** please don’t kill me but I am using the word “allergy” loosely to include allergies, intolerances etc even though they are vastly different…it is really just because I am lazy to type otherwise, but be warned that there are vast differences!***
So the conference bug is in the air with two major blogging conferences in town this weekend. I only started my conference-ing last year and believe it is definitely something that will help you determine your direction, help you to form stronger networking bonds and help you to learn that there is so much more to blogging and social media than you can possibly believe!
I will be attending the Shesconnected conference this year, as I was able to get a pass last minute. Unfortunately I was unable to get a pass to Blissdom Canada and will not be there this year. I regret that because I missed it last year due to my horrible flu I had managed to contract but…what will be will be, I am thankful to attend one!
I learnt the hard way that conferences are not usually food allergy friendly – last year at one of the conferences I went to, I did not eat a thing from the time I left my house to the time I got back. The conference, networking events, lectures and party included, that meant I was without sustenance from 7 am until after 10 pm.
Everything they served were beautiful platters of food for the normal eater, but disaster for those with food allergies. There were gorgeous cheese and cracker plates (gluten and dairy), fruit plates (I am allergic to strawberries), little sandwiches (gluten) and many other little finger foods full of dairy, gluten, seafood (shrimp), complex carbs and other wonderful foods that can and do set off many an allergic reaction. Honestly, the only thing I was able to eat we’re the carrot sticks that I desperately grabbed for and prayed that they were not cross contaminated….thank God they weren’t. (To give the conference credit, I did complain that night and the next day they had bagged lunches for those with food allergies…)
So what is an allergy queen to do? Well, we all know not to eat the food that directly contains the various allergens and most of us may remember that a buffet is possible disaster for us due to cross contamination by those who are not as knowledgeable to allergies as we are….so here’re a few tips that I follow when at something like this:
1) Practice Caution. As always, if in doubt throw out. Think of e alternative. Would you prefer to be hungry for a bit longer or have a migraine/swollen glands/stomach upset for the next two days of conference?
2) Pack food. Luckily for me, I am not travelling in for the conference, so I may be bringing gluten and dairy free pasta for lunch and will be having breakfast at home. If you are not as lucky, still try to pack extra snacks. Bring granola bars, gluten free bread, allergen free microwaveable snacks to fill up on when you cannot find otherwise. It is the same as your everyday really – walk with safe food to “fill in” if not to sustain you completely. Remember, better safe than sorry.
3) Call your hotel in advance. Make sure they know that you have a food allergy and ask them to address it. You may have to pay for a safe breakfast instead of eating from the free conference breakfast buffet. At the same time, many hotel breakfasts are continental or are buffets themselves. Ask the questions and organise to suit. Do I have to remind you that the live omelette station may be the safest thing for you to eat in a breakfast buffet setting? Of course you tell that live chef about your allergy first….but I do not have to tell you that do I?!
4). Contact the organisers of the conference to see what they are doing for those with food allergies. Keep bugging them until you have an answer.
5) Go online and do your research. Most conferences will be in a city center and you should be able to find a few places that would cater for your allergies. For gluten free, many Italian restaurants tend to have gluten free pasta and/or pizza. Look for vegetarian and vegan places and avoid places with lots of sauces (like Chinese for gluten intolerant or most South Asian restaurants for the dairy intolerant). For this particular conference I am depending on Gluten Free Ontario (Jax) for options. You can also find many other sites and forums on this type of thing online.
6) Use your resources! Contact every and everyone you know with similar (or e same) allergies to see if they know of any SAFE places to eat. Sometimes the best referrals are from that person who works on the 16th floor who visited Timbuktoo once. Or perhaps your favourite blogger who speaks about food allergies – most blogs have an email contact listed, a Facebook page and/or a Twitter account. Otherwise, COMMENT on one of their blogs and ask your question. Most bloggers will answer and are willing to help out!
I hope this gave you some things to think about, and help you on your business trip/conference away from home. If you need help for this weekend, or for any other time wrt food allergies, please do feel free to contact me and I will do the best I can for you!
Happy conferencing and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend!