The Language Barrier

When dealing with food allergies, especially soy allergies. I’m running into two different language barriers.

Language barrier #1, english speaking employees: It’s always such an effort to explain to restaurant employees what all food could have hidden soy in it. It’s scary and frustrating because sometimes you just feel like you’re not getting through, and you hate to be insulting to the restaurant employees by asking the questions and then asking for confirmation of the answers — especially when an employee tells you there’s no soy in something that you know that almost 100% of the time contains soy.

It’s especially hard when the conversation takes a detour and then you have to reel things back in to make sure that you’re really talking about the same things. We’ve found this happens on more than one occasion when we list margarine as an example of foods containing soy. On multiple occasions, the employee we’re talking to either hears us say “butter” when we say “margarine” or they don’t actually realize there’s a vast difference between butter and margarine. We’ll all of a sudden find out that the conversation has switched to avoiding dairy (of which is not a problem for either of our kids) and then we have to roll the conversation backwards to try to figure out where the conversation got sidetracked.

Knowing the problems we’ve had with english speaking employees in restaurants, we’re pretty much petrified of….

Language barrier #2, non-english speaking employees: After all of the problems that we’ve had with english speaking restaurant employees, we’re deathly afraid of restaurants with 100% non-english-as-a-first-language employees. We (and the kids) love different nationalities of food, but knowing the trouble we have with explaining the difference between butter and margarine to english speaking people, we just don’t feel brave enough to try with non-english speaking employees. That pretty much precludes any Chinese, Mexican, and Indian restaurants in our neck of the woods. We’ve tried a few times in a few restaurants, and we’re just not sure if we’re being understood when we talk about things like margarine, cooking sprays, and soybean oil. It’s sad, because the kids would love to eat at ethnic restaurants, but we’re just not willing to risk it.

If you’re in the Akron/Canton area, we can say that there are two exceptions to the ethnic-restaurant-speaking-english problem. The Indian restaurants, Saffron Patch in Akron and Kabob & Curry in Canton are staffed by very fluent english speaking staff, and we’ve had a blast being able to take the kids to these fine establishments.

Before I sound like I’m being completely insulting toward restaurant staff, I fully understand that soy allergies are not as easily understood as, say peanut allergies. I also understand that we are probably being really annoying to restaurant employees everywhere by having to ask so many questions. We feel horrible about having to absorb so much time just to feed four people. We try to eat at off-hours and not tie up employees and management at restaurants during their busiest times. Frankly, we just don’t eat out very often because it basically takes us half an hour to order at any restaurant. That’s part of why I’ve built this site, to try and make it easier and faster for us to order when we do make it to a restaurant. It’s a treat when my wife and I can get out by ourselves and be able to place our orders without multiple trips to the kitchen.