Useful when Traveling with Food Allergies: Foodcards
This post is also available in: German
Some time ago I wrote a post on how to travel with food allergies and the like. After that, the people from Delicardo Foodcards contacted me and asked if I wanted to try out their Foodcards on my travels.
Foodcards are the same size as business cards. On one side you‘ll find a list of the ingredients that you’re intolerant to and the products they could be contained in. On the other side there’s a list of ingredients that you’re allowed to eat instead. On mine e.g. under “Not allowed to eat” it says: “Cow, goat and sheep milk products (e.g. milk powder, butter, condensed milk, cheese that has not been matured, yoghurt).” In the list of products that these ingredients could be found in, there’s also a note saying that it is absolutely necessary to check the list of ingredients. On the “Allowed to eat”-side it says: “Freshly prepared meals consisting of vegetables, potatoes, grains, fish, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts seeds” etc. as well as replacement products like rice-, soya- and almond milk. As food intolerances vary from person to person, the Foodcards can be individually adapted to your needs. When ordering them you could, for example, indicate if there are any dairy products that you have no problem consuming in small amounts.
These individually adapted Foodcards can then be used at restaurants or cafés. You give the card to the waiter taking your order and ask him/her to give it to the chef. That way he knows exactly what to watch out for when preparing your meal and you don’t have to give a long and uncomfortable explanation to the waiter, explaining all your extra wishes.
As a lactose-intolerant traveller, I found the concept interesting. Especially because the cards are available in twenty different languages, so you can take them with you while travelling. Even so, I was a bit sceptic to begin with. From the experiences I’d made so far I‘d learned that many employees in restaurants and cafés don’t really think about how you feel after consuming products containing the ingredients you asked about. And that often they simply don’t know what’s in the product they’re selling. So my assumption was, that I and my intolerance would only be taken seriously in restaurants of a certain price range and that therefore the foodcards would only really work in these kind of restaurants. “Well, let’s see”, I thought and put the little cards in my wallet to carry them with me – on my travels and at home.
The first Foodcard I tested, I tested in Brighton, UK. Because of my previously mentioned assumption, I deliberately chose a family restaurant – an Italian place. I ordered spaghetti bolognese, which is often prepared with butter, and gave the waitress my Foodcard with a smile: “Would you mind giving this to the chef to make sure that there are no dairy products in the sauce? I’m intolerant to lactose.” She looked a bit puzzled. First at the card, then back to me. Then back to the card. I felt like she was thinking: “Great, another one with special wishes”. But then she smiled friendly and said “That’s really practical, makes it so much easier” and disappeared to the kitchen. Shortly afterwards she returned to our table and thanked us for the “useful help”. And me? Well, I was positively surprised.
I tested the Foodcard in Germany as well. In a restaurant in Hamburg with a french-american menu. This time I ordered the filet de saumon grillé with lemon aioli – and I embarrassed myself a little. Since I’d just returned from four weeks in England, I asked the waiter to give the Foodcard to the chef, which in German means boss and not chef as in ‘in the kitchen’. Thus he looked quite bewildered and maybe even a little annoyed when he said: “I’m the boss here today”. Then he, too, disappeared with the Foodcard and then returned quickly, explaining that the lemon aioli contained lactose and asked whether it was alright to just leave it out. Very well. I briefly explained that, of course, I did not want him to give the Foodcard to the boss but to the chef and was so pleased, that I didn’t even have to use the word lactose intolerance once while ordering.
My final test was carried out in Italy. In a hotel/pizzeria/restaurant in Este where I ordered tagliatelle al ragù d’anatra. This time the waitress was instantly positive about the card and immediately started reading it carefully. She already knew most of the ingredients in the dish I ordered herself, but wanted to make sure that there’s absolutely no dairy in it at all, so she gave it to the chef as well. When she came back she spoke very positively about the concept – after all, food allergies and intolerances are a cosa delicata (delicate matter), she said. I felt in very good hands and enjoyed the tasty, dairy-free dish.
Since the concept is still quite unknown, it is to be exptected that waiters and waitresses will be a bit puzzled when first being handed the Foodcard. I was favorably surprised, though, that all the restaurants in which I tested the Foodcards took me and my “food-extras” very seriously. I definitely felt more secure eating out, knowing that the person preparing the meal had a list of the ingredients that I am not allowed to eat. Additionally, I personally found it very pleasant not to have to make any long explanations when ordering. That can get really uncomfortable – especially when dining with someone you don’t know very well. Obviously, you cannot order a lasagna and expect it to somehow magically arrive on your plate without cheese, milk and butter in it but the Foodcards are definitely useful in order to make sure that no sauces or dressings containing milk products are added to your food or that your meat or fish hasn’t been roasted in butter. Plus the size of the cards and the fact that they come in different languages, make it easy to take them with you on trips and travels.
Disclaimer: I tested the product on request by the company that makes the Delicardo Foodcards. For that, the company provided the Foodcards. All opinions are, as always, my own and the review is an honest report of my experiences with the product.