We're doing a series of weekly meetings at church at the minute called 'Opened Up'. We've had 5 of the 6 Wednesday evening meetings so far, which are getting us to look both as individuals and as a church how we can open up - where we're up to at the moment, how we imagine things ought to be, where we might like to go, etc. As I say, it's not just thinking about these things on an individual basis, but more to do with looking at the church, our church, the community around us and opening up to them. I haven't been able to get to them all, but I've got a lot out of the ones I have been to and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens as a result.
Part of the structure of the 'Opened Up' evenings is that all those who come have a meal together before the meeting gets under way. The catering is being done by a cafe near church called Cafe Bar One, and where I've been before but only been able to have jacket potato with cottage cheese to eat. Cafe Bar One know of my allergies, but haven't really known what they are so for the first couple of weeks of the 'Opened Up' evenings they gave me what they knew I could have. It was great to be provided for, but I was feeling a little miffed that I'd only get a jacket potato on a Wednesday night when everyone else around me got very yummy-looking food. Well, a couple of weeks into the series I had a call from Jez - the chef at Cafe Bar One - who said that he'd really like to be able to make more for me for the church evening meetings than he had been doing. He asked if I could take him a copy of the list of foods I can't have and he'd work something out from that. I wasn't expecting that, but was extremely pleased and so took my list down the next day, although I have to say that I wasn't certain Jez would still feel like trying to make me something more exciting than a jacket potato after he'd seen the 6 page document that is my dietary requirement list. When I took the list down to the cafe Jez wasn't/didn't seem to be terrified by it, but rather said that he was interested and excited. I left my phone number with him and said that he could call me if he had any questions or wasn't certain about anything he could or couldn't use, and then left him to it whilst expecting to receive a call from him during the week. I didn't get a call. However, the following Wednesday I did get a delicious meal of Tuscan bean casserole :o) Jez hung around before the meal and meeting until I came so that he could go through with me everything that was in it, and then waiting for a little while afterwards to make sure that I didn't have any immediate reaction. I didn't. I didn't have any reaction other than, 'Oh my word, this is delicious!' :o) Jez then said that if all went okay then he'd make up some things that are Becky-friendly and that could be easily frozen and defrosted so that I can have some yummy things to eat in the cafe and don't always have to have jacket potato with cottage cheese! WOW! My world is opening up as a direct result of the 'Opened Up' evenings. Okay, so it's not exactly what the vicar had in mind when he planned this series, but this is such a positive thing for me, because I've been so desperately limited in where I can eat out. Peppy's is fantastic, but it's good to have a cafe I can go to as well as a restaurant, especially one that my friends and I sometimes go to after church :o) Hurray for Cafe Bar One!!!
I think it can be difficult for people to comprehend the impact that true food allergies can have on one's life. So much socialising is done around food that actually, when you factor in the complication of an allergy (let alone many, many allergies), you find that social occasions can begin to get limited ... that life gets restricted. It's fine if those around you are comfortable with cooking for you, and if you are confident in the scrupulous care they need to have taken to avoid accidentally killing you, but on the whole restaurants and cafes etc aren't willing to take that risk (and unless I've spoken to the chef at length and I'm confident they have full understanding, then I'm not willing to take the risk either). I think a lot of the reluctance/straight refusal from restaurants etc to cook for me isn't actually a concern for me, but a fear that if anything did go wrong then they'd be sued. I'm not that kind of person, but I guess they don't know that ... and it wouldn't be good publicity to have it in the news that one of your customers unfortunately blew up, stopped breathing and died.
Perhaps I'll do a post sometime with more specific details of my allergies, so that you have a fuller understanding of the difficulties they impose. On a day-to-day basis I'm used to it all now, though I do have to stay on my guard even with products I've known to be safe in the past, because manufacturers have a habit of changing their recipes without advertising the fact.
Anyway, for the time being I'm sending out huge praise to Cafe Bar One, and I'm delighted that my world is opening up that little bit more.