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Apache Server at graduate.asu.edu Port 80

The Celeriac Stalks At Midnight

“Keep making noise.”


“Keep making noise or I’ll think you stopped breathing.”

“Okay. What thould I thay?”

“Are you lisping?”

“Thort of.”

This mildly amusing conversation took place on a Saturday night in mid-November, also known as the most terrifying night of my life. I’ve read a lot about food allergies, have cooked for a few people with them and personally have an allergy to shiso that leaves me covered in hives with an itchy face and numb tongue. But, this is different. This is potentially life threatening. This is my husband.

I’ve read about chef’s who willfully ignore patrons with allergies, personally know people who have lied about an allergy and have read stories about people with a myriad of allergies not giving a kitchen staff fair warning before arriving with a laundry list of demands accompanied by the words in bold caps If YOU DO NOT DO THIS I WILL DIE.  I know I would be sick to be thrown into a high stress situation like that with no warning. All of those situations are just as disrespectful and dangerous as the other.

To chefs who intentionally harm their allergic patrons, the allergy-free who lie and the entitled who don’t give the staff fair warning to ensure their safety: YOU SUCK. You suck and only make life more difficult for the rest of us.

It is because of these people that I am afraid. I am afraid that we will now be mistreated or looked down upon when we dine out because the staff will never know if we are being truthful or not. I am afraid we won’t be taken seriously and someone will dismiss the seriousness of our situation. I am afraid that we will be treated as a burden. I am afraid that my husband will be hurt because of exasperation or thoughtlessness.

It is time to stop the lying and thoughtless behavior, because people are getting hurt.

Phil and I are taking steps, trying to be responsible for ourselves. Getting used to it has been about trial and error. Meeting friends for lunch on a whim, forgetting our situation ended in trading my spicy fried chicken for Phil’s pulled pork sandwich that ended up being topped with celeriac slaw. We didn’t send it back, it was our mistake for not asking when we ordered, so we found our own solution. I do not believe that the restaurant should not have to pay because we have been thoughtless.

I am now big on making reservations. This allows me to notify the restaurant, giving them ample time to prepare. Often this simply means making sure our server is informed so they can find out what he needs to stay away from on the menu. I am very grateful for this. We have even found kitchen staffs who have actually offered to make special stock and sauces for him with enough notice.

These encounters have warmed my heart and helped us see that the good people out number the jerks, but I don’t think the fear will ever subside. In all honesty, it is probably good that is doesn’t, because in a situation such as this vigilance is paramount.

Celeriac Salad (a.k.a. the offending salad I’ll never make again)

1 celeriac root, grated

3 TBS. olive oil

2 TBS. sherry vinegar

1 TBS. Dijon

sea salt, to taste

freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 TBS. mustard seed, lightly toasted

Make sure your guests are not allergic to celeriac or celery. Combine the oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt, pepper and mustard seed together in a bowl and whisk until it is emulsified. Mix in the celeriac, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

Get your a** to the hospital immediately if you are itchy or swollen after eating this.


9 comments to The Celeriac Stalks At Midnight

  • What a great informative piece. As the person who’s house you dined at the day after this scare I really really appreciated you letting me know. I’ll gladly accommodate any special needs of anyone eating at our house, as the alternative is just too awful to contemplate. We would not want to see Phil flopping around like a landed trout in our dining room. we are too fond of him, and I add that I was shocked to read an article where Martha Stewart stated that she doesn’t respect food allergies http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2074302/Gluten-free-diets-welcome-chez-Martha-Stewart.html

  • Kathy, We were so scared that day, it was such a comfort to be with people who understood and respected the situation. Have I ever said thank you? If not, thanks. :) That article about Martha Stewart boggles the mind, thank you for posting it.

  • It’s hard to imagine people being so insensitive…and then there’s Martha, so true to form. Sorry to hear about your husband’s allergic attack; that had to be so frightening.

  • Oh you poor things!!!
    I am a nervous diner due to serious food allergies, and cannot understand restaurants not taking it seriously. I had one place tell me that they had only added a tiny bit of an ingredient I had asked about and said I was allergic too as “they didn’t think it would matter being such a small amount”…… luckily I had smelt it BEFORE I put it in my mouth!

    Personally I think that restaurants need to up their game and take the matter seriously. Having said that diners also need to be a bit more aware and ensure that they discuss allergies with staff. And….. my biggest bug bear – those that just like to be a pain in the a__ by chopping and changing food orders – be aware that you are creating an attitude of waiters and chefs ignoring serious needs because of your need to be precious. (I have had staff tell me that they do not discuss ingredients with diners due to people wanting to change things to suit their palates – too bad if you have an allergy, it will not be discussed).

    Sorry, bit of a rant, but this topic really gets me on the soap box…lol

    Hope Phil is ok now

  • Jonathan Jonathan

    I got a celeriac in my last organic veggie box and had no clue what to do with it. Now I know… use it to take over the world! I’m glad Phil is ok, I’m sure I would have heard from Angie if anything was amiss. Minus the allergic reaction is this something worth making with the scary looking root taking up space in my fridge? Also brunch again on your next visit to Washington?

  • Rowdy, It really was.

    Thanks Jill, and thanks for commenting. :)

    Debbie, I agree and believe it is a matter of stepping it up all around. There is a lot of fear attached to food allergies and there needs to be a better understanding on all sides about what everyone involved goes through. I remember working as a barista when I was 19 and a man with a severe milk allergy drank from a contaminated drink and had to go to the hospital. The guilt, stress and pain that caused my co-worker who was responsible was terrible, not to mention the terrible risk to his health.

    Jonahan, so good to see you here! :) Happy Birthday! I love celeriac and although it is now my enemy, it used to be one of my favorite vegetables. Clotilde Dusolier has one of the best celeriac recipes I’ve ever had, it is a celeriac remoulade from the Chocolate & Zucchini Cookbook, but instead of mayonnaise she uses Greek yogurt, it is delish. It is also great to just shred and dress with a simple vinaigrette. Brunch, definitely!

  • Fran Fran

    I ate about 4 bites of boiled celeriac (“celery root”) for the first time I am aware of. I got swollen with red whelps all over the skin on my whole body.
    It was bad enough that I made preparations in case it got worse and I needed to go to ER in the middle of the night. It itched but I was able to keep from scratching.
    It got better over the next 24 hours, and much better after 48 hours.
    I did not do anything or take anything for it.
    In a month, about once a month, I may try to eat 1/8 teaspoon of it to see if I can gradually develop a tolerance for it in small amounts, or if it is an absolute and total allergy.

  • Fran, Oh no, that is not good! Please be careful, especially if your tongue swells. In my husbands case the more he ingests the worse the reaction will get. We talked to his allergist about doing what you are doing and he said that he absolutely wouldn’t recommend trying that with his type of reaction.

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