Eating around your peanut allergy

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For those living with a peanut allergy, many foods are off limits. But there are ways to enjoy your meals without endangering your health.

“The whole point of dining out is a relaxing and enjoyable night out,” said Harper Bradshaw, chef at Vintage Tavern. “Our goal is to give you the best experience possible.”

Many restaurants don’t post all their ingredients on the menu, so telling your waiter or waitress about your allergy is key.

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“The first line of defense is to let your server know so they’re aware,” Harper said. “They’re your guardian when you’re dining, and they’ll pass it on to the kitchen.”

The kitchen will know what ingredients are used to fry foods — such as French fries or hushpuppies — and can change the oil or substitute it for something else, such as pure olive, corn or canola oils.

“We’re willing to cater and make changes to a dish to accommodate the guest,” Bradshaw said.

Because peanut oil is more expensive, however, most restaurants don’t use peanut oil.

“We use soy bean oil, so everything we fry here is safe for people with peanut allergies,” said Maurice Wilson, owner of Grits and Gravy. “People will let you know ahead of time if they have an allergy, though, so we change things up if we need to.”

If you’re cooking at home for someone with a peanut allergy, however, it’s important to remember not to cross-contaminate utensils.

“Depending on the severity of the allergy, some people can’t even breathe peanut-related foods,” said Amy Gelfand, dietician at Obici hospital. “So, if you’re making one dish with peanuts and another without, you need to make sure to separate your cooking utensils and pans.”

She also warned people to read the backs of their containers, if they have extreme allergies, to ensure their products aren’t made in the same factories where peanuts are processed.

“Flour is a big one,” Gelfand said. “Make sure they’re not processed in the same factories.”

Eating and cooking around a peanut allergy may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to seem impossible.

“The person has to be their own advocate when they go out to eat,” Gelfand said.