Imagine there is such a thing as potato pie. It is the most-loved food in the world for kids’ birthday parties, easy Friday-night meals, any sort of celebration. It is the easiest food for a quick restaurant meal, a post-season gathering, or a potluck with friends. A big game on TV. A date night. You name it. Potato pie is the food to eat.
Now, imagine you are allergic to potatoes. But you love potato pie. You want to eat potato pie. You want to eat out. To eat what your friends. Your team. You want to go to the birthday party or the post-season bash or the potluck and eat what everyone else is eating. Makes sense, right?
Now imagine, there is a restaurant that says they are making potato-free pie. It’s just like potato pie, the one everyone loves, but it doesn’t have potatoes. Wahoo, you think! I can eat what everyone else is eating. What a great restaurant!
But just to be safe, you call the restaurant to check on how it’s made. You figure it will be fine, because this is a big, national, well-known company that makes a lot of potato-pie. You figure if they are marketing and selling potato-free pie they must know what they’re doing.
You pick up the phone and call the manager of the potato pie restaurant closest to you. The conversation goes something like this…
You: I hear you have potato-free pie, is that right?
Manager: Yes, we order it from a potato-free pie company and it’s delivered to us par-baked and wrapped.
You: (feeling great excitement that this is going to work) Great! So do you bake it in a separate oven from the potato pies?
Manager: Nope, it goes into the same oven as the potato pies.
You: Ah. Uh, do you have special pans for the potato-free pie so it does not get contaminated with potato?
You: (feeling less excited now) So, do you bake it at the top of the ovens so no potato accidentally falls on the potato-free pie?
You: I see. So do you do anything to handle the potato-free pie differently to make sure it stays potato-free when you prepare it?
Manager: Nope. It comes to us potato free. Why would we have to do anything different with it?
You: Oh. (feeling no excitement now) Well, thank you for the information.
Imagine hanging up the phone. Excitement, replaced by frustration. Anger. Hopelessness. Fatigue. You will be brining your own potato-free pie to yet another event.
If I were my own best friend I would remind myself to see this as an opportunity to educate. An opportunity to teach. To help people understand what it is like to live with food allergies or food sensitivities.
It may seem like a lot of work to take the time to learn and care about how to prepare food for those with food sensitivities. It may seem like a pain to you or a waste of your time if you don’t have food sensitivities. You may not want to learn how to cook differently, how to do things differently. You like what you like, why change?
Yet it may also be the biggest thing that has ever happened for that person who has the food sensitivity. To feel seen. To feel safe. To feel like it matters enough for someone to take the time to keep the perfectly good potato-free pie, potato-free through the whole darn preparation process.
If I were my own best friend I might also tell myself this is an opportunity to write the restaurant that claims to have potato-free pies. I find it disheartening to know they are advertising their potato-free pie and selling it (at a premium) despite it being completely potato-contaminated by the time they actually hand it over to the end eater. I believe we can do better.