Dreaming of Golden Arches

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There are now six restaurants with three Michelin stars in San Francisco. Hundreds of people would sell a kidney to dine at one of these venerated establishments of culinary genius.

Me? I prefer fast food.

My entire life has been plagued by anaphylaxis, to milk eggs, and peanuts. I was lucky enough to get my milk allergy desensitized, but the other two persist.

Eating outside the safety of my home is a veritable minefield. Dining at every restaurant, no matter how prestigious or acclaimed, is akin to putting a gun in my mouth and praying it doesn't go off. This situation seemed dire for a while. I mean, which teenager wants to shackle themselves to their parents' food, forever?

However, a savior emerged. My hero, my knight in shining armor, was cheap fast food.


Recently, there has been a growing trend of allergen awareness among chain and fast-food restaurants. Their standardized menus mean that a safe dish at one restaurant can be ordered at every one of them. This means that at these restaurants, often regarded as the dregs of the culinary world, I can act like a normal person. That experience is nothing short of bliss.

To be fair, I have eaten at some non-fast food restaurants. Eating at these places, however, usually involves much research and, upon arrival, an embarrassing cross-examination of the wait staff. And my reliance on fast food outside the home means that my diet at home needs to be incredibly healthy.

Still, I consider myself luckier than a lot of other individuals with incurable illnesses. But, for the 15 million Americans with food allergies, this is a real problem. Training restaurant staff and chefs in food allergy awareness can be game-changers. These simple measures can create a comprehensive safety net, a culture of protection that allows every food-allergic child to eat with freedom: Not only because everyone should have a shot at selling their kidneys for a 5-star restaurant. Because anyone should be able to eat anywhere with the confidence that they will survive another day.

With a Perspective, I'm Nikhilesh Kumar.

Nikhilesh Kumar is a junior at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento.