Sunday, March 22, 2009

Missing Out...

"Can you please check the ingredients in the tea sandwiches?" I asked the waiter at the Four Seasons. 

As a treat throughout my growing up, my mom would take me "out for tea" at the Four Seasons.  They were always fabulous there about my allergies!  They were very thorough, and would check and double check everything.  I would usually order hot chocolate to drink.  I loved it because it would come out in a tea pot, and next to it on the platter, was a small bowl filled with homemade whipped-cream.  As someone who grew up enthralled by every American Girl book, and a proud owner of a Samantha doll, I loved to feel like I could dress up and play tea party too!  Aside from the hot chocolate, I was always able to order tea sandwiches.  They would come out on this tall tiered tray.  My favorites were turkey and cucumber!  Of course I could never order any desserts, but that never bothered me.

I remember the day though, when my enjoyment for going "out to tea" ended.  I was probably around twelve when we went for the last time.  I order the same things I had always ordered, and asked the waiter to double check on all of the ingredients, but prefaced it with saying that I had come here many times and ordered the same foods.  The waiter came back and told me that I couldn't have the whipped-cream anymore, or the tea sandwiches.  I was so disappointed! After that, it just wasn't the same!  It took away from the fun- not being able to eat anything!  

Often there are times when I feel like I am missing out.  It has always been that way, and is really just a fact at this point, but I still find myself disappointed sometimes.  I really do enjoy food, so I feel like I am missing out by having allergies to so many foods!  I usually stick with Italian restaurants when I go out to eat.  I think that I would really like sushi, Chinese food, Indian, and Mexican food though, if I wasn't allergic.  I am not a picky eater either.  I will happily try any food as long as I am not allergic to it.  There is also nothing that I really hate eating.  I am a very healthy eater also!  You will never find me eating fast food!  Pizza is as close to fast food as I will come!

I do have a sweet tooth!  Every time I walk by a bakery, I feel like I am missing out, not being able to try all the eye-catching, delicious smelling cakes, cookies, and other desserts.  When I was in Italy, I couldn't try any gelato.  That was hard for me because I love ice cream!  I was there in the summer too, when it was so hot, and all I wanted was something cool and refreshing!  Whenever I travel, it is hard to find ice cream, or anything sweet that doesn't contain nuts.  It makes it very difficult!  A fun part about traveling as well, is being able to try different foods that you normally wouldn't eat.  This is something I really wish I could do! 

There have also been countless times when I have sat and watched everyone else eat, while I couldn't be served, or eat anything.  I went out for a tea lunch with my grandmother, aunt, and mom.  There wasn't one thing I could eat or drink!  Everything was cross contaminated.  We thought I would be able to at least eat a salad, so I went on an empty stomach and sat there while they ate.  When this happens, I try to just enjoy the company that I am in, and not focus on the food.  That is really all I can do!  When I was younger, that was much more difficult to focus on though!   Children don't understand how to focus on other things.  They are hungry, so they want food, and they want it now!  Fair enough though!    

I know I am always going to be missing out on certain things, but I also try to remember all the things that I am lucky enough not to miss out on!  It is something that I am sure I could not focus on though until I was older.  For kids, the best way to get around this, is finding ways for them to feel like they are special and have their own treats or food.  It is also nice to find restaurants and places that will work with their allergies, so they and you can relax and enjoy food together!  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Roasted Nuts on Street Corners

Something I have noticed throughout my city travels, are the roasted nut carts that seem to pop up on so many street corners.  Recently, I was in my home city, walking down one of the main streets full of shops and people.  There on the corner was a roasted nut cart.  When I saw it, I crossed the street.  I don't like walking by them.  The fumes are in the air, and it makes me uncomfortable.  I have never had a reaction from air inhalation, but I don't like to breath any of it in.  If I see it ahead of time, I avoid it.  Sometimes they are there though, and are almost impossible to avoid (especially when they are on both sides of the street)!  This is one reason why I think it is so important not to shelter your children.  There is no way to prevent those carts from being on the street, or to stop people from eating foods with allergens.  By constantly trying to put children in environments that are "allergen free," they are being exposed to the idea that this is real life.  

Educating your children on how to take care of themselves is a fantastic solution, instead of trying to make each environment free from allergens.  More than likely these "allergen free" environments are not truly allergen free.  It gives children a false belief that the real world can be allergen free.  Keeping this in mind, I think is very important.  There are certainly precautions to take, but only exposing children to environments that claim to be "allergen free," is unrealistic in real life.  Teaching your child how to be responsible and take care of themselves, starting from an early age, is the best tool you can give them. That is how my parents raised me to be so responsible and to take care of myself.  I'm so lucky that they did such a fabulous job, at a time when so few people even knew allergies existed!  I definitely understand that at certain young ages, children are extremely reliant on adults to help them, and to keep them safe, but it is also important that as an adult, you are teaching your child along the way.  Children are not going to always have their parents by their side, so when they are a little older, and go off to school, or go play at a friend's house, it is important they know what to do.  This will only help you as a parent as well, because then you can have some confidence that both your child, and the adult supervising your child, know what to do to stay safe.

The whole concept of "peanut free" or "allergen free" is knew within the past five years or so. Not until then, did this concept ever exist.  Of course now there is more of a prevalence of children with food allergies, but I still think that this concept is being used blindly by people thinking it is helpful, when really it is giving the wrong message.  Educating both teachers and children at school, is certainly important, but singling kids out to sit at their own "nut free" or "allergen free" table, is unrealistic and sends the wrong message.  No matter where you go, there is no where else that will be allergen free.  It is important to take some cautious steps, but to raise kids thinking they will have places where they don't have to worry about allergens in a public setting seems contrary to what we should be educating them.  The only time I can really understand taking more precautions is when children are at the preschool age.  They are too young to truly understand, and it makes sense to take more precautions. Once children are at the elementary age, they understand better (even if teachers need to remind them sometimes) to wash their hands and to be respectful of other people's space and food.  The PAL program that FAAN has established, I think is a good step too.  I was lucky to find friends who understood.  PAL is good for having classmates learn and understand how to take care of their friends.  

To read about this program go to:  I think by educating, and using programs like this, there will be a lot more success for this new generation of children learning to live with food allergies.    

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pizza, Pizza...What Kind Of Oil?

Yesterday was not my best planned day! I went on a long run, then rushed to go meet a friend outside the city. I grabbed a pear, an orange, my water bottle, and headed out the door. Clearly, this food was not going to be enough to sustain me for the day. This is why planning ahead is so important! If I had thought through my day, I probably would have brought more with me.

My friend wanted to meet at a bakery cafe. I didn't mind, but I knew I wouldn't take the risk of eating or drinking anything there. I got my usual iced tea at Starbucks afterwards.

An hour later, I had to leave my friend and drive into the city to meet other friends to see a show. All day, the only food I had a chance to eat was the pear. I realized oranges are not the most "travel friendly" fruit! I contained my hunger throughout the entire show! After the show, my friends and I went to get a slice of pizza. The pizza place we went to was one I had been to once before, but not since the fall.

I walked up to the counter and asked the man working there if he knew what oil they used in their pizza. I could tell English was not his first language, and he was struggling to understand what I meant. I then tried to explain, but was definitely stuck with a communication barrier. I tried asking the other men behind the counter, but they had the same problem. They said it had "regular oil" in it. Now what does "regular oil" mean? I was guessing it probably was fine, but without knowing, it is never worth the risk. I didn't order. Everyone else sat down with slices of pizza. I will gladly admit that I was extremely jealous! They would have been happy to go somewhere else, but there were only sit-down restaurants in the vicinity, and we had already done a lot of walking. I didn't want to make them wait. So I sat there, and put on a happy face. What else could I do? It was no ones fault. I just knew it wasn't worth taking the risk. Ingredients in food can change so often, and I never take a risk like that. If I don't know, I don't eat it. End of story! It's frustrating, but it's real. That is just the way it goes.

An hour later, I was back at my car with a package of Parmesan Goldfish to snack on. I would go home and eat something real for dinner- that I made and knew would be safe!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Out to Eat, but NOT Eating

The scenario: Phone rings, "Hey, we are going out to eat at (some restaurant I can't eat at), do you want to come?"  

When this happens there are a few different options I have.  I can:  a.) decide not to go b.) decide to go, but not eat anything and listen to my stomach growl c.) decide to go, but eat ahead of time d.) suggest another restaurant e.) if the restaurant allows, bring my own food to eat.

Countless times I have chosen each of these different options.  The worst one is watching everyone else eat, while also being hungry and not eating.  Sometimes there is no way to even plan ahead.  Last summer I went with my aunt to her friend's beach house.  We spent the day at the beach, then went into the town to get some food.  We opted for an Italian restaurant because that is usually the safest with my allergies.  We sat down, looked at the menu, then decided to split a pizza.  When I showed the server my card, she said that they used nut oils, and that I wasn't safe eating anything, including both the pizza and pasta.  I felt bad because they would have chosen a different restaurant, if it wasn't for my food allergies.  They offered to try somewhere else, but there weren't many other restaurants that even had the possibility of being safe, so we stayed there.  Yet again, I watched as another meal was eaten in front of my very hungry, growly stomach!  

I never want people to feel bad though!  I have learned to live with it.  It happens all the time, and I know that at some point I will find something to eat.  I just have to remind myself of that sometimes.  It can be incredibly frustrating for the allergic reactor to sit and watch everyone else eat, but often there is no choice.  I know that eventually I will eat.  This is easier to remember as I get older.

When I was a child, I always handled my allergies very well.  When I was a baby through toddler and up to age five, I would have temper tantrums though.  It would seem like everything was fine, then all of a sudden I would be crying and screaming for no reason that my parents could figure out.  I have read a few different journal articles, while doing research, and I think the cause of these tantrums may have been due to the frustration of my allergies.  Of course I have no proof of this, but from what I have read it would make sense that my allergies could have been a trigger.  When children are little, they can't express their frustration like they can as they get older.  I'm curious to know if other parents with food allergic children have also experienced temper tantrums that seem to occur out of nowhere?    

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Eating In Paris!

The first night we arrived in Paris we were starving!  I was on a trip with my family, during the summer a few years ago.  We had just come to Paris from Italy, where we had traveled for a few weeks.  Everyone in Italy had been fabulous about my allergies, so the first night in Paris was eye-opening!

We were staying at a nice hotel right on the Seine.  Down the street was a large area with restaurants.  We chose one and sat down to look at the menu.  The waiter came over.  I had my chef card in French out and ready.  The menu was in French and English, which was helpful because I had a better idea of what I was ordering.  Unfortunately, our waiter had quite the attitude!  I tried to order what I thought was a very simple chicken dish, then gave the waiter my card.  He shook his head, saying he could not help me, and that he didn't know what was in it.  I asked him if he could bring it to the chef, which he refused to do.  I then asked if I could just get some plain pasta, which still was apparently a big deal to him.  He wouldn't help me, so I wouldn't order from him!  The rest of my family had already ordered.  It was pretty late, so I didn't want to make them find another restaurant.  I sat patiently while they ate their dinner.  

After our first dining experience in France, I was not too excited for many more fabulous dining out fiascos!  We walked around after dinner, trying to find a store where I could find something to eat.  We came across a Ben & Jerry's!  Now, I will admit that I am often extremely disappointed at the noticeable presence of globalization in so many countries, BUT in this case I was not!  I know that ice cream should not be a replacement for a meal, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.  They had pints of it with English ingredients, so I split a pint with my sister and called it my dinner!

The rest of our time in Paris was a mix of difficult eating experiences.  It was certainly not my most food-fulfilling week!  The only food I could eat at the patisserie was bread.  I watched as my mom would try delicate and delicious looking desserts.  It can be disappointing, but as long as I am keeping myself safe, and finding something to fill my stomach, I am okay!