Except this time would be different. This time, I would have to navigate WDW carting the baggage that is my host of dietary restrictions – the extent of which makes even the dieticians I’ve consulted with blanch. The exclusion of (amongst other things) anything high is dietary fat – including any oils, meat, oily fish, egg yolks, dairy, nuts and avocado – usually makes dining out with me a logistical nightmare. That olive oil used to cook the onions and garlic in dinner’s marinara sauce would effectively ruin my night, at the very least locking me in the bathroom for hours in incredible pain, as would the drizzle of butter on an otherwise innocuous plate of steamed broccoli. The few dinners “out” that I have a year – whether at a restaurant or a family member’s home – have to be meticulously planned, often with the unfair and awkward imposition of my need for kitchen space on my hosts. However, when my mom approached me with the possibility of a trip to my favourite place in the world, I was game to give it a go regardless of my nerves. I knew we could pull it off if we did some careful forethought, and if there was any destination that would help us out along the way, Disney would be it.
I began investigating other “dining at Disney with allergies” tales online (namely on AllEarsNet) and was, quite frankly, blown away by the immense compassion and seriousness the Dietary staff at the resort seemed to have for any special circumstances. I still wondered though – because I don’t have an “official” list of allergens, nor do I have a conclusive diagnosis of my problem, would they put the same effort into my case? I had to give it a shot, because there was no way I was missing out on another trip!
I wasn’t disappointed – the Mouse came through with flying colours. From the moment I contacted their Special Dietary department inquiring about my case, I found myself enveloped in a kind of security blanket that encapsulated all things culinary. I discovered that Disney doesn’t want any of their guests to simply “eat” at their parks. Instead, they strive to provide everyone with a unique and memorable “dining experience” regardless of age, preferences or restrictions. Within a week they had e-mailed both myself and my mom (being the principal name on the bookings) a list of what we needed to do once we secured our tickets and hotel reservation, including suggestions of local grocery stores and food delivery services (we used Garden Grocer, who was absolutely fabulous) as well as all the allergen information sheet for us to complete and fax in. This sheet is extensive – covering not only the basic “where and when” of your dining reservations, but also the name of the resort you’re in, the length of your trip and all the contact information Disney will use to get in touch with you. The names of everyone in your party as well as a space for who specifically has the allergy or condition are also included. Under the “food allergy” section of the form, Disney lists the “top 8” most common triggers: egg, milk/casein, peanut, fish, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat, as well as an “other” box that you can specify particulars in. Separately, there is a list of food-related conditions in another checklist: celiac, PKU, diabetes and “other”. If you, like me, don’t fit one of the classifications, or there is just too many particulars about a certain allergy or condition (for example albumen [egg white, but not egg yolk] allergies), there is a large space for extra information and details of the unlisted food allergies. What I particularly liked about the form we were given is that the largest blank space was allocated not to what could not be served, but rather what could be. It was a refreshing take on the standard “cross-off” lists I was used to, and allowed me to put down my favourite ingredients for the chefs to play with.
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