Thank you Michelle for drawing my attention to Rachel Johnson’s, quite frankly diabolical article in the Evening Standard. You’ll enjoy reading Michelle’s well put together and brilliantly written, ‘A food fad won’t kill you, an allergy will.’
But you’ll be seething when you read, “Endless dietary requirements are a sign of our decline as a society”.
Rachel is a well respected journalist and a good writer, so it’s sad to read something like this written by her.
It’s been ages since I had a really good rant but this article has my blood boiling. I will be sending a link of this blog to Rachel Johnson, she also has over 14k followers on instagram. Check her out here RachelJohnsonPublic
I’m a little surprised that the Evening Standard has printed this rubbish, it sends the message, you’re only welcome here if you’re lucky enough not to have been born with food allergies or any other disability. It shows a complete lack of understanding of a life threatening condition which affects over 2% of the population, and if we include those with coeliac disease, and food intolerances that figure is more like 40-50%.
Food intolerance can be really painful, and inconvenient. So Rachel, unless you want your guests to have explosive diarrhoea in your immaculate, privileged toilet when they dine at your house, I suggest you rethink your mantra, “You’ll EAT it and you’ll LIKE it.”
Rachel – I find your article offensive, and since you’ve come at my community with such a lack of empathy, you’re not getting much empathy from me in this response.
My thoughts on Rachel Johnson’s views on allergies
Where to start? It’s a complete dumster fire of an article, but here goes:
- The title – Endless dietary requirements are a symbol of our decline as a society – Really Rachel? It’s actually a sign of a rise in people with life threatening allergies, colieac disease, veganism, gluten free by choice etc. All are valid, all are on the rise. But lumping those with a life threatening allergy together with people making a dietary choice is wrong and misplaced. No one chooses to have food allergies, and living with them is terrifying. We are on high alert daily and often choose not to go out. So when kind friends and restaurants CAN and DO cater for us it’s wonderful to be included. It is also someone’s right to choose to be vegan or avoid certain foods if they want to. It’s all about dialogue and understanding what a customer needs. Our decline as a society is shown more in your complete lack of understanding and empathy.
- “restaurants advertise their seasonal offerings of “vegan and gluten-free set menus” – It seems that Rachel is really offended that restaurants are catering for those with dietary requirements. Why Rachel? Why does this bother you so much? And thank you – THANK YOU! To every restaurant who has an allergen matrix of menu. It really helps both customers and your staff.
- The cost of living crisis – This is the introduction – that we have a food shortage and rising costs. What on this planet does having dietary requirements have to do with the cost of living crisis? Please explain? Having less disposable income doesn’t make allergies of dietary requirements go away. Some of us could die from our allergies, some of us could be made really ill and cause long term health complications from repeated exposure (ed. coeliacs, chrohns, colitis…) There is literally no correlation here. We have to spend even more on our safe freefrom food and regularly pay a surplus charge for our safe food. For one, I am happy to do this because I love my life thanks very much. Yes I’ll happily order the steak because it’s the meal that can often be most safely made for me. I’m just glad I can celebrate with my friends and family.
- “You’ll EAT it and you’ll LIKE it.” – Rachel’s lovely fridge magnet. Yes we are all feeling the pinch, rising bills, stagnant and falling salaries etc. But the festive season is a time to forget all that, just for one month, to splurge, treat ourselves, meet with friends and family. I’ll pass thanks Rachel. I won’t be eating it. Not if you had anything to do with it. Many of us will go without a meal when we feel unsafe or don’t want to risk things if we can’t be sure it’s safe. Have you had to do that Rachel? Been too scared to eat so you’ve chosen not to? No, I didn’t think so.
- London society is far too encouraging of food fads and preferences – Missing the point totally here Rachel. London businesses are seeing the value of these customers. We are many and we are multitude and we aren’t going away. This is comlex though. On the one hand we have serious life threatening allergies – on the other, choices not to eat certain foods. These are very different. But people are choosing, lots of them. Rather than ostracising us, many restaurants are welcoming us and doing a darn good job of it too. Why does this bother you so much Rachel? Why the judgement? ‘You do you’ and we’ll do us. Just keep your small minded views to yourself.
- It’s soft to the point of degeneracy – WOW! Fine choice of words there Rachel. Do you think that a restaurant owner wants to have a diner die from food allergies in their establishment? Or receive a bad review because a coeliac had a week of painful symptoms after a meal out? Dictionary.com tells us the word degenerate means “to fall below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities; deteriorate: to diminish in quality, especially from a former state of coherence, balance, integrity, etc. I’d say actually, and thankfully, people generally see the business sense in catering for the rise in dietary needs. Having allergen menus in inclusive, it helps diners choose a safe dish and helps servers guide customers to a safe choice. Just ignore the gluten free menu Rachel, it’s not for you! Are you feeling left out or something? You have a whole other menu all for you. It’s really not that bad.
- Almost any emailed invitation to an “event” irritatingly demands data when it comes to “dietaries” – The message for dietary requirements isn’t for you Rachel, just ignore it. Why are you getting so upset? Why don’t you want people with allergies and dietary requirements to be included?
- Do they have “dietaries” in the Sudan? – What on earth Rache? What has Sudan got to do with your current monologue? There are fewer food allergies in Sudan and other parts of Africa due to their lifestyle. It does seem that our western living increases the chances of having food allergies. However allergies are on the rise in Africa too, particularly in the higher income African countries. I suggest firstly this is irrelevant to your article, but secondly, it would be interested to hear from anyone in Sudan who can comment. Do you have food allergies? How are they catered for? What are people allergic to?
- Did they have “dietaries” in the dreary Fifties – Harping on about how there weren’t dietaries back in the 50s. How old are you Rachel? You don’t look old enough to have been born in the 50s so why do want to go back to those times? People used to just sadly die from allergies back in the 50s, it would have been put down to heart attack, asthma or something else, but allergies are not new. They are however far more common. That’s just a fact. People aren’t getting allergies just to piss you off Rachel. We’d love not to have them.
- we live very boring safety-first risk-free lives – Yes we do Rachel. We are very fortunate not to live in a war zone. I know you have written a lot about the war and that’s great, but is this really relevant? I would also like to point out that living with life threatening allergies can feel like living with a sniper at your back. Every day, we could make a mistake our selves, the food allergen being the bomb incendiary. Or someone else could misunderstand or not take us seriously. We don’t take risks and try to be organised to the point that we do not risk our lives. We mostly all carry adrenaline, life saving medicine. We live with this daily. It’s terrifying, and you writing an article like this is irresponsible to the point of being thoroughly offensive.
- If you have a violent allergy to shellfish, say, you are not unaware of it. Therefore you don’t choose it if it’s on the menu. You avoid it. You don’t have to make a federal case about it. – Calm down Rachel! Yes we do avoid our allergens. We have to. Those with food intolerances and coeliacs also have to avoid certain foods, every day! However some allergens can be in a dish and it might not be obvious. e.g. fish in a Thai curry, gluten in a gravy or nuts in a sauce. What’s the harm in us being able to find that information out? You really do seem overly upset about all this Rachel.
- Waiting staff, presumably by law? — dully enquire about “any allergies” as soon as diners sit down – No Rachel, it’s not law at all. If you’d done any research you might know that. Waiting staff do this because their boss sees the value of opening up dialogue, so they can keep all customers safe. Some people are nervous of explaining that they have allergies. I wonder why that is Rachel? Perhaps its because they have come across bigoted people like you and they feel shame and embarrassment. The only person who should be embarrassed right now is you Rachel for writing such a biased, one sided, poorly researched and ignorant article.
- Surely, when it comes to allergies, the onus should be on the consumer not the provider – Customers do take most of the risk on themselves, it’s our choice whether we eat out somewhere or not. But what is the harm in a waitress or waiter asking if a diner has allergies? It’s helpful Rachel. Young adults are the most risk of anaphylaxis for many reasons, but mostly because they don’t want to be the only one asking, they are shy, they just want to be like everyone else. Some don’t realise how serious their allergy is. By making it normal, accepted and part of the dining experience, they can easily notify the wait staff of their allergy and get the guidance and support they need.
- Several hundred passengers were ordered not to eat “any nut products we might have brought on board” in deference to the one traveller with a severe allergy – How hard is it Rachel to go for one flight not eating peanuts? You can gorge on them as soon as you get off the plane. You can eat whatever you like whenever you want. That is a huge privilege. People with serious food allergies have to be vigilant all the time. But for that short flight you can help someone stay safe. Why does this get your blood boiling so much?
- I don’t think I heard my parents ever once ask about “dietaries” – that’s because they, and you Rachel are really lucky not to have any food allergies or dietary health complications. You are very lucky. I wish every day that I could not have allergies any more but there is no cure (unless you have a lot of money for desensitisation).
- It’s astonishing how often a friend comes to the house and expects me to remember they are dairy-free or keto or intermittently fasting – I wonder how many of your friends are reading this Rachel and thinking.. WOW! What a total and utter cowbag!
- Toby Young always warns me as he knows I’ll forget that his wife eats neither fish nor meat but I have another friend who is a “pescatarian”, apparently, which means that if you have Andy round you either have to remember to make fish pie for everyone or a separate meal just for him – naming and shaming your friends. I trust you got their permission first. Public Service Warning – don’t accept a dinner invitation to Rachels! She doesn’t want you there and may not take much care keeping you safe! And she probably bitches about you behind your back too.
- In my ideal world, the rule would be this. No dietaries required – mine too Rachel, but for different reasons. I would love to find a cure for everyone with allergies because it can be really hard living with them. But when you say this Rachel, you’re just thinking about yourself. Because people with allergies are so annoying! Poor Rachel.
- Unless you are instructed specifically otherwise it is fair — if not always safe — to assume everyone can eat everything. – this is true. If you have allergies, you either have to eat before you go (my favoured option sometimes if I’m getting any ‘Rachel vibes’.) or you speak to the host and hope to find a little compassion there. Or we take out own food! Also works really well.
- The meal has to be perfect – Is it really mean of me to be wishing you a dry turkey, burnt stuffing and soggy roast potatoes? While you sob over your ruined Christmas Rachel some people won’t be getting a Christmas meal at all. We are so very very fortunate to be able to buy the festive food and celebrate together with our friends and families.
- My daughter has been a practising vegetarian forever. There are no potatoes roasted in goose fat for her. She toils alone over a mushroom Wellington, maybe, and a separate vegetarian gravy that requires as much washing-up as the entire festive meal. Glad tidings! She has been converted back to meat by her gorgeous girlfriend Jess and so this year we are a completely nut roast-free household and will all sit down to turkey together for the first time this Christmas. I couldn’t be happier. – Oh how wonderful for you Rachel. And for your daughter, who it seems had to cook her own Christmas dinner as a vegetarian… Her choice to be a vegetarian and it sounds like you were never really able to appreciate, respect or accept that.
I just can’t with this article. It’s so snarky, bitchy and unkind. Rachel leaves no stone unturned, even laying into her own friends and family – It’s also o one sided and mean. It’s just awful. No research, no facts, honestly who approved this going live?
What you can do if this article annoys you too
I’m going to send a link to this article to Rachel as I’d love to hear what she has to say. Could you do the same? If enough of us complain it will send a message that we refuse to be accept outdated views like this.
Rachel is so lucky, to have no allergies. To have the privilege to cook some ridiculous 127 dishes for Christmas… I would like to ask for an apology from Rachel, from all the allergy and dietary restricted community. Also the Evening Standard – you should be apologising too. Anyone wishing to complain can write to the Evening Standard on email@example.com or write to Evening Standard, Alphabeta Building, 14-18 Finsbury Square, London, EC2A 1AH.
- The article you’re complaining about.
- The date on which it appeared.
- Whether the article appeared in print or online (and whether through a browser or via one of our mobile apps).
- The nature of your complaint in no more than 500 words.
- Which part of the Editorial Code it breaches.
There is an online form here: https://help.standard.co.uk/hc/en-us/requests/new
I’ve had enough of this kind of attitude. We are no longer in the 50s and should be celebrating how far we have come in terms of inclusivity, empathy and acceptance. We are all different, some people have disabilities. Can we all just be kind? Is that too much to ask?
How will you be spending Christmas?
I will be spending Christmas with my wonderful family who are both accepting and inclusive of me and my many allergies. I can eat almost everything except the chef’s special delight – the cheese board! Thank you to all my friends and family. I really truly do appreciate how you all support me. It means a lot.
PS. Don’t go to Rachel’s for xmas if you have any dietary requirements or you might need a sneaky Maccie Ds on the way home.