Sunday, June 22, 2008

Food allergy

I have a food allergy. I am keenly aware that American cuisine lacks flavor outside of spice/pepper. With all the culinary training available, the rise of Food Network, the success of Gordon Ramsay, and the intelligence of Alton Brown, I expect way too much from local cuisine. I expect flavorful food ... natural flavors enhanced by other ingredients (herbs).

I am unique in that I can not eat peppers, black or white pepper, marjoram, mustard, cinnammon, and "spices". These ingredients are in EVERYTHING. Don't believe me? Lets review:
1. Salad dressing. I could eat Cataline dressing from Kraft. Not anymore. Spice has either been added recently or it was never listed before.
2. Cheetos or other cheese twists. Read on.
3. Roasted Almonds. Why??
4. Outback steakhouse "Butter for vegetables".
5. Ketchup (Heinz but not Hunts).
6. Some muffins.
7. Most if not all pre-prepared meals.
8. Most fast food meats (steaks, marinated meat and fish, and burgers).
9. pasta sauce.
10. Chocolate, in some cases.

I would like to acknowledge J. Alexanders and Anthony's as allergy friendly and allergy compliant. Few restaurants, if any, have the knowledge and communication skills required to handle allergies. I find that most problems occur because:
A. the wait staff simply trust that what they write gets communicated to the Kitchen staff.
B. The chef or staff does not know what ingredients are in the meal.
C. The wait staff ASSume the kitchen knows what they are doing.
D. The chef makes a dish one way and one way only and ASSumes s/he knows whats in the meal.

I trust no one and have tried my hardest to learn what is in all the dishes I will encounter. It is hard to learn since most people use different techniques and variations on meals which may call for different ingredients.

I try my best not to be a pain in the ass. I don't expect miracles. I expect a good straight answer. If you dont know, dont serve it. If you think you know, check all the secondary ingredients (pre-made or pre-packaged). just because pepper isnt used fresh doesn't mean it isnt in the dish. If you cant comply, tell me I cant eat there. Don't tell me you will clean the grill. You won't. tell me you will use a clean pan (a clean pan needs to be grabbed, a clean grill requires work and won't happen in a busy kitchen).

getting back to the original point, Where is the flavor? You dont need spices or pepper to make a dish good. If we have salt and pepper at the dinner table, why does it need to be added in all the dishes? Season to taste has transitioned to season EVERYTHING. I just want to eat a meal that has flavor.