I have never been much of a traveler. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. I have. I can just imagine the places I would go . . . the things I would see . . . the people that I would meet if I were to travel! However, there is one issue. It is this one issue that stops me from even traveling beyond my own home–food allergies.
It’s hard enough just getting through an ordinary daily routine, but mine includes stressful meal preparations that must exclude foods like beef, pork and dairy. The idea of accidentally overlooking any trace of these foods is a great worry for me. If I don’t take great care to eliminate them, it is never certain what may happen or how I may feel afterward. This is really difficult to accomplish just at home. Forget about traveling the world. It’s out of the question.
I was fine with not traveling to the great unknowns of the world. My vacations consisted of heading down to the beach and preparing my own food every night. I was satisfied with anything that would ensure me not paying homage to the porcelain gods, and I let it be known that I would rather burn in the sun than have a rash from a reaction. However, when my husband asked for my hand in marriage four years ago, we began planning a honeymoon to mimic my Cinderella fairytale wedding.
He hated the beach, so my safe, go-to place was no longer an option. We needed another destination to celebrate the start of our union. It took us a little while (and quite a bit of arm-pulling from me), but I finally convinced my special guy to make ours a Disney honeymoon. So with reservations set, we made our way down to the happiest place on Earth.
Having no idea how Disney’s dining situation worked, I went down with my best “let’s see what happens” face. I figured if I needed to, I would stick close to the hotel and the magical commode that Disney supplied in-room. At least my view would be nicer.
We arrived right on time to our first dining destination, Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort. I smiled all the way to our seat even though I passed the dessert plate and longed for just a taste, knowing it would kill me. My consolation was that I could still admire the beautiful delicacies despite my inability to eat them.
We were handed the menus, and I stared at the options. Hmm…this one had beef; this one had pork; this one contained milk. When the waitress came around to take our drink orders and asked if we were ready, I stared blankly at her. What to do? What to do?
I decided to ask if there was any way I could get a substitution for something I couldn’t eat. “Of course,” she said and asked if there was a specific reason. I explained I had a food allergy to beef, pork and dairy. She immediately turned and fled to the kitchen, leaving my husband and I wondering what had just happened.
It only took minutes, but the chef came out. He was followed by our waitress. Around us, tables began to look up from their meals as he made his way to our seats. “I hear someone here has an allergy,” the chef greeted.
My first reaction was embarrassment. I hadn’t expected someone to come out of the kitchen just to ask me about it. Quietly I nodded my head, reciting what I was allergic to once more. I began thinking that there would be an issue. I began thinking that perhaps eating around “unsafe” foods wouldn’t be as easy as I had originally thought, but then the chef did something no one had ever done before with the exception of my own family.
He offered me my own variety of options. Sauces would be taken off; butter would be eliminated, and nothing would be cooked anywhere near the other meats. The possibilities were endless. He assured me that whatever I wanted, he would create regardless of it being on the menu or not. Shocked, I placed my order for a grilled mahi mahi dish (without any of the frills) along with some fresh steamed vegetables. I was amazed at the effort Disney made to ensure I had a fabulous vacation.
“Do they do that everywhere?” I asked my waitress once the chef had left. “Yes,” she confirmed. “They do this anywhere on Disney property. All you need to do is inform your host or hostess when you check in that you have a food allergy and the chefs will handle it.” She took down my husband’s order before turning back to me, “One last thing . . . what would you like for dessert?” Dessert? Did she just say dessert? I think I am in love with Disney dining.
Contributed by: Aleisha M. (NDM#150). Aleisha brings her experience with special dietary needs in WDW to The Disney Driven Life as this week’s guest writer.