EDS Conference: the food!
I was very anxious going into this conference. Work conferences have never ended well. Usually I feel terrible the whole time and the repercussions last the following week. A big part of this is the food available -- it's not easy to just stop home and cook for myself when I'm hundreds of miles away. So, I packed tons of rice cakes, nuts, Himalayan pink salt, and granola bars, and hoped for the best!
The result was so much more than I had hoped for. The first meal, dinner on Thursday night, literally brought me to tears. There were three or four options. I, of course, could not eat any of the main course options. BUT they had separated each dish by ingredient! So, I could get plain pasta, chopped parsley, and plain chicken! Every single ingredient was listed, down to the type of oil used for cooking. It was so exciting, and I had so much built up anxiety over getting an MCAS flare from not enough food, that I simultaneously bounced, laughed and cried as I waited in line. I skipped from section to section, sharing bewildered looks with the other MCAS zebras.
The salad bar was not the usual tantalizing experience where I think I should be able to eat it
and then can't. There was actually leaf lettuce (not wilted, no pre-bagged mixed greens) and separate bowls of other veggies. I was able to eat cucumbers and parsley to make a quite delightful salad.
All of the stations were staffed so that you didn't have to worry about contamination from an unaware participant putting the wrong spoon in the plain pasta, etc.
For snack the next day, they had apple sauce (with no added ingredients) and bananas! The remaining meals were not quite as MCAS friendly as the first (some pepper in the chicken, etc), but the manager was very friendly and always avalable to answer questions and/or custom order whatever I needed. They made me delicious potatoes in olive oil with fresh herbs, chopped cucumber, and plain chicken.
I have eaten at many restaurants, hotels, and catered events. I have never felt that respected, valued, and cared for. Never. It was everything I've ever hoped for in a dining experience and it just made me wonder, in this time of millions of allergies, would it be so hard to copy this model elsewhere? Are we so impatient for our meals that it's necessary to pre-batter everything in the kitchen? At this point, 50% of Americans have some sort of mast cell related disease or allergy. Added to that are environmental concerns, vegans, GF people, and other dietary restrictions. Could we open more restaurants with this model? There's certainly a market for them.
I am so excited for next year's conference, mostly because of the amazing learning and networking. But I won't lie, my stomach can't wait for it either.