Kosher and food allergic individuals want to know what’s in your broth

Barbara and I were done for the day. Although it was a short day, it was a still another long day at the Washington Auto Show. We wanted to get something good to eat. Something to contrast the convention center food we’d been eating for days.

D.C. is now a hotbed for new restaurants. I’m amazed by all the options available compared to when I was living there in my 20’s. I’ve known Barbara is Jewish for as long as I’ve known her, but I don’t remember ever going to out to dinner with her. It has been 20 years since I interned for her.

It was at this dinner that I had a revelation about my job; how I teach people to be inclusive in their menu planning. I’m always asking for labels noting at the least the top eight allergens and whether its gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. And in registration, I teach my colleagues to ask if anyone follows a kosher or halal diet.

Sitting down to dinner with Barbara in the bustling restaurant was typical in a popular restaurant, but this dinner was a new experience for me. I don’t recall ever dining out with someone who follows a kosher diet. I’m sure I have, but in this instant, I came to realize she was asking the waiter similar questions to what I ask as someone with food allergies. Does the carrott and ginger soup have dairy it in? Is there any pork in the fish dish? Is butter or oil used to cook the fish? Can I only have oil. How is this dish prepared?

When creating menus and labeling those menus it’s not only important for those with food allergies, but also guests who follow religious-based diets and even vegans or vegetarians. There are some Jewish followers who require a strict kosher meal. There are others, as a Rabbi recently told me, who are “flexi-kosher.” They follow a strict kosher diet at home, but when they go out, they follow some of the “basic” rules: no pork, no shellfish, no meat and dairy together, no birds of prey, and only fish with fins and scales.

Some people want to know where our food comes from – I do – but we also need to know what’s in your broth. It could be a matter of life or death or discrimination.

The next time you’re planning an event, whether for work or pleasure, add a touch of consideration for your guests/attendees by including menu labels that not only name the dish, but also list any allergens present or other offending food items. Not only will you help someone feel included and safe.