Sunday, March 19, 2017

Frustrating! Food Allergy Misspeaks in Press

NYTimes. Ethicist piece this Sunday (3/19/17). 
"I'll grant that anxieties about food allergies...may have outpaced the empirical realities. To go by the CDC's most recent numbers, something like a dozen Americans die of food allergies each year."
  This was in response to a question about someone's relative who seemed to be faking food allergies-- and the ethicist's opinion went on from there. 
         In fact what made me the most frustrated perhaps was the casual throwaway of the lines above: "something like a dozen..." Really, I think it's been proven to be more than that and anyway-- to people who have real, documented food allergies the anxiety is real also-- and those anxieties are what keep us out of Emergency rooms and off the CDC numbers charts. 
   Because we are vigilant there aren't more kids dying. And the author  of this piece neglects to say over 200,000 people show up in hospital ERs with food allergic anaphylaxis -- but they are treated so they don't die. And 200,000 is a lot more than about " a dozen..."

Education is a tough thing. Because we educate those in our own circles sometimes  we forget that others come to food allergies from an outside perspective with no personal connection or experiences. 
Here's where we still have to make a difference. 
 I'm certain that if The Erhicist had a child or partner or friend with food allergies this NYTimes piece would have leaned more on the experiential facts of our world and not simply a glib reboot of uninformed cocktail banter. 
So let's not yell at or frighten  or threaten those uninformed public or withdraw from the world in any way--instead  let's get out there and educate!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Time travel and food allergies

Yup, I said time travel. 
I would like to travel Back In Time twenty years and know that I should feed my son peanuts, carefully, so he didn't become allergic to them for life. 
  Time travel. 
It would be nice, now, to know he'd be more protected-- as we sit at a ball game and the peanut shells waft by. Or as he hugs his little cousin who's just finished a PB&J. Or as he forgoes traveling to China.  
  But research moves at the speed it moves, and we have to be happy there is  research for the next generation to benefit from. 
   And I'm happy that there is concrete evidence that early exposure (under a medical professional's guidance)
can reduce allergies to peanuts. Finding one answer can lead to finding more answers like: why are food allergies on the rise? Why in these recent generations and not before? What might contribute to desensitization for other allergens? -- and the list goes on. 
  So while I wish that this research could have been of more help to my family, I know time travel isn't really an option-- and we've been fine without it!  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New year!

A week into the new year and I am still learning the lessons of the past: let go and watch your children take charge. 
  It's a humbling lesson sometimes as they negotiate a restaurant meal and come up with something far better than you could have imagined. 
Or watch them "pre-game"-- which we all call eating beforehand-- for a party that may not serve something safe. 
 Or, as has happened at my house, the gracious " no worries" when my cocktail party planning includes only one or two items safe for my kid. 
 Let's hope that this year brings new highs in food allergy-- already with the news that by introducing peanuts early in an infant's diet it may lead to possible less potential  peanut allergies (more on this later). 
 I look forward to more good sharing of our strength and stories. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Latkes a la Allergy!

I'm making potatoe latkes and minestrone to honor both my family traditions. 
Here's latkes without egg or wheat or dairy. 
Just potatoes( shredding without ruining a manicure is a feat!)
Onions shredded as well
Salt pepper
And I use Glutino cake and cookie mix to thicken. Or their muffin mix. 
Mix with hands and fry in hot oil-- olive oil for me-- on medium. And try not to " taste test " them all.

The minestrone recipe is in my cookbook. 
Happy and healthy and hopeful New Year to all! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holidays and food allergy

Happy Merry everything. And a safe and prosperous and hopeful new year to all. 

I love this time of year. I live in a cold climate and the snow can be beautiful ( especially since I'm not traveling) and the smell of pine wafts through the air as the Christmas tree sellers set up on the sidewalks. 
  It's taken a while for me to relax into this season-- which often centers on traditional foods and recipes. And almost ALL of those family dishes are not safe for my son. My family. The feast of the seven fishes-- well. No fish or shellfish. How about "timpana" the italian potato and cheese soufflé. Nope: eggs and cheese. 
Let's see-- what about Marzipan: absolutely not-- no almonds or nuts of any kind. 
  And while it took some time for me to not miss the foods I grew up with, I did realize finally that it was okay to mourn that part of my past I'd given up. It may sound silly to feel like my history is so wrapped up in traditional meals or foods. But it is. And I might as well acknowledge it. And move on. 
  And move on I have. Now we have beef tenderloin for Christmas Day. And, minestrone or slow-cooked pork shoulder for Christmas Eve. And delicious  brownies and sorbet for dessert. 
  Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year to all. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Holidays coming up again.

Every year I do a version of this post because it's still relevant in most families I know. 
  You're doing the final shopping and prep for [insert holiday here] and your mother-- aunt--cousin calls and says " I'm making struedel and I know that little Johnny can't eat nuts but it really doesn't taste good without them..."
  You hang up the phone and: Scream. Cry. Laugh. Shake your fist. All of the above!
  And then you grab the baking mix from the cabinet and read how to make a struedel. 

This is a typical conversation for a food allergic family. We've all been there. We all know what it feels like to not be able to make that special family recipe for a holiday meal. 
  Well, as Loretta famously told Ronnie in Moonstruck. "Snap out of it!"
This is our life. 
  And this is especially true around holiday celebrations when ritual
meals, steeped in tradition, are the standard fare. But we can't make them. And neither can my mother or Aunt Sadie. Instead I can make a safe menu-- and no one will know the difference. I can ask Cousin Peaky to bring a salad-- since that would  be " easier for her" and I can ditch the streudel altogether. 
  I may feel a pinch at giving up a family tradition, but what really makes the meal a tradition is that we gather our family and friends to share it. That part doesn't ever change. 
  So above all, remember through the pesky folks and preparation that -- while the menu may need to change-- the message of these holiday meals does not; What we are eating is not as important as who we are eating it with-- as well as all the laughter and gusto we bring to the table -- no matter if it's ravioli or rice cakes. The love, the sharing, the connection are what truly matters, and here is no substitute for that. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teen Summit! Here we come!!!

Get ready. Get set. Go!
I'm going to the Teen Summit-- hope to see you there. ( thanks to FARE for doing this event)
Milwaukee Friday-Sunday and there will be fun and games. And info sessions and talks by restaurant folks and best of all teens will talk-- to each other. To us grown-ups. 
  I look forward to meeting new people and seeing old friends. And taking a gander at Milwaukee where I've never been. 
 I know FARE will post pictures and follow up if you can't make it to the event. 
 And as always, we'll get strong. And weepy and we'll feel again: we're all in this together!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Teen Summit coming up!!!!

Are you ready for the FARE Teen Summit?  This year it's in Milwaukee, WI-- instead of the usual DC. The venue may have changed but the heart of the Summit is still the same:
   We'll scale the heights and grapple with the lows of everything teen-aged and food allergy. 
  Restaurants. Dating. Travel. Sports. College. Parents. (!) Epi-pens and risk taking. 
 And we'll laugh and I'll cry-- I always do-- and we'll make new friends and catch up with old ones. And we'll watch as our strong, brave, and wonderful kids have a blast. 
Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Community vs Customization in food allergies

Strange title , I know. 
But I'm referencing a discussion-- via email-- I've been having with a woman who is starting a Food Allergy website gathering information on restaurants and cities and where to eat. The plan going forward is to have an app that can personalize the information for your particular allergies...
  Well, I initially took umbrage because the beautiful first e- news alert had a picture of a luscious biscuit and gravy -- a specialty in the city the site was reporting on. Well... 
  My kid can't eat that!-- and lots of others can't either. It's loaded with at least three of the top allergens: Dairy. Egg. Wheat.  No mention of that possibility. 
   And the article went on to discuss restaurants where, while they serve boiled peanuts-- the city specialty, the servers were conscious of nut  allergies. And, also, some of the desserts are made with nut flours, but they're kept separate from the other flours. 
     I emailed the founder of this website, noting that many families -- mine included --wouldn't be comfortable with that level of possible peanut contamination. And our mentors at FARE and other resources reiterate: try to stay away from  places with likely cross contamination. 
  And, I further told the founder that since the site discussed largely peanut allergens--with a nod to gluten free, I didn't  find it very helpful. Many families contend with more than  peanuts. 
  The response to my email was that the information was general and that the founders were  hoping to develop an app that families could customize for their personal allergens. 
  Which got me thinking: 
Where's the community in that? I want to share: Best practices. Information. Experiences. I think that's as important as a " customized app" for one family. 
  And I treasure my food allergy community, those people who help me get from A to Z and skip Eggs inbetween. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Roast chicken in a pot

Fall has arrived! Kids are back at school and beach clubs are closed and we have said our goodbyes to summer-- except in NY the weather seems to have missed the memo. 
It's 90 degrees and much too hot to roast a chicken in the oven-- so get out your soup pot. 
  On high heat throw a rinsed whole
Chicken-- a fryer not a roaster-- in the soup pot. It will squeak and sizzle. Let it for about 4-5 minutes. Then, turn it over with a fork and again, let it sizzle for 4-5 minutes. Lots of salt; pepper if you wish. 

Throw in a cut up onion-- or two. Turn the chicken a couple of times to let all sides get browned/ charred. Then, turn down the heat to medium high and cock the cover on the pot and let the chicken cook for twenty minutes. Turn chicken over and let cook another twenty minutes or until meat falls off the bone. 
  It's easy and can be eaten warm or room temperature. 

Roast chicken-- in a pot

Thursday, August 11, 2016

School days are right around the corner.

I have a friend who always gets anxious right about now. She has trouble enjoying the end of summer because she knows come Labor Day, school starts again. 
 And with school comes planning. And Pre-planning. Parties and lunches and debate nights and sports weekends. And study groups and college visits and parties and class trips and late games and weekend tournaments. 
  Every September it all begins again-- especially the worry. 
  Well, I can't say there isn't worry.  And I can't even say there isn't a whole heck of a lot of planning and preparing. But I can say: it's worth it. 
  We are modeling how to live in the real world for our food allergic kids. Be it second grade cupcakes or college visits. They're going to have to keep themselves safe -- be it packing something special just for themselves or figuring out which restaurants in a new city can accommodate their needs. 
  And they'll know how to keep themselves safe and happy from our example. They are watching us ask the questions. Make the lists. And be the naggy mom reminding them to take their Epi-pens and have a snack. 
   They are watching us prepare for all the  activities, parties, events and everyday days. And they are watching us --so they know that no one does this alone. We all ask for help from teachers. From friends. From parents. From administrators. From our FA community. We reach out and ask: what should I bring to the swim meet? Or for the Model UN weekend? Or how can my kid eat lunch at the cafeteria?  Or maybe just : hey, I'm overwhelmed, anybody got a tissue?
   And people come through. {okay--We've all bumped up against those folks who say Yes Yes Yes. And do nothing. But your kids know how to deal with them too--because you've shown them how. }
    So for all the anxious moments as the school year approaches. For all the planning and preparing and gearing up-- let's not forget that we are demonstrating every day to our kids that "we're all in this together. That "we can do this. " That they can do this. 
  And they can!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Roasted Broccoli: A Good Summer Staple

I know the idea of roasting in the heat of summer does not sound like a good one.  But, go with me here. 
 I roast my vegetables early in the morning. It's cooler outside, and I take advantage of multitasking, since the vegetables cook while I'm getting ready for the day. 
  Roasted broccoli especially can be served/ eaten at room temperature. So once the cooking is done-- no more heat. 
  Here's what I do:

One head of broccoli-- which in the Northeast has been stellar this summer
 Cut about two inches off the heavy stems and throw that part away. Then, with a sharp knife, slice the head from stem and strip the thick rind off the stem.
( I strip the rind off the smaller parts too, because that's how my Italian grandmother did it)
 Cut the head into smaller piece and place in a roasting pan or a pie tin. Rinse with water-- retaining a little water in the bottom  drizzle Olive oil over the broccoli and toss the pieces with a spoon or your hands to  them. Cover loosely with foil. 
  Roast in a 450 oven for 30 minutes. The last few you can remove the foil to get the vegetables more crispy. 
  I also roast-- separate from the broccoli-- carrots ( two inch "Fingers"), onions quartered, celery, potatoes ( halved them halved again), sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower-- broken up. 
Some folks roast beets-- I'd quater or half them to help them cook-- or even cabbage, especially with onions. 
  So easy and ready to serve
With anything from fish, steak to 
  Or for those of you who like your vegetables raw: make a deconstructed salad and let your family build their own. Chopped lettuce, halved endive, sliced radishes , tomato chunks (if allowed) and
Ribbons of carrots, maybe olives and 
Cucumber rounds, jicama -- you get the picture: whatever!
Happy summer. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Newly Diagnosed with Food Allergies? It gets better

I remember sitting in the lobby of a large hospital complex in a city not my own totally exhausted trying to process the news the pediatric allergist had just leveled at us. My 18-month old son was allergic to: Dairy. Eggs. Tree nuts. Peanuts. Fish. Shellfish. Wheat. Soy. And sesame. And chickpeas. And melon and and and and and. The list just kept going. 

  I was stunned.  What can he eat?
 And, while that was the very last time I asked that question, it was actually a really good way to start taking charge of food allergies. 
1. Make a list of what your child can eat. 
Everything else follows. 
2. Remember you're not alone -- there's a tribe of us out there, eager to share our experiences. 
3. You can do this-- mainly because you have to, but also because you can.

And Happy Fourth of July!