Two Meals with a Friend with Food Allergies.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Nov 6, 2010
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Elephants are pretty big. It’s the biggest land animal, and our web site—inspired by the aphorism of the six blind men and the elephant—is now one of the largest in the US devoted to yoga, organics, spirituality, adventure, and eco-responsible living generally.

But the movement that you and I believe in is something bigger than elephant—my own inspiration is less about growing elephant that using elephant to help galvanize fundamental change.

It’s time for business to be of benefit. It’s time for underappreciated yet vital work—non-profits, teachers—to be profitable.

It’s time for kindness and thoughtfulness to be good business, and selfish exploitation (like, say, BP) to be a loser in the marketplace.

I’m not just talking about large corporations. On an immediate, local level we see kindness feed the bottomline, every day.

The other day I went to my favorite restaurant in Boulder. I was with a new friend, a lady who has a list of food allergies longer than most folks’ grocery lists. She’s not one of those choosey, picky eaters, either—she’s apologetic, straightforward about her condition, and sees it as an imposition. I assured her that this thoroughly green-minded restaurant would be able to create something simple for her.

It was lunch. We asked for eggs (which were on the menu with other dishes, but not offered on their own). We were told “no,” which is fine. We thought about going elsewhere, but wanted to enjoy such a great restaurant. So I asked the manager, a longtime acquaintance. She said, “Well, we don’t offer custom dishes, really, but let me see what I can do, should be easy enough.” She came back to say, politely and apologetically, that she couldn’t help us out. Finally, an owner, a chef and man I like a great deal, happened by, and apologized. “We just can’t.”

Thing is, my friend is no diva. We should have just gone elsewhere. But the eggs were 50 feet away, in the kitchen, being cooked and served with other dishes. She has allergies. She didn’t want anything fancy. It’s the kind of moment where a business can follow the rules, or we can be human with one another—be kind.

Last night, I took my friend to Happy Noodle, a restaurant that’s not nearly so “green.” I asked the manager if we could order something custom, off the menu—”Just noodles, this, that. Simple. She can’t eat nuts, garlic, onions or cheese…” He not only said “Of course, we’re here for customers”…but he wrote down the list of allergies she had, and what she wanted, so there’d be no mistakes. The dish was out in five minutes, and was delicious.

I get it. The restaurant industry is tough—customers are prima donnas frequently, I know. I love [XXXX] and will continue to support and enjoy the amazing place they’ve created. But Happy Noodle’s human kindness was more than touchy-feely do-gooderism.

It was damn good business.

I almost never go to Happy Noodle—I try and support restaurants that are “green,” and support elephant, back. But now we’ll go back once a week, knowing that my friend can safely eat a delicious meal, there.

Moral of the story—being personal, and kind is good business. Conscious consumers unite—we’ve created Whole Foods’ success. Let’s continue to support “green,” local and mindful businesses wherever we find them.

Yours in the Vision of Enlightened Society,

Waylon Lewis

editor-in-chief / host / Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

PS: We have hundreds of new articles and videos on our site each week: you can see the most popular, commented and editor’s picks on our Front Page.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


5 Responses to “Two Meals with a Friend with Food Allergies.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Amber M Thank you SO MUCH for writing and posting this.

    # Spread the word, Amber, no one's reading this one. I was a little shocked, not having allergies, at how hard it is for those who do to get a simple meal when dining out.

    Tracy HJ
    Right on! I am allergic to nightshades (tomato,peppers,eggplant,potato,etc) & your friend's experience is so common. I'm always surprised by who can and can't accommodate my special needs and, like your friend, feel a little apologetic ev…ery time I order. I am so appreciative to those chefs who can make me something safe. The best ones take the challenge to create something amazing & I always go back. If your friend ever finds herself in the Twin Cities area, MN- Marx Wine Bar in Stillwater is considerate of allergies and wonderful food:)

  2. Yep – common and no fun. Our son has food allergies and there are really only a few restaurants that we feel safe and welcome. Some have really surprised me too and gone way above and beyond to accommodate! We hardly ate out for the first few years of his life because he had such terrible eczema too caused by many food intolerances on top of his allergies. Thankfully, once he started taking Belly Boost children's probiotics, his skin has cleared dramatically and he can eat so many more foods. BUT, he does still have serious allergies and we always carry his Epi Pen! It is scary and not something to take lightly. I just hope though with the rise in this condition, that more people will continue to offer safe choices and to be kind about it! I am so glad you found a good restaurant who welcomed your friend.

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