I stared at the golden brown flakes sprinkled over my rice noodles and beef, and thought to myself. This is a lot of garlic…or sesame…or a combination of both? Do Vietnamese people use peanuts in their noodle dishes? The menu didn’t mention peanuts. I dread asking waiters if there are nuts in my food because they often aren’t sure themselves, and it’s hard to explain the severity of my nut allergies when waiters are so busy. I was also with someone whom I recently met, and I didn’t want him to think I was high-maintenance with my dietary restrictions (can you blame me, it’s San Francisco).
Realizing that self-administering a shot with my Epi-pen in the event of a reaction was far more embarrassing than confirming the ingredients of my dish, I worked up the confidence to ask the nearest waiter about my noodles.
"Yeah. Those are peanuts. Are you allergic? We can cook it again for you. You didn’t eat anything, right??" Yes! A waiter that understands allergies! The waiter takes my bowl, hands it to someone else, and begins speaking in rapid Vietnamese, probably explaining why I couldn’t eat the perfectly cooked meal in his hands.
My new friend looks at me with slight concern. “I’ll be fine,” I reassure him. I tell him more about my allergies to alleviate the mood, and encourage him to eat while my food was being re-cooked.
Our waiter returns. “This doesn’t have nuts. We made sure.”
"Thanks. Are there any nuts the egg rolls?"
"Those don’t have nuts either." The waiter points to my friend’s food, "but his food does. So no kissing tonight." After a short pause, our waiter verifies, "You guys are boyfriend and girlfriend, right?"
By now, the waiter realized the situation and figured he was digging himself into a deeper hole. Sparing the three of us the awkwardness, he mumbled a few more words and walked off.
Follow-up: I survived dinner, and my friend and I did not kiss.