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  • Writer's pictureGayle Rigione, Allergy Force

With Food Allergies You Remember How People Make You Feel


Two loaves of fresh bread. Image by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.


“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou


There’s this artisanal bakery in town. A hidden gem, really. Makes sourdough bread that’s perfection — crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. You’d think it was a neighborhood boulangerie in Paris. Not Connecticut.

The bread checks all the boxes on allergy-friendly ingredients: Flour, Water, Salt. Perfect for our son who’s allergic to eggs, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and peas. We’ve talked to the chief baker and are comfortable with how they manage cross contact risk when baking the bread behind the scenes.


The problem is that the bakery also sells beautiful pastries from the same storefront. Rife with egg ingredients. Sharing display space. Next to the bread. Cross contact risk in the shop is a concern.


But, we’ve found a workaround.


We ask for bread that’s on trays in the back, that’s not yet been placed on display for purchase. We ask the counter person to put fresh gloves on and bag the bread in the back, not on the display counter anywhere near the pastries.


And herein the problem.


I’m always on tenterhooks as we work our way through the line that trails out the door with customers in search of bread and croissants. I’m nervous about who will take our order when we get to the front of the line.


It’s a good day when the person helping us is the twenty-something woman from Europe. As soon as we run through our son’s food allergies and ask for an unsliced loaf of sourdough, she changes her gloves with a smile. Then she heads to the back of the shop to hand select a loaf from the very top of a far far away tray, bagging it without setting it on a countertop. She recently shared that she’s had an allergic reaction — not sure to what — and is waiting for an allergist appointment. She gets us. She gets it.


She makes us feel understood, not a bother, welcomed. We are grateful.

But as often as the young woman draws the ‘short stick’ to help us, just as often it’s the big, burly guy. He never seems to remember us or understand food allergies. We labor through asking him to change his gloves and why and he barely restrains the eye roll. I get it. He truly does have large hands and it’s a chore to take off his gloves and squeeze his hands into a fresh set. Then he lumbers to the back, often forgetting that we need the bread bagged in the back, away from the display counter. Then we brave another eye roll as we remind him about the bagging step. He makes it clear that we’re a bother, eyeing the long line of impatient customers to make his point. He doesn’t understand. Or even try to understand.


He makes us feel like an imposition, unwelcomed.


We continue to frequent the bakery, always trying to educate the big guy, always hoping the kind woman is the one who will help us. She's the reason we keep going back. Plus, knowing our son can safely enjoy the bread makes it worth occasionally having to brave the big guy's uncaring attitude.


As a long time food allergy parent I know it's important to be unrelenting in my efforts to keep my loved one safe and, importantly, to have a thick skin.


Always treat others with respect. Kindly if you can.



line drawing of a heart with curving lines bookending the handdrawn heart. Image by Allergy Force on Canva.



What has someone done that makes you feel cared about and understood when you make special food allergy requests?



 
headshot-gayle-rigione-allergy-force-ceo

About the Author: Gayle Rigione is CEO of Allergy Force, the food allergy app. She’s also an allergy mom. She’s lived the heart stopping moments when her son ate the wrong thing, second guessed reactions and raced to the ER. Her professional and personal experiences fuel her passion for creating tools for people with food allergies. Whatever you do, do it with a full heart. Audentes Fortuna Iuvat


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Image: Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels





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