Thank You for NOT Poisoning Me


You may think this is an odd title for a blog post, but believe me, it is a heartfelt thank you.  Believe it or not, for me, dining out or ordering in from a restaurant is a terrifying proposition.  I have serious food allergies and eating anywhere but my own kitchen can be a matter of life or death...or at least life or hospitalization.  Even being extremely careful, in my 50+ years I've been "poisoned" more times than I'd care to count.  There have been times when I've "only" vomited (numerous times) and had to only resort to taking a large dose of Benadryl. There have been others where I haven't been injected with epinephrine (aka the Epipen) and ended up in the hospital.  All the result of a "simple" slip up.  There have been times when I've been able to track the mistake (the ingredient list was changed and no one bothered to double check) and others where I haven't...yet the "results" have proven that an allergen has made its way into my food.

I NEVER feel completely comfortable when dining out.  I MAY feel somewhat at ease at certain places (Disney has been good to me, as has Skytop), but even these places have had their mishaps which have resulted in a nightmare for me.

So when I agreed to order in from a new restaurant the other night, I was taking a big risk.

Over the years, I've searched around for places that I thought would be "safe" (or at least "safer" for me).  My discovery of vegan bakeries lead to my first "real" birthday cake back in 2013.  I am grateful to the Sweet Avenue Bake Shop for their incredible baked goods and to Abe's Muffins for having their yummy coffee cake available in my local Whole Foods.  Gardein has allowed me to have "turkey" on Thanksgiving, however until recently I didn't know of a local restaurant that might cater to my special needs.

Back in December of last year, we got a flyer/menu in the mail for a pizza place.  We get LOTS of these.  There are at least half a dozen pizza places/restaurants in our town alone (and we're only about 4 square miles) and dozens more in the surrounding towns.  This particular one was for a place several towns away, but only a distance of about 4 miles.  I think it sat on our dining room table (where the mail goes to die) for several days when it caught my husband's eye (before it headed into the recycling bin).  In addition to the pizza that was on the front, there was a note that said:  "we offer a variety of vegan dishes."  

Now I am NOT vegan.  I love my burgers.  I love my pulled pork.  And what can top a bagel, cream cheese and lox?  But vegan means safety for me.  To be truly vegan doesn't just mean that there are no eggs in a product, but is also means that poultry stock would not be used (which is a problem for me).  So this restaurant, Pizzanada, caught my interest.  I checked them out on social media.  They had special vegan Christmas and Thanksgiving meals.  When I asked about cross contamination (since they are not solely a vegan restaurant), they replied "we prep vegan food separately, we cook on separate stoves with separate pans & utensils. We also have a separate deep Fryer. We try our best. Thanks for asking."

This Saturday I decided it was time to try.  I ordered the vegan chicken parmesan and zeppoles for dessert.  (Yes, I was going all in.)  My husband, who does not have food allergies had chicken marsala.  One of the reasons I ordered the chicken parm, was so that it would be easily identifiable; there would be no confusion between my order and his.  I also liked that when ordering on line (because I wasn't going out when it had been below 0), that there was a place for "kitchen notes" which specifically said:  "Have an allergy, restriction or special request?"  (This is also noted on the menu we received in the mail, although in very small print.)  I made sure to note that I had food allergies and requested that they be careful when preparing and to make sure that my order was definitely vegan.

It took longer to arrive then we had anticipated (it was after all a Saturday night and a brutally cold one at that), but our food was hot when we opened it.  And there was a LOT of food.  The piece of vegan chicken was HUGE and the container was packed with pasta and sauce.

The meal was DELICIOUS, although I was a bit nervous.  I am ALWAYS nervous when I am ordering/eating food that I have not personally prepared.  When a person has severe food allergies, the fear is real and understandable. When trying something new, I am always extremely anxious.  I eat only a small amount and wait to see if anything happens.  (Usually I can tell something is wrong within a matter of minutes.)  I don't consume a lot until I am certain that nothing is going to happen.  As a result, while the food was GREAT, I was so anxious that I ate only about 1/3 of my vegan chicken parm and two of the seven zeppoles that came in the container.  

None of the food went to waste.  Once my initial apprehension was over (and I had no allergic reaction), I reheated the zeppoles.  (As I write this, there is only one left.)  I've been saving the vegan chicken parm for lunch.  (If I can hold out that long.) 

I am delighted that I have finally found a place that seems to "get me."  I am excited to try something new.  Will it be the vegan chicken francese, the crispy vegan po'boy or the vegan California deluxe hamburger? And what about desserts?  I like the zeppoles, but I've never had a cannoli.  I'm also considering a guava and vegan cream cheese empanada!  Although I've had vegan brownies before, their smore one seems to be calling my name.

If you've never had to deal with food allergies, you probably can't understand what a wonderful find Pizzanada is for me. That's okay.  For the "unallergic" I can attest that the "regular" food is good.  My husband devoured the chicken marsala and there is a long list of other specialties that I know he would love to check out.

I'm sure it will be sooner, rather than later, that we will be making the four mile trek ourselves to sit down to a delicious meal.  And you can bet that I want to personally thank the staff for caring about those of us with allergies and food issues.  After 50+ years on this planet, I just may have found MY local place.


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