Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back to the U.S.

Here I am back in the U.S. again! I haven't been back in seven months, and I have noticed some food changes since I've been gone. For example, at Starbucks there used to be Madeline cookies that I could eat. They were the only possible eating option at Starbucks. Now the package says that they are manufactured near Almonds. Disappointing! :(

Have any favorite foods of yours or your child's changed recently?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

French Experiences!

On a recent family vacation to France, there were a few food encounters that I found interesting. I tried to write down my daily food encounters on the trip. Here are my notes:
The first night I arrived in Cannes with my family, we decided to go out for dinner. It was already pretty late, and not a lot of restaurants were still serving. We found a few places in the same area that were still serving pizza, so we chose one and sat down. The server came over and I handed him my list of allergies. He went back to the kitchen to find out if I could eat there. He came back and said that they used peanut oil in everything, and there was nothing there that I could eat. That decided it. We had to find another restaurant to eat at.
We walked down to a restaurant a few doors down. I showed them my card and they said that I wouldn’t have a problem because they used olive oil. They said it was common to use peanut oil in this area though, so that was important to discover. I was able to get pizza with no problem.
Sometimes it takes a bit of patience, but eventually you can usually find somewhere that will be able to serve you. In Italy I have had a lot of good luck eating out. Since food is such a significant part of the Italian culture, it seems extra important to people at restaurants to find something to eat that pleases you. With my allergies, people have been wonderful. I have had very few if any places turn me down. Everyone seems to want to help me find something good to eat.
My parents wanted to take my sister and I out for a nice dinner at a highly recommended, award-winning restaurant that was right in the neighborhood that we were staying. We dressed up and headed out to the restaurant. We had made a reservation the previous day to sit outside on the patio, and had checked on my allergies. They were very nice and said that it would be fine.
July 10, 2010
Today I had a frustrating experience. I went out to lunch in Nimes, France with my family. We sat down at a pizzeria and looked at the menu. I was considering a mixed salad and a small dish of pasta. When the server came over to take our orders, he looked at my list and said something in French about how he could not serve me and that I couldn’t eat. He was so incredibly rude and not like anyone I had recently encountered in Europe. When I asked if I could talk with the chef, he said that he was the chef, which clearly he was not! His bad attitude and unwillingness to help me, took me by surprise.
In contrast, for dinner last night, we walked up to a restaurant and Avignon to look at the menu and the server was extremely warm and friendly. I showed him my card. He looked at it carefully and then said that it wouldn’t be a problem. We sat down at a table and had wonderful service. No one laughed when they looked at my chef card.
July 11, 2010
For lunchtime today, we went a restaurant with a fabulous view of the ocher cliffs in the background. I showed the server my allergy card before sitting down. He looked at it, laughed, then showed it to another man who also had a smirk on his face. They told me there was no way I could eat there. Another rude experience. We did find another restaurant that would serve me though, and had no problem with my allergies.
Tonight we went out to a restaurant that was aesthetically pleasing, but had terrible food. It also broke my dad’s rule of the nicer the restaurant, the higher the risk, since this restaurant was not incredibly upscale, but used peanut oil in everything. We ended up getting plain green salads and steak, since they didn’t need to use oil for either one. The steak was chewy, and I found a bug in my salad. The best part of the meal was the wine we got, a rose wine called Tavel, which is fantastic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Traveling with Food Allergies

As I stand in the airport store, not one package is recognizable to me. My flight has been delayed ten hours, and I am stranded at the Rome airport ill prepared with nothing to eat. I scour the few shelves of packaged food and find nothing. They have no fresh food, and I end up with a Coke, water, and a sad looking apple with bruises and bumps included for a hefty price of almost 10 euros. This is not a good beginning to a trip as I quickly learn, and after this experience, I find myself more and more prepared as I continue my weekend and weeklong travels over the course of the year.

I have always been a traveler. I’ve had many opportunities to strategize and perfect the art of traveling with anaphylactic allergies. I’ve lived and traveled in both English speaking and non-English speaking countries. I have learned how to accommodate for what I may or may not find to eat, wherever I may go.

Since living in Italy this past year, I’ve become even better at deciding what I must do before leaving my apartment for a trip. I know exactly what to pack and how to pack it. I know what food will last and for how long. It is a matter of being prepared I have found.

Checklist for Travel:
o Pack extra of all medicines (especially Benedryl and Epinephrine)
o If overseas, make sure to carry a doctors note stating that you need all of your medications, giving you permission, incase you are stopped at the airport
o If flying, call ahead to ask for a peanut free flight
o Pack hand wipes to clean hands before eating and to wash off the seat on the plane.
o Pack snacks to get through the travel period
o Pack multiple copies of your Chef Card

Part of traveling is never knowing exactly what will happen. For Allergic Reactors like myself, this can pose as a very tricky situation. No matter how prepared, there have been many times where I have not been as prepared as I believed that I was. Sometimes I feel like I can be overcautious with what I pack and the amounts to which I pack (mostly medicine and food), but more often than not, is better to be over prepared than under.

I also don’t like to limit my travel experiences. I try to go where interests me, and figure how to go about getting there and staying there safely. When I was living on the east coast of Australia, I decided to do some traveling to the Whitsunday Islands over a holiday. My friend and I booked a three night, four day excursion sailing around magnificent islands. It was an incredible experience sailing and visiting mostly uninhabited beaches for those days. It was also a bit nerve racking for me with my allergies. I brought some food, but it was a fairly small boat, and only about ten of us on board. The cook on the boat was happy to keep my food for me, and to tell me every ingredient without fail. He was very careful with cross contamination, and seemed to understand any concerns I had. It was not an easy experience for me though. Every time it came to eating, I was a bit more tense, but it was an outstanding trip, which I can’t imagine having missed because of my allergies.

Whenever I go hiking, I feel that same tenseness. Sometimes it is easy to let your mind wander to “What if…” scenarios. “What if I have an allergic reaction on top of this mountain and no one can help me and my epi runs out and I die.” In reality, I am just as safe, if not safer than the average person going hiking. You could fall and break your leg or get a snakebite and be in danger too. If someone has an allergic reaction, and doesn’t know they are allergic, they won’t have epinephrine. I carry multiple epi pens, I bring my own water and food and hand wipes. I am careful, but I can enjoy myself.

No matter where you go or what you do, there is always some risk attached. As an Allergic Reactor, the best way to avoid as much risk as possible when traveling, is to come prepared.