The second segment in a series of reactions and reflections to Istanbul cuisine and culture collected over spring break tour with the Yale a cappella group The New Blue.

One of the great tragedies in the life of a foodie is dealing with a food allergy. The debility gets particularly awkward when dealing with people who don’t speak English: whether drunkenly stammering “NO…NUTS” to confused waiters on late-night Chinese food runs or awkwardly dissecting everything on my plate while traveling in search for the elusive pecan, walnut or almond, the limitation can be a bit annoying. Not to mention the whole anaphylactic shock/possibility of death thing.

Luckily, my mother discovered www.allergytranslation.com, a site that sells business cards that explain dietary limitations in the language of your choice. Worried about coping with your lactose intolerance on your vacation to Slovenia? Well, fear no more — Allergy Translation has you covered!

With the help of the 100 cards my mother printed and mailed to me before departure, I managed to stay out of the Turkish hospital system. Unfortunately, I also managed to make a name for myself as the most ridiculous American tourist ever.

I should take this minute to say that the message on the card is a little severe, not to mention awkwardly worded. The English translation is as follows:

Attention! Due to my food allergies and special diet, I cannot eat the following:

All Nuts*I have a life threatening food allergy.

Reactions to this were enthusiastic, to say the least. Take our first day: dinner time rolls around and the group goes shopping to pick up something to eat. In the bakery, I’m enchanted by the sight of this round cakey thing that looks chunky, vaguely yellow and potentially delicious. Unknown food I want to consume + no one in the shop that speaks English = time for allergy cards! I whip out my cards and stride on over, cake in hand, to the withered Turkish guy behind the counter. I hand him the card and point to the cake with raised eyebrows. The baker reads the cards, looks at me, and starts positively howling with laughter. He’s actually hysterical. It doesn’t stop until we leave the shop 10 minutes later, dying off momentarily only to climax again as he rereads the card and shows it to his friend.

I’m not sure what was quite that funny, but I let him keep the card and ate off the embarrassment with a hearty serving of cornbread (yep). Now I’m home safe and sound … with 99 strongly-worded Turkish nut allergy alerts. Anyone headed to Istanbul?

Hilary Faxon