WHEN I FIRST turned vegetarian about, ooh, 28 years ago (gulp) it was pretty standard fare when eating out to get pizza with holes in it where the salami had been picked off, a plate of peas and potatoes while everyone else chomped on chicken and more baked beans than you could shake a farty stick at.
And in truth it’s only been in fairly recent times – say, the last five to ten years – that I haven’t always been faced with the same bloody meal every time I eat out.
For as long as I can remember it was goat’s cheese salad after goat’s cheese salad after goat’s cheese salad, followed by a fad for mushroom risotto after mushroom risotto after mushroom risotto. Thankfully we’re now at a point where the veggie option isn’t merely an afterthought.
Which is probably why I’m not one of those who likes to moan too much about the variety of food available for allergy peeps when eating out. As far as I’m concerned, one dish is a million times better than none dish, and I figure we’ll get to a point, in the end, where more restaurants feel more confident about providing a variety of fare.
I just want to start at the beginning, for now, which is when we visit cafes and restaurants to see at least one meal that my son might safely be able to eat. Usually, there is nothing, so for us this would be a mammoth leap forward. It’s lovely that many places are addressing gluten free, but with one in 50 children with a nut allergy, and food allergy in general affecting seven per cent of kids and three per cent of adults (compare that to the two per cent of the population that is vegetarian) I think it’s high time we multiple allergic families started being catered for.
And for those starting out in allergy catering, simple is best. The fewer the ingredients, the less cause for confusion. I would also be over the moon to see a handful of on-the-go allergy safe snacks for sale in cafes, parks and service stations, where currently there appear to be none.
Here is my list of easy, kid-friendly dishes I wish cafes and restarants would serve (following, I hasten to add, the steps outlined in my previous post) allowing our food-loving little boy to finally, one day, order off the menu.
Gluten free pasta with a simple olive oil, tomato and basil sauce
Roast chicken cooked with olive oil and lemon, served with sweet potato chips (cooked in pure sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil) and broccoli or spinach
Baked potato with cannellini beans simmered in tomato, olive oil and thyme
A chicken or avocado sandwich (M&S, Waitrose, Kingsmill and Sainsbury’s are among those that make and stock nut and sesame trace free cut loaves – just ring their customer services)
Avocado, tomato and (for dairy eaters) mozzarella salad served with olive oil (no pesto, folks)
Dove’s Farm gluten free biscuits (these are nut, egg, gluten, wheat, buckwheat, salt, sesame and soya free)
Kinnerton‘s nut free chocolate lollies or bars (both mil chocolate and dairy free options)
Plum Baby fromage frais (no Yeo Valley yoghurts, please – they contain nut traces, the sods)
Humzingers fruit sticks
Individually wrapped cheeses (oh the excitement when we come across a Babybel)
Organix corn snacks (not their older ‘Goodies’ range – they’ve got nut and sesame traces, too, the buggers)
Mini packs of raisins
So, that’s my wish list. What kid-friendly, allergy friendly meals and snacks would solve the eating out problem for you?