Traveling around Europe
Travelling around Europe comes with its challenges, like when asking the waiter if the meal contains nuts. Back in 2013, I went on a 3-week round trip around Europe with my friends from university, it was an incredible experience to eat in so many different countries, but it doesn't come without its difficulties.
I started my journey in Milan, Italy. Lucky for me one of my best friends is half Italian and speaks fluent Italian, saving me the trouble of having to communicate my nut allergy to the waiter. My friend was very helpful when I was ordering pasta in a traditional Italian restaurant. You would presume that a plain chicken and bacon pasta dish wouldn't contain nuts, but you’d be wrong.
However, my friend Luigi, spoke to the waiter and supposedly the restaurant cooked the bacon in an oil that contained nuts. I honestly think that oil is a hidden killer, there's been a handful of times when something sounds like such a simple dish, but still contains nuts. Even though it sounds silly asking if it contains nuts, you will be surprised that some oils contain or have traces of nuts. They say if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, this is definitely the case when having an allergy.
I found that asking the question became more and more difficult as we travelled further and further into Europe when arriving at countries like Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia and Germany.
I brought my iPhone along with me on the journey, a decision my parents didn’t agree with at the time. The iPhone became the best piece of kit I brought with me on my travels. I downloaded the Google translation app that translates the text into any language you could think of. I used it in restaurants to ask the waiter if the meal contained nuts, it worked great and the majority of the time they understood the message.
The google translation app not only translates your text into any language you want, but it also translates the words on the packaging and the menu. You can use the camera on your iPhone so when you hover your phone over the text it translates it into English. This worked great when I was in restaurants looking at the menu which sometimes was not in English, or when I was shopping for food and wanted to check the packaging.
During my 21 days travelling around Europe, I had one allergic reaction in Prague. I followed the same steps I did with every other restaurant, I showed them the translated message ‘Does this meal contain nuts?’ they told me the meal didn’t contain nuts.
I ordered a plain chicken wrap from what I could see on the menu, a simple plain snack, nothing contained nuts, however, within 15 minutes of eating the wrap, I had come out with a red rash all across my chest. In this situation, I find it best not to panic and remain calm as I don't want to work myself up.
I took one anti-histamine tablet and about 15 minutes later the rash eventually started to calm down. My friends were very good in this situation and knew exactly what they should do if the allergic reaction progressively got worse. However, some restaurants on my travels weren't so understanding about my allergy, one instance of this happened in a Budapest restaurant, they didn't understand the seriousness of my allergy, they thought it was some kind of joke.
I translated the text like I did on my previous travels however they saw this as some kind of joke. It read ‘If this meal contains nuts, my neck could swell up and I can't breathe. I can’t eat nuts’ This caused quite a scene and the waiters found it hilarious and started showing the message to the other staff. I, on the other hand, didn’t see the funny side as they were laughing at something that could be life threatening to me. Maybe now I understand that it was very upfront and to the point, but I feel that people need to take your allergy seriously, especially when you're eating food abroad you want them to understand how severe your allergy is.