Monday, November 10, 2008

Food-Allergic American Girl

Yesterday Katherine and I, along with Helen, Gramma, and twelve of our neighbors, went to an American Girl Fashion Show held as a fundraiser for the Ireland Cancer Center in Cleveland, OH. All of the girls wore dresses that matched their dolls' dresses--in color, at least. We don't have the cash to spring for "real" AG dresses for our girls. Lunch was served during the fashion show, and Katherine was provided with a dairy-free meal. The girls had a lovely time being together at such a fancy, grownupish event, and the moms and grandmas had fun, too.

Are you sensing a "But..." coming? Good for you!

When we received our reservation confirmation letter for our not inexpensive tickets (I know, I know--it's for charity!), the letter said, "Lunch of grilled breast of chicken and vegetables over pasta for adults and fingertip sandwiches and potato chips for children will be served. If there are any major allergies in your party that need accommodation, please contact us as soon as possible so that we may work with Executive Caterers in Landerhaven."

Wow! I thought, as I dialed the provided phone number. How great that they're thinking about this! I thought, as I left a message on voicemail. What the heck? I thought, as I waited a week for a phone call.

Then the call came from a volunteer. "We ask that you call the caterer directly so that there is no mix-up in the passing of information," she said.
"That's great! I really appreciate that! What is the caterer's number?"
"Oh, I don't have that. You'll have to look it up yourself."
"Ma'am, I live two hours away in another state. Could you please look it up and call me back?" "Well, I wouldn't know where to look."
"Fine. But you're going to need that information for other parents who might call."

Using my trusty friends, The Internets, I found the caterer's number and spoke to a woman there. We decided that it was easier to order Katherine a plain chicken breast, with sides of plain pasta and vegetables then to try to figure out safe breads and fillings for the finger sandwiches. I also requested juice in place of the milk the other girls would have. No dessert was mentioned in the menu, so I didn't think to ask about it. I told the caterer that the people holding the fundraiser didn't have the caterer's number to give out and that she might want to call them.

I packed a PB & J sandwich and dessert for K., just in case, and off we went. She was served a plate of chicken and pasta with a buttery-looking sauce identical to the adults, so I sent it back to the kitchen to make sure it was safe. It was made with olive oil, so yes. I also requested a bag of potato chips for her so she could be like her friends. No one had gotten the message about the juice, so I requested a glass, along with a fancy straw like the other girls had with their milk.
The dessert was chocolate mousse, so I just pulled out the cookies I brought for Katherine. I wish I had asked about sorbet or something on the phone, though. Or that the woman I spoke with had mentioned dessert.

In summary, Executive Caterers did provide safe food for my daughter, and the servers were very pleasant and helpful. The people planning the American Girl event need to get their act together, especially since they've been doing this event for a dozen years. Don't write about accommodating allergies in your letter if you don't even have the caterer's phone number! And while I am always thankful when people are accommodating, I also think that is is my daughter's right to have safe food, especially when we have paid a good bit of money and the event planners bring up the subject of food allergies first!

Sidebar complaints, RE: treatment of mothers with infants, centerpieces
One of my friends and I brought our babies along, a fact we stated very clearly on our registration forms. No additional information was sent to us, so we assumed it was fine. We brought small strollers for the babies, but upon arriving were told that there was no room in the ballroom for them. Yet many of the little girls had full-size umbrella strollers for their dolls that they were allowed to bring in. (Did I just go there? Oh yes I did.) So my friend and I held our babies while eating and feeding them. It was fine, but we were back in a corner where there was plenty of room, and why didn't someone contact us and explain what the situation would be beforehand?

The centerpieces were made of plastic wands with paper stars on top. The same kind of wands were used in the grand finale, which was made up of the models and some girls from the audience. Those girls all got to keep the wands, but we were told to leave the wands on our tables for the second show. Now, I could care less about this, but it bothered our girls, and you know the girls at the second show were going to be allowed to take those wands home. The sponsors couldn't shell out ten more dollars to get enough wands for both shows? Please.

Sigh. I know, I know--it's for charity!


  1. dont you love the way they offer to accomodate folks with allergies, yet when actually called on it are clueless? nice. you know as they wrote that into the letter, they were praying no one would need that service.

    and i agree with you, if they weren't going to have enough wands for everyone, they should have just left that out of the whole event.

    im glad your daughter was able to have a fun time anyway.

  2. Ugh. Sounds really frustrating. I am always impressed with you for being so prepared, though! =)

  3. Oh, you were about 25 minutes from my house!
    I'm so sorry that they organizers were so unprepared. The Ireland Cancer Center is a wonderful medical facility and they deserve better, as do you. I used to put together corporate parties and let me tell you, if you don't have the number for the caterer, you are in BIG trouble. How could they not know that? Sounds like someone was being lazy to me....
    I'm glad that it worked out (for the most part).

  4. You're more patient than my grandmother-in-law, who once demanded a refund at a (very inexpensive) charity dinner because her dessert pie had a crumb crust. That's the spirit, Grandma!

  5. How frustrating! Good thing you always think ahead.

  6. It sounds to me like they tried to get everyone to sign up and seem happy but then let some big balls drop in the end! Glad you still had a fairly good time!

  7. I can NOT believe the people throwing the event couldn't tell you who they were paying to cater it.

    Stupid people alert. Shame on them.

  8. You are much more forgiving than I am. I would have just packed an entire lunch for myself and opned it up and ate it in front of everyone. AND if anyone said anything about it, i'd guide them to the fact that they did not provide me with the name of the caterer. Wow.

  9. On the one hand, it's nice that they acknowledged that there might be severe allergies. On the other hand, it might have been better to not acknowledge it so their efforts didn't appear so weak.

    The wands? Cheap. Of course they wanted to take them home.

  10. At least the caterer was on the ball. Too bad the rest of the event wasn't more thought out. But I bet you all had a blast.

  11. I'm glad it was fun and Katherine was safe. But no number? That's ridiculous. I hope you didn't call her back with the number. I'm assuming no from your post. :) And that's not right they couldn't keep the wands - poor kids. Of course they'd want them. :)

    I'm glad she had fun though, even with the bumps in the road.

  12. There always seems to be extra hoops to jump through. I'm happy the caterer came through and did a good job, that would be the biggest issue for me.

  13. Grrr! That's annoying. With so many food allergies running around these days, you'd think they'd be more pro-active to avoid lawsuits if someone gets sick! A good friend with a dairy/gluten allergic child just went to Disney World and said they were GREAT and the chef came out at the restaurants and discussed their options.