Hi! My name is Nicole, and I’m allergic to fish, crustaceans, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, peas and beans.
This winter holiday I went on a cruise that left from New Orleans, Louisiana. For those of you who don’t know much about New Orleans, it is a city that is filled with amazing music, delicious food, football fanatics, and people who love to celebrate life and party. When I was there, I did typical ‘tourist’ things, such as stroll down Bourbon Street, ride the St. Charles Trolley, and visit the St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in North America).
All of these activities worked up quite an appetite within me. New Orleans has a reputation for its Creole cuisine, including things such as jambalaya, gumbo and other new dishes that I had never heard of before. There was even alligator meat for sale!
Most of these dishes contain seafood, like shrimp or crawfish, and to my surprise the few restaurants I entered used peanut oil. The menus were challenging – but I actually had incredibly positive dining experiences. Here’s why:
1) I talked with locals!
In my experience, many of the locals in New Orleans were incredibly friendly! They were very eager to assist me and provide me with their favourite menu items from specific restaurants, along with directions for getting there. Strangely enough, I actually met a woman who had food allergies herself, and she was able to guide me to a place that could accommodate me very easily.
I only speak English, and I was very thankful to meet locals in New Orleans who were fluent in English and able to understand my requests.
3) Restaurant Staff!
I made sure to speak to the manager, wait staff, and those preparing my food about my allergies. They were very helpful, telling me how my meal would be prepared and what they could do to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
4) Be Prepared!
Although I was fortunate enough to have positive dining experiences, I had my auto-injector on me at all times, just in case. I also asked my hotel concierge to identify the location of a hospital on a city map, so I would be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Overall, New Orleans was a really intriguing and culturally rich place to visit. However, I must admit that at first I did experience a bit of anxiety. It was not easy to enter a city that is known for culinary dishes that I am allergic to – but I was able to implement strategies that led to a positive experience. I would encourage others like me not to let their allergies hold them back. Dining abroad can be challenging, but there are ways to cope and ensure you have a fun and safe experience!