christmas party last year and my arm grew hives, my head swelled up and I looked like a boiled lobster.
Seeds and nuts are common sources of allergies and can be serious, of course. Some people are allergic to gluten. Another common allergy is to egg white. And of course many have shellfish allergies.
When you have a food allergy it means that your body believes that something is attacking it and launches a response that results in everything from discomfort to shock.
But again, 2%. All other "allergies," my guess is, stem from ignorance and fear and a generally food-neurotic culture. I wonder if the French and Italians and Spanish, who tend to be so sensible about how and when to eat, report a similar incidence. Any servers reading this? I’d love to hear the best “I’m allergic to” story.
UPDATE: In comments, Anthony notes that people on statins shouldn't have grapefruit. I'll give him that–my dad was on statins and had the grapefruit issue. Another commenter notes it's possible to be lactose intolerant and still enjoy cheese; lactose intolerance isn't an allergy, though, and it's my understanding that it's usually kids who have milk allergies, though, as I'm sure is clear from my ranty little post, I'm no nutritionist.
ONE LAST THING: Many commenters are noting personal uncommon alergies (papaya, carrots)–if you do so, and know the actual substance with in the food causing the reaction, please note it.