The Critical Mom is very allergic to nuts--the siren-whirling, ambulance-calling kind of allergy, and one that's often easy to deal with in large American cities, where nut-free zones have become popular. But tonight when my husband took me out to dinner for my birthday to the cute little Italian place--oh, it reminded me of the village! It reminded me of Bleeker Street!--I ended up in a bad situation. No hospital this time--two spoonfuls into my tartufo, I realized I'd eaten something with nuts. My tongue itched and saliva was pouring into my mouth. If you were a pediatrician and you'd taken my blood pressure you'd think it was fine--a regular internist would have blanched and hoped it wouldn't drop.
The spaghetti alla vongole proved delicious: filled with fresh parsley, juicy little clams, and some elegantly garlicky olive oil. The waiter did not approve when I added cheese, and looked as though he might faint when I drank Lambrusco. He actually told me, after I'd finished, that one didn't drink sweet wines with fish, and that one never put cheese on fish. I laughed.
I wonder if dessert was revenge.
I did ask whether the tartufo had nuts. He said no. I should have told him to ask the cook. I did ask, "Do you make it here?" and impatiently he repeated, "I'm sure it has no nuts!" In other words he did not really answer. Two bites in, I felt the familiar symptoms and I wondered how long they'd last. I'm sitting home typing now, an hour after the incident, and the salivation has stopped but I still feel faint and my skin itches, slightly. My mouth is very dry, despite two glasses of water and a cup of peppermint tea. I won't feel normal before morning. When I'll still be slightly weak, and need two coffees.
The waiter noticed I'd stopped eating my tartufo. What was going on, he wanted to know? I said there were nuts in the dessert.
"Catastrophe!" he said, as if he didn't believe me. Then he asked the cook and I heard her say, "Yes, little pieces."
Waiters, cooks, restaurant owners--ye who serve desserts in Northwestern Europe: please find out whether your desserts have nuts. Advertise nut-free zones. Business may pick up. And personally, I'd be very grateful.