Sheetz “gets it” with my aversion to deathfish. ☺


I hate Lent.  So, did you see my email to Sheetz about having Deathfish now?  I hate Lent.  They wrote back.  I still hate Lent.  I do still like Sheetz though.

Lent sucks. 

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/170619482715340800

But Sheetz is cool:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric <me@my.emailaddress>
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I hope you find this information helpful. Let me start off by saying, we do everything in our power to ensure a pleasant visit for all of our customers. This includes keeping strict guidelines which include, but are not limited to, designating one fryer vat only for shrimp in order to help minimize the possibility of cross-contamination. Employees handling food are instructed to change gloves and wipe down the frying area after seafood orders are fulfilled.

 If your condition is life threatening, it may be in your best interest to avoid our M•T•O® products in the event that residue from the shrimp may come in contact with those food items considered safe. Our M•T•GO!® products are pre-made, individually packaged and manufactured under strict allergen monitoring programs; therefore, they would be a better choice for someone with severe reactions to certain allergens.  All allergens in our M•T•GO!® products are identified directly on the packaging label.

 Please keep in mind that our seafood menu is a limited time offer that we make available to our customers during Lent. Shrimp and fish items will only be served in our stores until the 25th of April. I apologize again for any inconvenience.

 Sincerely,
Ashley Sheetz

At least they “get it”.  I’d love to know if employees are told why they’re to use gloves & separate fryers or they’re just told to.  Not that I doubt the company’s convictions… just that I’ve been trained on things in the past where people have obviously had no idea or understanding of what they’re doing… they just know what they were told to do.

I wrote back…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Ashley,

No problem on the response time.  I really appreciate that you took the time to reply at all, and love the honesty & frankness with which you’ve answered my questions.  The instructions to use gloves & wipe down food prep areas are great to hear for people like me.  There are a bunch of us out here… I just happen to be one of the more vocal & inquisitive ones.  More restaurants are recognizing that food allergies are on the rise.  Peanut & wheat allergies are hitting the news more… but there are more of us out here with special dietary needs.  It’s easy to understand not being able to eat something, but the gravity of eating that thing is sometimes lost… and cross contamination seems to be the thing that’s hardest to convey.  I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult to place your trust (& potentially your life) into someone else’s hands.

I’m glad that Sheetz has an understanding of allergens!  It’s good to hear that the procedures are in place to minimize cross-contamination.  Hopefully the gravity of the situation is passed along in training.  Do a Google image search for Anaphylactic shock some time.  It’s not a pretty sight.

I hope the meatball sliders are still available after April 25th!  Ha ha.  I haven’t tried them yet, but they look AWESOME.  Perhaps I’ll stick to the M•T•GO!® products for now.  I do really enjoy the pre-made turkey sandwiches.

I see more & more Sheetz popping up…  you guys ought to build in Bridgeville… it’s right off on Rte. 79, and you can put a hurting on the local Get·Go.

Thanks again for your time, & answers!

-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Then I wrote back again…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address.>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Again Ashley,

Sorry for the barrage of emails…  I just had one more suggestion.  Perhaps on the signage promoting any fish/shellfish items next year during Lent (if/when they should happen to return), you could make a note of the separate fryers, and to maybe ask a manager or person in the kitchen about your allergies?  Better yet, a button on the touchpanel alerting the staff to your allergy & having it print on your order/receipt would be stellar.  It would prove you guys to be innovators when it comes to dealing with food allergies!  Acknowledging that there’s an issue goes such a long way with us food allergy folks.

Rock on!
-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Hope I’m not too annoying.  Now I’m hungry for Sheetz.

English: Interior of a Super Sheetz in Altoona...

SHEETZ!

Sheetz – New Shrimp Sub ☹


Oh how I hate Lent and the inevitable accompanying seasonal fish/shellfish/seafood specials.  Sheetz got in on the act early this year.  Please, restaurants that don’t already serve deathfish… Stop adding seabugs to your menu!

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169082906206158848
https://twitter.com/#!/sheetz/status/169153004728094720
https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169154340731367425

Of course, I also had to send off an email or 20.  I sent this to quite a few Sheet-related email addresses that I had in my address book or found on the web, and I think also through their contact form.

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Feedback Sheetz Inc. ; sheetzweb @sheetz.com ;
Cc: Lisa Claar
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: The New Shrimp Sub?


Hello Friends,

I write to you today with a sad face: ☹

“Why,” you ask?  Yesterday I stopped a Sheetz just south of Scottdale on my way down Rte. 119 towards Uniontown, all excited to get some delicious made to order goodness, and was stopped dead in my tracks when I got to the magical touchscreen.  I saw signs advertising a new Shrimp sub.

Why, my friends?  Why?

I understand the importance of having an evolving and diverse menu.  I get that you don’t want to grow stagnant.  Sheetz has been a safe-haven for me in dining for years.  I have written to you in the past many times over different issues, and 99% of the time, it is high-praise my friends.  Years ago when in Altoona, a friend & I even stopped to have our pictures taken in front of the Sheetz HQ sign.  I speak of your genius touch-screen ordering and delicious “gas station” food to anyone who will listen.

My problem today extends from that fact that I am severely allergic to shellfish my friends.  This includes crustaceans and mollusks… things like Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, geoduck, calamari, scallops, snails, and several other “delicious” sea-bugs and slimy things.

If the disgusting bug-like sea creatures are battered & deep-fried in the same fryer that also cooks my french fries, cheese sticks, or chicken tenders, and I happen to partake of said otherwise non-deadly foods… it sends me quite immediately into something called Anaphylactic shock.  Basically, that involves itching, redness, swelling, and the closing of airways.

Needless to say, I don’t generally like to cap off my dining experiences with Anaphylaxis.  Yes, I have an Epi-Pen, but it’s a last resort & really only buys time until an ambulance can arrive & get me to a hospital.  In order to dodge the excitement of choking while en-route to a hopefully life-saving facility, I generally stay away from any places that serve shellfish.  Sheetz has been a go-to safe place for me for many years.  Now, I have to cross you off of my list?

Cross-contamination issues are huge.  If someone assembles a shrimp sub, then makes me a turkey or meatball sub without washing their hands or changing gloves…  Hello, ambulance ride!  I’m not doubting the training & cleanliness of your employees, but I’m sure you can imagine that I can’t take placing my health & safety in someone else’s hands lightly.

Sadly, Sheetz will have to be off of my safe list for now.  May I ask you to reconsider this deathfish offering in the future?  I believe you had a seafood sub that I wrote to you about a few years ago.  Are deadly seabugs really a necessary item?  Do they sell that well?

Places that have added deathfish to their menu over the years where there was once none include, Quiznos, Taco Bell (it’s gone now), Dairy Queen (it’s gone from most of them now), Texas Roadhouse, Famous Dave’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bob Evans (it’s gone now), and many more that I can’t remember now.  Pretty soon I’ll only be able to eat at McDonald’s… until they introduce McLobster country-wide.  I don’t want to be the guy that only eats Big Macs and eventually has to have a wall knocked out by Maury Povich or Jerry Springer so I can exit my house.

I write to you on behalf of the shellfish-allergic out there that just want a place to eat with safe food that we know will continue to remain safe.

I beg you to take this off of your menu, and leave it off.  Please?  I walked out of Sheetz yesterday with my head hung low & after not purchasing anything at all.  I also needed gas & drinks but left in shock & had to get them elsewhere.  My wife didn’t even say anything to try and console me.  She could feel my disappointment as we walked silently to the car.  Only after I started the car & pulled out of the parking lot did I let out a string of expletives that only revealed the proverbial tip of the iceberg to my frustration.

Thank you today for your time.  I hope you take my thoughts into consideration, and are eventually able to pull the deathfish from your menu, and drain/clean/refill all of the fryers.  There are more like me out here.  Perhaps they’re less vocal & dramatic, but the shellfish-allergic do exist.  We have feelings too.  Feelings that are crushed when new seafood offerings don menus everywhere.  We slip into a depressed food-related funk when Lent rolls around with all of its horrible seafood specials and limited time offerings.  Are we to live in a social hole & prepare all of our meals at home?  Please, don’t condemn us!

I thank you for your time and apologize for my need to complain.  I hate to come off as a whiner or “poor me”, but something just had to be said.  I look forward to your thoughts on the issue, I know you value all customer input.  You have a great company, I just don’t want to die while eating at Sheetz.  It might be bad press for you guys.
Pleadingly Yours,

-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, no one wrote back.  Well, I did get this

From: <customer_focus@sheetz.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Thanks, Your message has been received

Dear Eric,

We just wanted to let you know that we received your message and notify you that it is being directed to the proper individuals for review.

At Sheetz, customer opinions are always appreciated. Our mission is to ‘provide customers with fast and friendly service, quality products in clean and convenient locations’. Your comments help to ensure you receive only the highest possible service expected from Sheetz.

If your comment or question requires special attention, you can expect to get a more specific response back in the near future.

Thank you.

But, after the Tweet above divulging the sheetzlive@sheetz.com email address, I re-sent it with this…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: “sheetzlive@sheetz.com” <sheetzlive@sheetz.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Friends,

Perhaps my email below was sent too soon!  I see via Twitter that you have separate fryers for seafood?  I’m interested to know what other safe-handling practices & training are involved?  Do employees know why there are separate friers?  Are they taught about cross-contamination?

Is the deadly sea-bug sub a limited time only deal?

I’m a blogger, one of the issues I blog about is food allergies…  Would you like me to spread the safe-handling word?

Rock on!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

…And got this as a response:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric Carroll <eric_aixelsyd@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 Is the email below something you had sent to this address as well? I am working on getting in touch with our Food Manager to answer all of your questions, so I will be in touch as soon as I have all the necessary information for you.

Sincerely,

Ashley Sheetz

I wrote back again, but haven’t heard anything further so far…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Ashley,

I had sent it this morning to an older Sheetz customer-service address that I had, and submitted it online via the contact form on the website.  Thank you for your ridiculously quick reply, and your Twitter team is awesome.

Thanks!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

SHEETZ

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

So, that’s where it stands until I get further replies from Sheetz.  I’m interested to see what they have to say.  A separate fryer is a great start… but it’s also important that employees understand why there’s a separate fryer, so they don’t mix items up, or only use 1 late at night or while cleaning the other.

I’m still hoping that they remove it form the menu & keep it off.  I’d sure feel a hell of a lot safer if it was nowhere in the kitchen.

Subway, Quiznos, Taco Bell, W.G. Grinder’s, & Sheetz take note…


https://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/169103504059797506

https://twitter.com/#!/FirehouseSubs/status/169104530632474624

https://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/169104935043088385

Firehouse Subs, you’re awesome.  I’m just sayin’.

Other food places with no shellfish currently on the menu, pay attention here too.  You don’t need shellfish.

Places that have added it over the years, preventing me from going back…

Other places that don’t need to add it to the menu…

Got that?  Good.

Also, what ever happened to Roly Poly & Schlotzsky’s?  They were excellent shellfish-free places to dine.  Come back!  Also, we need McCalister’s Deli and Lion’s Choice to remain shellfish free and move to the ‘Burgh.  Maybe even Jack in the Box too.

To the rest of you, let’s stop these damn seafood lent specials.  Let the business go to Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, Long John Silver’s‘, VFD fish fry events, and Monterey Bay.  If you don’t normally do shellfish, stay away from it.  Please?  I ask of behalf of the seafood allergic and those who choose to eat kosher.

Firehouse Subs

Firehouse Subs - my new food heroes.

Papal Participation in Lenten Lunacy


A while ago, I decided to write a goofy letter to the Pope about shellfish & Lent.  It was surprisingly very easy to find the Pope’s email address online.  I wrote an email, and again got some editing/revision help from Dave, and sent it off to the Pontiff himself.  Here’s that email…

from ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
to benedictxvi@vatican.va
subject My struggles with Lent & dietary concerns…
mailed-by gmail.com

Good Day Your Holiness,

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find your email address with a quick Google search! I find it fascinating as well as endearing that you make yourself so accessible to the world, and embrace this new technology. I’m not sure if this is monitored and directed by yourself, or your trusted staff, but either way… I salute your effort. Also, I’m not sure if this would need to go through translators, or not. Perhaps I should use Google translator and post the results after my message in English?

I’m sure you are quite a busy man, especially in preparation for the upcoming Easter holiday, so I will try to make my point as succinctly as possible.

I would like to express my frustrations with the Lent season and the proliferation of seafood specials on Fridays at nearly every restaurant where I would otherwise be happy to dine. You see, I have a severe shellfish allergy, this makes dining out an adventure under normal circumstances. During Lent, restaurants that normally have minimal or no shellfish selections seem to produce them out of nowhere. This really hampers my ability to dine out comfortably, if at all.

With any cross-contamination, I can go into anaphylactic shock almost immediately. This means if I have a steak or piece of chicken that touches a grill where some lobster was just cooked, or if I have onion rings from the same fryer that was also cooking shrimp; I would begin the process with an internal itching/burning sensation in my Eustachian tube and rapidly closing bronchi.

I would like to ask if you could perhaps add shellfish (and possibly even regular fish) to the list of recommendations of things that one ought to give up in observation of lent. They are part of the “big 8” allergens in the world today. It would really help out a lot of followers & non-followers out there, being able to dine during the Lenten season in complete comfort! I figured that as the Pope, you’re in the best position to propose and act upon a movement of such magnitude.

You might even be able to offer up an explanation at why people have been eating fish for the lent season for so long, now that it’s no longer really an inconvenience. This would be in line with your call to return to stricter Christian values, no? Perhaps it would dispel the rumors that the Catholic Church of yore was in league with a local fishmonger and pushed fish on lent solely (pun intended – would that pun translate well into German? See, “sole” is a type of fish, and is also the root word to “solely” meaning singular…) to raise profits for the fishmonger, who in turn would up the amount of his tithe to the church. I can only assume that this is a rumor, as I find different versions of the tale on the internet, and no real concrete evidence to back any of the allegations.

I’m not Catholic myself, but am a Protestant (United Church of Christ, more specifically). I would say that in recent times we’re “on the same team” though, wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps Peter didn’t intend to include shellfish when he repealed the laws of clean and unclean animals put forth in Leviticus? Perhaps something was lost in translation?

I have one final idea. For Lent, all devout Christians ought to revert to a strict kosher diet. This would certainly strengthen ties with our Jewish friends and put more emphasis on the kind of Passover meal that Jesus would have had with his disciples at the last supper. I would think that this is wholly appropriate for this time of year, and it certainly helps me with my dining problem. Perhaps I ought to just convert and stick to kosher delis and grocery stores? Ha ha ha.

I would like to thank you for your time, and truly cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the subject at hand. I also look forward to a possible continued dialog about faith, shellfish, and allergies.

Humbly,
-Eric

Google translation:

Guten Tag Eure Heiligkeit,

Ich war angenehm überrascht, wie einfach es ist, Ihre E-Mail-Adresse mit einem schnelle Google-Suche finden! Ich finde es faszinierend wie liebenswert, dass Sie sich so der Welt zugänglich zu machen, und die neue Technologie. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob dies überwacht wird und von Ihnen selbst gerichtet, oder Ihren Mitarbeitern vertrauen, aber so oder so … Ich begrüße Ihre Bemühungen. Also, ich bin nicht sicher, ob diese müssten durch Übersetzer, oder nicht. Vielleicht sollte ich Google-Übersetzer zu wenden, und nach den Ergebnissen nach meiner Nachricht in Englisch?

Ich bin sicher, Sie haben völlig ein viel beschäftigter Mann, vor allem im Hinblick auf die bevorstehenden Osterferien, also werde ich versuchen, meinen Standpunkt ebenso knapp wie möglich zu machen.

Ich möchte meinen Frust mit der Fastenzeit und der Verbreitung von Meeresfrüchte-Spezialitäten am Freitag um fast jedem Restaurant, wo ich nicht anders ausdrücken würde sich freuen, zu speisen. Sehen Sie, ich einen schweren Schalentiere Allergie haben, das macht einem Dinner ein Abenteuer unter normalen Umständen. In der Fastenzeit, Restaurants, die normalerweise keine oder eine minimale Auswahl Muscheln scheinen zu ihrer Herstellung aus dem Nichts. Dies behindert wirklich meine Fähigkeit zu speisen sich behaglich, wenn überhaupt.

Mit eine Kreuzkontamination kann ich in einen anaphylaktischen Schock gehen fast sofort. Dies bedeutet, wenn ich ein Steak oder ein Stück Huhn berührt haben, dass ein Grill, wo einige Hummer nur gekocht wurde, oder wenn ich Zwiebelringe aus der gleichen Friteuse das war auch das Kochen Garnelen, ich würde den Prozess mit einem internen Juckreiz begin / Brennen in meiner Tuba und schnell schließen Bronchien.

Ich möchte fragen, ob Sie vielleicht könnten Muscheln (und möglicherweise sogar regelmäßig Fisch) in die Liste der Empfehlungen der Dinge, die man aufgeben, in der Beobachtung der Fastenzeit soll hinzuzufügen. Sie sind Teil der “Big 8” Allergene in der heutigen Welt. Es wäre wirklich sehr helfen, von Anhängern und nicht-Anhänger gibt, in der Lage, die während der Fastenzeit im kompletten Komfort zu speisen! Ich dachte, wie der Papst, Sie in der besten Position zu schlagen und die Reaktion auf eine Bewegung von solcher Tragweite sind.

Man könnte sogar in der Lage sein Angebot bis auf eine Erklärung, warum Menschen wurden Verzehr von Fisch für die Fastenzeit so lange, jetzt, da es nicht mehr wirklich ein Nachteil. Dies stünde im Einklang mit Ihren Anruf, um strengere christlichen Werte zurückgeben, nicht wahr? Vielleicht wäre es die Gerüchte, dass die katholische Kirche von einst wurde in der Liga mit einem örtlichen Fischhändler und schob Fisch auf nur geliehen (pun intended zerstreuen – wäre das Wortspiel auch ins Deutsche zu übersetzen? See, “allein” ist eine Art von Fisch, und ist auch die Wurzel Wort “ausschließlich” bedeutet Singular …), um Gewinne für die Fischhändler, der seinerseits würde die Höhe seiner Zehnten der Kirche zu erheben. Ich kann nur annehmen, dass dies ein Gerücht ist, wie ich verschiedene Versionen der Geschichte im Internet zu finden, und keine wirkliche konkrete Beweise vorzulegen, um die Behauptungen zurück.

Ich bin nicht katholisch mich, aber ich bin ein Protestant (United Church of Christ, genauer gesagt). Ich würde sagen, dass in der letzten Zeit sind wir “auf der gleichen Mannschaft” aber nicht würden Sie zustimmen? Vielleicht Peter hatte nicht vor, Schalentiere, wenn er aufgehoben den Gesetzen der reinen und unreinen Tieren setzte sich weiter in Levitikus enthalten? Vielleicht etwas in der Übersetzung verloren?

Ich habe noch eine letzte Idee. Für die Fastenzeit, die alle gläubigen Christen sollten eine strenge koschere Ernährung zurückzukehren. Dies würde sicherlich zur Stärkung der Beziehungen mit unseren jüdischen Freunden und legen mehr Gewicht auf die Art des Passah-Mahl, das Jesus mit seinen Jüngern beim letzten Abendmahl hätte. Ich würde denken, das ist ganz angemessen für diese Zeit des Jahres, und es sicherlich hilft mir bei meinem Esszimmer Problem. Vielleicht sollte ich erst konvertieren und halten Sie sich Feinkostläden und Lebensmittelgeschäften koscher? Ha ha ha.

Ich möchte Ihnen für Ihre Zeit danken und kann wirklich nicht warten, bis Sie Ihre Meinung zu diesem Thema an die Hand zu hören. Ich freue mich auch auf einen möglichen weiteren Dialog über den Glauben, Muscheln und Allergien.

Demütig
-Eric

Yes, that’s a crudely copy n’ pasted Google translation, and I have no idea if it made any sense at all in German.  Judging by some of the bounce-backs that I received, it may have been stopped by some SPAM filters.

As expected, it went a couple of weeks without a response, so I looked up some other addresses at the Vatican, and for national & local Catholic organizations, and wrote this little forward to send to a bunch of them, along with the original email…

Hello Friends,

I recently sent an email to Pope Benedict XVI regarding some allergy concern issues that I have surrounding Lent, and possible modification of policies on the Church’s policy of not eating meat on Fridays.

I realize that the Pope is probably the busiest man in the world.  He is the head of an organization that transcends many country, political, and cultural borders… and he has many important duties, most especially in this holy time of year.

I was wondering if you would perhaps be able to direct me to someone who would be better suited to open a dialogue about my concerns noted below?

Thank you for your time, and thank you in advance for your help!
-Eric

Finally, we have a response, and not surprisingly, it’s from someone at a local level…

from Gretz, Rev James R <jgretz@diopitt.org>
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
cc “Bielewicz, Vy Rev Harry R.” <hbielewicz@diopitt.org>,
“Wagner, Laura L” <lwagner@diopitt.org>
date Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 1:15 PM
subject My struggles with Lent & dietary concerns…
mailed-by diopitt.org

Eric,

Peace and greetings to you.  Your letter sent to many in the Diocesan Offices eventually came to me as the Director of the Department for Worship.  I will attempt to answer your concerns as best as possible.

It is wonderful that our Holy Father is accessible via the internet.  He did recently challenge priests and the Church to better use electronic media for reaching out to people.  Thus my email response to you!

While I am not in marketing, I do see the proliferation of restaurants attempting to make a profit with the “target audience” each Lenten Season.  I guess that’s how business works.  At the same time, I do sympathize with your allergy plight.  Personally, I do not suffer with allergies, however, my late mother had one to lactose and it was very difficult to take her out to dinner.  I know of others who suffer with “celiac-sprue” – the allergy to gluten and wheat products.  That too is a horrible cross to bear.  My mother and the others solved it by frequenting only the restaurants that would gladly serve their needs.  I would suggest the same.

The discipline of abstinence, refraining from meat products, actually has an ancient history.  I too know of the truly legendary stories of fishmongers and their unions, if you will!  However, the discipline goes back to an extant document of the early Second Century known as the “Didache” or “The Lord’s Instruction to the Twelve Apostles”.  You mentioned the kosher diet.  So, yes, when we think of Jewish people, that dietary style comes to mind.  That was the intent of the Didache.  The early Church wanted to have their own dietary laws to make them distinctive as well, hence abstinence, especially on Friday, the day our Lord died for us, so that we too might suffer a little with Him.  That is our mark on the world, if you will.  I seem to recall that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops back in the 1990’s was discussing this discipline and perhaps returning it to all Fridays of the year.  The objection was that since many are refraining from red meat in general and more people are vegans, what does abstinence mean to the modern world?  Of course, the discipline remains for the Lenten Season, however, it is good to dream as to what the modern version of abstinence might be….

Which, then, leads me to your final thoughts about adopting the kosher diet for Lent.  Actually, if all people really embraced the meaning of the Lenten Season – a time for conversion and returning to the Lord – we would definitely have a much better world.

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact me.  Until then, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. James R. Gretz

Rev. James R. Gretz, M.Div., M.T.S.
Director, Department for Worship
Diocesan Master of Ceremonies
Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

2900 Noblestown Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA  15205
voice: 412-456-3041
fax: 412-456-3163

+++++++++++

Someone took this letter quite seriously!  I wonder if I’ll hear from anyone else… and I’m wondering how to continue form this point on.  It certainly is fun to see my W(aL)D insanity taken seriously.  It is fun to know that I got a response.  No offense intended here, but I always viewed the Catholic Church as a little “stuffy”.  Maybe they’re mellowing out in this digital age?

A little background on my shellfish allergy before I write my next rant of a blog…


Note: I started writing this the other day, and got to a point tonight where it’s so wordy that I’d like it to simply serve as a background to the next blog to show you where I’m coming from, or as the first part to a sort of “To be continued…”


So, Sunday night we had just come home from our 3rd day of Christmas celebration in a row.  Needless to say, we were in a great mood, but pretty tired.  I got online to check my email and see what was up in the world of Facebook, and Yahoo! pointed me to an interesting article from Reader’s Digest that made me wretch in horror and disgust.  This also pointed to several other articles and blogs around the web that divulge the disgusting inexcusable practices of the people who handle your food daily.

Granted, the actions & situations described are certainly not representative of the majority of your wait staff, servers, managers, cooks, chefs, etc. out there… but I find any number of this kind of attitude and described behaviors to be unacceptable.  I was so flustered, I decided to pop some things up on an old message board just so I could sort them out later.  I’m not even sure I’m at a point where they’re all sorted out, but I wanted to get writing while this was still somewhat of a fresh topic to me.  This was initially just an allergy issue to me, but several other side issues have popped up upon further review.  Please, bear with me if I jump form subject to subject before I try to reel it all in.

Generally, I’d like to think that my blogs are mostly amusing… any complaining is usually done within the context of humor, and only marginally serious.  I have used this & other platforms to comment on the state of customer service in the food industry before… generally at the “bottom rung” of fast food places as this is where I usually end up due to dietary needs (no shellfish) and budget issues.

This one, however, is serious to me… and I hope I don’t come off as just ranting, and that the seriousness of these issues is conveyed.

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue… there’s just all kinds of stuff that can run through one’s head.  Like not washing a knife when it cuts one thing then another, shares spaces in refrigerators where things may drip on to other things, places where you might grab pizza toppings like crab meat or shrimp without washing your hands before dipping into the next topping, a friend of mine has even told me he had a piece of shrimp show up in his scrambled eggs at an IHOP once… and I believe the same friend even told me that they had a long and heated argument with the servers at a Chinese place where the ‘vegetarian’ eggs rolls contained crab because “crab is not meat”.  Oops… Death!  (Usually I sadly avoid any Chinese places anyway because of the shared cooking surfaces & probably delicious sauces that can be made with oysters or ground brine shrimp.) This basically makes me never able to completely relax in a restaurant where I’m supposed to be out enjoying myself… it’s an odd paradox.

Generally I can find a safe dish if pressed, and especially if I call ahead… but I need to be in an adventurous mood.

Dining out is an important social activity… a very common social activity that brings with it high levels of anxiety for someone like myself.  Not only from the aforementioned game of Russian Roulette Kitchen Edition, but from explaining my allergy to people.  Yes, anxiety from explaining to friends, family, business associates, your server, and anyone else who may inquire as to why you don’t want to try a great new seafood place or even Red Lobster or Long John Silver’s.  Not only can it be embarrassing where it really shouldn’t be… but it inevitable goes down something like this…

Not me:  “Let’s go to T.G.I. Friday’s”

Me:  “Well, I can’t really eat much there besides a salad or a baked potato.”

Not me:  “Huh?” [Looking at me like I’m an alien.]

Me:  “Well, I have a severe shellfish allergy.  I can’t eat anything like shrimp or lobster, or any cooking surfaces that it touches”

Not me:  “Oh, well just don’t order any.”

Me:  “Well, that’s not enough.  I’ve had a trip to the hospital just from eating onion rings fried in the same fryer as shrimp.  If they have grilled shrimp, I can’t get anythign off of the grill… if they have fried shrimp, I can’t get anything out of the fryer.”

Not me:  “Well, can you get steak?”

Me:  “No, they probably make that on a grill.”

Not me:  “Well, can’t you get chicken?”

[Mind you, I have ad this conversation with seemingly intelligent reasonable people.]

Me:  “Well, no… if it’s grilled, well… we covered that, and if it’s fried… that’s a no go either.”

Not me:  “Well, that sucks.  What about … [Names 400 other restaurants, all with prominent shellfish dishes on the menu]… I don’t think they have any shellfish.”

Me: “No.  No.  No.  Nope.  Unh-uh.  No.  No. Nope.  No… ” ad nauseum.  I suggest somewhere else, usually less “classy” because let’s face it… those are the places with no shellfish.

Not me:   “Sigh, OK.”

[I look/feel like an idiot.]

Then sometimes, one of these gems gets tossed in…

Not me:  “Well, that’s just stupid.  I’ve never heard of that.” or “There’s no such thing as food allergies.”

Yes, because you have never heard of it, I must be wrong.  Off to Joe’s Crab Shack!

Not me:  “My uncle Jim’s wife’s neighbor’s cousin’s roomate’s gerbil’s vet’s dry cleaner’s podiatrist was allergic to jelly beans, and he ate a quarter of a jelly bean and swelled up and went to the hospital and stuff and just kept eating bigger pieces until he built up a tolerance”.

Not me:  “Have you tried it lately?  My mechanic’s wife’s niece’s ex-husband had a neighbor who outgrew his allergy to strawberries.”

First off, this type of behavior is stupid… even if the story is real.  It is possible to build up tolerances (allergy shots), and to outgrow allergies… I am well aware of my limitations and have been told by more than one allergy doctor that my allergy is to great to attempt allergy shots and that I’ll never outgrow it.

My favorite comes from family & old friends…

Not me:  “You used to eat at Long John Silver’s!  You can’t be that allergic.”

I know. It’s WEIRD. I get it. Believe me, I get it.  I ate shrimp like a madman when I was young, and each exposure to shellfish since I discovered the allergy kind of seems like the bee sting thing to me, each “attack” gets worse.  After the last one… I don’t want another one.  But science seems to lean toward this being more random and not a straight road to a deadly end.  I really don’t want to be the guy to solve/prove that one.

And, please… if I do go to a restaurant to eat out with you… don’t orders shrimp or lobster and ask me if it’s OK.  Every fiber of my being is screaming “No, it’s not OK.  What are you, a psychopathic masochist that’s into mental torture?” while I tell you it won’t bother me.  Again, clearly my own demon to wrestle with… but really, do you want to be that person?

Still, I feel pressure all the time to just go with the flow, deal with it, and order a salad.  Believe me, a salad more often may be a good idea in my case.  It’s still just not an enjoyable or relaxing thing for me at that point.  We may be conversing, but I’m obsessing over every unidentifiable piece of everything in the dressing and really not processing much of what you’re saying.  Imagine that I told you there’s a box of rat poison in the kitchen right on the shelf between the flour and the sugar, they’re all in identical unmarked jars and there’s only one scoop used in all of ’em.  Do you wanna eat there?

This is really just to show you where I’m coming from.  I realize that it’s not your problem.  I realize that I have some real issues to deal with surrounding my problem.  I realize that this is not a terminal illness or anything that serious.  I’m not trying to get a pity party going for myself.  This is simply to let you know what’s bouncing around in my mind.

It hopefully won’t be long until my next not-unrelated blog… basically pulling quotes form the aforementioned articles and responding one by one.

I’d really like to hear everyone’s opinions of my rant here… am I out of line?  Over-dramatic?  Illustrative?  Insane?  Do you think like me?  Do you have an allergy?