Lessons in Allergy-Friendly Mayonnaise and Kindness

The elderly shopper was just looking for bargains. But within minutes of asking about my vegan mayo, he made me feel he cared - about my family and our food allergies.

13 December 2022
By Emily Duty

I entered the grocery store with the sole purpose of finding the Hellmann’s vegan mayonnaise I had heard a lot about. An eggless mayo that tastes like the real deal? Take my money!

It could be a total game-changer for someone living with a food allergy to eggs, like my son. Well, not necessarily my son because, he’s also a picky eater. But a game-changer for me. When you’re the cook for a large family that’s avoiding allergens, finding a key new free-from product is like finding gold.

While I searched for the dressings aisle, I was mentally going over all the delicious possibilities in my mind. I could feel how close my first attempt at a safe potato salad was. Plus, countless sandwiches with zero worry of cross-contamination.  

When I turned onto the aisle, I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting in a motorized scooter. He was camped out in front of the mayonnaise section I needed, intently reading labels. Something I know all too well, but likely for different reasons.

I stood next to him, quietly scanning the shelf with my eyes. When I finally spotted what I wanted, I whispered an apology before reaching across him to grab it.

Noticing me for the first time, he reversed a little to make room. I thanked him but let him know he didn’t have to. I’d already found what I came for.   

He glanced up at the Hellmann’s jar in my hands, became bright-eyed and said, “Ya know? This brand over here is on sale!” I smiled and thanked him again but told him I needed the vegan one I was holding. 

“Ah, a vegan, are ya?” He said with a smirk.

Caring About Food Allergies

“Well, yes and no” was my reply. I thought about leaving it there, but then bravely added, “We have food allergies in our family, and we need a mayonnaise without eggs.”

Lessons in Allergy-Friendly Mayonnaise and Kindness
Emily Duty

With sincerity, he replied, “Ohh, I’ve heard those food allergies are serious.”

That’s when he placed his jar back on the shelf and grabbed one of mine instead. He pulled his reading glasses down from the top of his head and said, “OK, let’s see what we’ve got here.”

“It’s egg-free like you need. Good! Dairy-free, too. Do you need that also? Ooh and look! It’s Kosher!”

I’m not typically a sociable kind of person. I mean, I’m friendly but tend to lean on the more introverted side. So, I can’t say for sure why I’d continued to stand there. Except for this .…

That gentleman didn’t care about my vegan mayo – he came for whatever was on sale that day. But in a matter of moments, he made me feel like he cared about me, my family, and our situation. It was so genuinely nice and unexpected that I didn’t want to leave. Eventually, I had to. I appreciate that, at some point, tailing a stranger through the grocery store stops being sweet and starts being creepy.  

In my experience, most people hear the words “food allergies” and bolt, but this man chose to stay. What’s more, because he was warm and funny, it made me want to stay, too.

The incident is a reminder that you don’t always have to understand what other people are going through to show up for them. Sometimes it just takes being present, listening, and sharing a few kind words over mayonnaise to make all the difference.

Emily Duty is a freelance writer based in South Florida. Learn about her children’s book, “Can You? (A Food Allergy Story)” here

Related Reading:
Dairy Allergy as an Adult Rocked My World
Nut-Allergic and Vegetarian: Hurdles in a Happy Decision
Ask the Allergist: Are Quail Eggs Safe with an Egg Allergy?

Feature Photo: Getty