Struggling to Eat Peanut Free in ChinaApril 8, 2015
Greetings from China!
Scott, David and I are in Beijing this week for some important Camp business. On Saturday, we will be meeting all of this summer’s new campers from China, along with their parents. Just as we do with all of our American campers, we want to make sure that we have an individual understanding of who they are, what their personalities are like, and to develop an understanding of their goals for the summer. Later in the week I will be writing more about the event we have set up to meet and greet all of our families. I’ll describe it as a “traditional summer camp campfire…in an office building in downtown Beijing”. More on this later in the week.
Today, David and I have been interviewing some potential staff members, and around noon we decided to go out for lunch. This posed some interesting challenges, not just because of our obvious language barrier, but because like so many people in the Kenwood and Evergreen community, David has a life-threating tree nut and peanut allergy.
In anticipation of this trip, we had a friend create this card for him and had it laminated so that we can take it to every restaurant we eat at. Loosely translated, it reads “if you feed me foods with peanuts or tree nuts I will stop living. Please confirm for me that you will help me eat safe food. Thank you”.
Last night, we had our first meal in China. As good as it was, and as many times as we tried to explain the need for food safety, David ended the night with a mild allergic reaction. Thankfully, he was able to take care of this with some Benadryl and was ok. Searching for lunch today, at our first restaurant the head chef was extremely kind, but after reading the laminated card he let us know that he could not guarantee that everything would be safe. At the second restaurant they made it clear to us – after lots of back and forth — that they used no peanut products, or peanut oil, and that David would be safe to eat there. As you can see, while we were hopeful, we still kept an epipen on the table just in case.
It has been some time since I was in a culture where it was so hard to communicate the importance of watching out for particular ingredients and allergens. Seeing my friend David struggle to stay safe reminded me of why I so love that our summer camp is peanut free and tree nut free. It comes up every summer when I am giving tours to prospective campers and they suddenly come to understand “Oh, this place is truly peanut and tree nut free. They actually understand how to keep me safe”. Or, if they require a gluten free, dairy free, or albumen free diet, “you mean they have a chef who only prepares meals for kids like ME?! And she understands how to bake GF muffins and brownies? That’s amazing!” Our adventures in trying to eat safely in China remind me why it is so important that our camp community is a safe place for children with food allergies and intolerances.