Working in the catering industry, we need at all times to be prepared to serve food to people who have a number of differing restrictions on their diets. Some of them are through personal life choices, such as the choice to become vegan/vegetarian, and some of them are for medical reasons such as monitoring sugar intake for Diabetes, or intolerances to some substances like milk or wheat. Many chefs, especially in cheap venues, see these people as a hindrance to their job because they have failed to memorise or consider dishes suitable for these tastes and are therefore forced to think on the spot. Others, such as myself, recognise that everyone has a right to well prepared food and take these occasions as just another part of the job. But one thing that is guaranteed to make my blood boil is the sufferer of the fake allergy. What is a fake allergy I hear you enquire?? Well, it’s when someone decides they don’t like a certain item in a dish, and fakes an allergy or dietary reason why they want it removed from their meal. Now, I cannot act here as a spokesman for chefs worldwide, but as far as I’m concerned if you don’t want something, I’ll happily remove/replace it. Unfortunately, for some strange and unfathomable reason some diners find this too embarrassing, and so invent some justification for asking to change a meal.
An example – the other day in my restaurant, one of my waiting staff overheard a customer remarking to her husband that she hoped there was no Broccoli on our selection of vegetables, since she ‘couldn’t stand the vile stuff’. When the waitress took her order she asked what the day’s vegetables were and upon being told that one of them was Broccoli she told the waitress ‘You’ll have to get the chef to do me a dish with no Broccoli on it – I’m allergic to it’. No madam, you’re not – you’re just a fussy bitch. A simple request and I’ll remove the Broccoli – it’s no big deal to me. But instead you have intimated that if I allow Broccoli to pass your lips, I will be personally responsible not only for your untimely death from an adverse reaction to vegetables, but will then be sued by your money-grabbing bastard offspring for negligently allowing something healthy into your body. As you may be able to tell, kind reader, this kind of dumb-assed tomfoolery does not sit well with me. Not only is it unnecessary, it detracts from the willingness of chefs to be flexible when dealing with others with a genuine dietary requirement, and reinforces the wrongful image of these people as annoying whingers who should just man up and eat.
Sadly, this kind of self-effacing hypochondria is no longer confined to the world of food and its consumption. As modern technology and science advances, we invariably discover conditions that previously existed, but which we had yet to adequately define. 50 years ago there was no such thing as Coeliacs or the Lactose-intolerant, people were not allergic to cats or dogs and so on. Of course they actually were allergic to these things, but we had yet to realise the source of their discomfort. But as technology has accelerated rapidly over the last 100 years, the frequency with which new allergies are defined has increased. So much so that with a new infirmity in the human condition discovered seemingly every five minutes, the hypochondriacs have boarded the Allergy Train en masse, prepared to argue to the bitter death that there is a genuine medical reason why they can’t walk to the shop 5 minutes away. Since it can be hard to keep up with all the developments in this field with our busy modern lifestyles, I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting a few that I’ve personally observed in the last few years, as well as some of the known symptoms and where known, the appropriate cure.
1: Allergic to Random Food Items – Sufferers of this condition are hideously adverse to the consumption of certain foods. Generally speaking these will be foods that bear no common causality to any officially recognised allergy – these are the poor suffering darlings who are not allergic to eggs, but are allergic to Quiche. They have no fear of wheat, but are allergic to brown bread. If you have a friend who is ‘allergic’ to the Brussel Sprout, chances are they suffer from this extreme allergy. Symptoms include pulling a ‘yuk!’ face when reading menus, ordering a ham and pineapple pizza and then obsessively picking off all the pineapple, and acute embarrassment when quizzed about the exact nature of their adverse reaction to the food in question. The only known cure involves a vast quantity of the food they are ‘allergic’ to, a blender, a funnel and an enema kit, and is too ghastly to describe further. (Temporary relief can be obtained using standard laxatives, as they will ensure that for a few hours at least the sufferer in question stops being full of shit).
2: Allergic to Work – In a recent tragic announcement, the Uk Office of Statistics announced that nearly 25% of Brits suffer from this heartbreaking affliction, with figures worldwide showing a similar sharp upward trend. These poor unfortunate mites are forced to confront people working on an almost daily basis, often forcing them to live hermit-like lifestyles sealed inside their homes to avoid any contact with physical effort. Some extreme cases are even couch-bound by their affliction, forced to rely on Playstations and Ebay for a rudimentary existence. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, sudden physical injuries particularly of the back or leg areas that will only flame up in close proximity to work, mysterious ailments that leave the sufferer unable to work yet also unable to define the nature of their ailment, a deep-seated desire to be at work if only they could, and uncontrollable bouts of white-hot rage aimed at anyone who talks about the possibility of them working. There is no widely acknowledged cure for the condition, although recent experiments by Austrian scientists using the application, at high velocity, of a large boot to the gluteus maximus have yielded promising results.
3: Allergic to Manners – Almost as widespread as allergy to work, but far more insidious, is the slow-creeping danger of becoming Mannerless. Until recent years the Uk has stood light years ahead in prevention of this syndrome, yet even we are beginning to see a rise in the number of cases now, most shockingly in infants. Not to be confused with an addiction to rudeness, the sufferer of Mannerlessness slowly develops an inability to engage in simple polite social interaction. They begin to attempt to push ahead in queues, stop opening doors for women, take food before offering it to guests, leave the bathroom door open whilst urinating, and will often start to talk over the top of – AS I WAS SAYING, other people. Infantile symptoms also include ignoring what they are told by people older and wiser than them, asking grandmothers why they have a moustache, and a complete system-wide failure to shut the fuck up when I am talking to them. This allergy can manifest itself in many adaptive and subtle ways, making it one of the hardest allergies to detect at a stage where early preventative treatment is effective. A cure does exist, but waiting lists are very long due to the treatment involving taking high tea (including cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off) with Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth, the Queen of England (Gawd Luv’Er) at precisely four o’clock and not a minute later every Tuesday and Thursday for the next six months.
4: Allergy to Fashion Sense – One of the most diverse ailments by far, this allergy varies in its manifestations from country to country, and often even from one community to another. Cases range from the mild and easily treatable to the incurable, and much is still unknown about its causes and origins. It is unique amongst allergies in that it affects not only the sufferer, but often many others in visual range. Sufferers may exhibit irrational colour combinations or bi-polar outfits, epileptic make-up application and even common-sense seizure. Physical symptoms include nausea in surrounding humans, a small circle of reluctant or mentally deranged friends, and an inability to contain body fat in a socially acceptable manner. Treatment must be suitably tailored (see what I did there?) to the individual, and will often require the knowledge of a local specialist in the field, although their services are often expensive. In extreme cases whilst no cure exists, some lessening of the symptoms may be obtained by placing the sufferer in a room composed entirely of mirrors, and stapling their eyes open. [I would like at this point to commend the diligent work of Doctor Misty Laws, whose unflinching research into the phenomenon has led to major breakthroughs in the detection and early identification of this affliction.]
5: Allergy to Sporting Excellence – Outbreaks of this allergy are sporadic and fluctuate highly in number and frequency. Although more prevalent in some countries than others, this disease is now widely acknowledged to have originated in England, where it still exists at almost epidemic levels. Whilst sportsmen visiting the UK often hammer the Brits mercilessly at sports due to this high level of infection, any foreign player transferred to a UK team will become instantly infected and become crap. Worldwide reports of this debilitating condition confirm that every country has its sufferers, but the UK strain is particularly crippling due to its tendency to strike with renewed fury in the moments immediately prior to England winning anything. The fact that the UK have become disappointingly rubbish at every sport they have ever invented (ie. all the good ones) indicates that this may well be the oldest allergy in existence, and with no known cure there is currently little hope of relief for sufferers. The only alleviating factor is that infection comes and goes, allowing for brief periods where it becomes funny once again to laugh at others who are suffering in their turn.
6: Allergy to Stupidity – It is with some poignancy I describe this particular allergy, since I myself have been an acute sufferer of this condition for many years now. Although some variance in symptomatic responses exists, the outward sign of infection is a desire to correct, mock and belittle the stupid and mentally feeble people around the sufferer. Often the medical reason behind the internet phenomenon of ‘grammar nazis’, the stupidity allergy seems to be reactive to the level of stupidity in the surrounding area, with mild stupidity causing a random muttering under the breath, medium stupidity leading to the crushing of small objects nearby and uncontrollable raising of the volume of sarcastic verbal comments, and Monty Python-esque levels of ridiculousness in other humans often causing a Tourettes-like verbal outburst which will often include the repetitive use of the phrases ‘cretin’ and ‘slack-jawed buffoon’. Although a full-on physical confrontation is extremely unlikely, smiting to the rear of the head in a chastising manner is common. Curing the allergy is still beyond us at present, although much progress has been made in the field of occupational therapy based treatments to alleviate some of the symptoms. In my own case, I find that I am immediately relaxed by a full immersion in the work of English Legend (TM) Stephen Fry. Also, I keep myself away from imbeciles by writing my blog in a padded cell equipped with tea and biscuits and a good stereo – so thank you to all of you wonderful readers for helping me to fight this affliction by continuing to come here – somewhere today, a moron has escaped a lambasting because of you. Well done.
The list, dear readers, of allergic reactions in society today is ever on the increase, and I urge you all to be vigilant to avoid becoming one of the ever-increasing tides of victims. It can only be a matter of time at this rate before someone develops the first allergy to living, and the Zombie Apocalypse finally begins. In the meantime, from my padded cell I implore you to let me know if any of you have suffered from an allergy, or have experienced the harsh end of someone’s allergy to you?? Have you witnessed or heard of any new or specifically local allergies emerging? We need to compile a list to protect ourselves from danger – unless, of course, we become allergic to it……….
🙂 The Assassin