Okay, so you are trying to avoid soy and want to eat out? I cannot count how many times I have been to a restaurant only to find out that all I get is some lettuce and maybe a piece of salt-and-pepper pan fried chicken breast.
At home I eat local, organic, natural, from the farm, no pesticides, no hormones, non GMO blah, blah, blah. When I walk out my door, I eat everything! Well, not everything. I never have been an eater of fast food, or crap food for that matter. My mother literally fed me flavoured tofu for dessert as a child. Hence the soy allergy – maybe?
I love real good fresh food and am a self proclaimed master chef in my own right. With a boyfriend who likes to avoid wheat (we found it makes him bloated) our home is very paleo- meat and veg. However, we both are big foodies and we sorta just forget all the grocery rules once we are in the hands of a real chef – or our parents.
When I found out that I have a soy allergy (that’s a whole other story), I was devastated. I am not kidding you. I live in Vancouver, BC, the home of the best Asian food in the world. I realized that on top of having to avoid my most favourite spots and most treasured delicacies, I was also finding out that soy was in so much more than just Asian foods. All of my burger spots, favourite bakeries and sandwich shops, did I mention SUSHI?! I can’t even eat a raw piece of tuna because of the whole cross contamination thing.
Avoiding soy is no fun.
Not only is a soy-free life time consuming and exhausting, it’s also embarrassing. You know what I am talking about. Those chefs, the hosts, the servers… all those people who look at you like you’re the idiot for drinking the soy-free-kool-aid. My chest gets a little tight. I see them whisper to each other under their breath about my “fake” sensitivity. Ugh. I feel super uncomfortable and have walked out more than once. I feel like I must explain myself… Which I shouldn’t, but they may not take me seriously. The other day I experienced this yet again. I got the nerve up and walked over to that thirty-something-year-old bearded hipster-wannabe with a stupid beanie hat on his head and said, “actually I am anaphylactic so if you could please ask your chef for me that would be a life-saver, literally”. He couldn’t even look me in my eyes, he literally said “well, I’ve never heard of that”. I was like, yeah, “now you have”. HA! I showed him!
To avoid all the frustrations, I have developed a little routine for myself which you may find useful. You can use these steps below for any and all of your allergies or dietary restrictions!
- First things first, call the restaurant. Ask for the chef or for the person to ask the chef directly if the kitchen can accommodate a soy allergy. They may have a few suggestions/ restrictions. Odds are they will not know and keep you on the phone for the next ten min. It’s great entertainment.
- If yes, go online and see what’s on the menu.
- Figure out what you think you can eat and notice any key words like bread, sauce, cheese and be sure to call back and check with the kitchen. Soy lecithin and soybean oil hide in these (post to come regarding the hidden soy foods) so if they don’t know, omit it for something else.
- Make a reservation and tell them that there will be a soy allergy at the table. When you say “soy-free,” they may or may not take this note down because they do not realize that soy doesn’t just mean soya, and maybe its a pizza place. When you say “soy allergy,” they have to write that down, sometimes clarifying spelling (lol).
- When you get to the restaurant, be sure to tell the server right away that you have a soy allergy and ask for them to please mention it to the chef. Be really nice, this is how I get my most special meals. Ones that aren’t on the menu 😉
- You should already have an idea of what you want to eat (steps 1-3) but if you have any concerns, opt out and go for a variation. The chef will know what he is doing – most times. (Side note – chocolate desserts are dangerous.)
- Be sure to review this place on social media, or yelp/ trip advisor. It’s great for business and to encourage more restaurants to get their act in gear. Most importantly, it lets us other dietary restrictive people know if they will be good to us.
If you have any secrets, tips or suggestions for all of us soy-free lifers, please let’s us know in the comments below!
A standard rule of thumb for me is that French, Indian, Italian, Steak & Seafood and even Mexican are some great soy-free solutions to your culinary calendar. I still suggest all of the above steps as you never know where they get their pasta or sauce.