Thursday, August 10, 2017

Memory Lane: Food Allergies on the Move

We are on our way to Chicago to look at colleges, and I am stopped, as I slip back into my loafers, and watch my carry-on being X-rayed. Again.

 My son nods to me, questioning--Epi-Pens? No, I say, think it’s the food bag.  And the security guard pulls out the rectangular soft case meant for keeping baby bottles cool—ours happens to be plaid—and unzips it.  Inside she finds a Ziploc bag of frozen steak, strips of chicken and ½ pound of roast beef.

My son has food allergies—multiple food allergies—so we travel with food.  Everywhere, every trip.

It’s a strange territory this food allergy world—it’s not intolerance, you explain, he could stop breathing if he eats an egg or something made with an egg.

My son is anaphylactic to Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Sesame, Shellfish—that means if he eats these foods in any of their multi-various forms, his throat will close, he will need a shot or two of adrenaline and a hospital visit.

As for other allergies—he’s allergic to wheat, soy, peas, strawberries, barley and so on—to these he merely vomits until they’re out of his system.  But at least we know he won’t be guzzling beer at all these colleges we’re visiting. 

But it also means that he’s never had pizza or ice cream or birthday cake at a party. Or ever sat down in a restaurant without a frisson of anxiety—prior research and experience notwithstanding.  But at least we go to restaurants; some allergic families do not.

In the large scheme of bad things, food allergies are not the biggest deal.  But the devil is in the details.

In the everyday details of life—breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the bring-your-own-food-to-every-event-you’ve-ever-been-to details. The change-every-meal-in-your-family-tradition –from lasagne to chopped liver to chicken soup. The details of the ship-your-own-food-to-every-travel-destination, and by the way, get a doctor’s note for carrying that food the airport security is now squeezing back into your little plaid insulated case.

Food allergies are isolating, dangerous, exhausting and frustrating.

 What it’s really about is finding a balance, like most things in life.  Finding a balance between anxiety and self-confidence. Between anger and restraint.  Between self-pity and joining the parade. Between avoidance and risk.

But, this day, as I step back from the virtual edge—the security guard smiles at me and waves me through.  “It looks like good eats,” she says, and I smile back and say “thanks.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

Good Things with Food Allergies

It's been forever, I know. Life gets like that as we all know. 
Good things: someone made a cassoulet for us that was the centerpiece of a great dinner party. And all was well; the cook thought it was no big deal-- AND it was delicious!
  Restaurants have been easier-- sometimes with allergen guides; sometimes with just maturity and experience. 
  Sometimes there's one safe thing on the menu then out-of-the-blue "Boom!" Someone else's dish is safe and they're going to share!
    Of course, there's still nights when work leads to drinks out and then an event-- and all of a sudden it's 10:00 and my kid has had a hard cider and maybe some french fries-- but sometimes that's okay. Especially if the company's good!
  As we always say in my family-- and rememebr we're Jewish on one side and Italian on the other, so food counts!--but as we always say: it's not WHAT's on the table but WHO's at the table that's important. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Casseroles -- Not!

I love casseroles. In the heartwarming category, they're almost like soup . But because these oven baked treasures are often bundled with cheese and egg, I never make them. Can't do egg and cheese in my house. 
   So, I've decided in my misguided, no-holds-barred, gonna-make-it-like -there's -no-substitutions way that I would invent some allergen-free casseroles. 
  Well-- at very least-- meals made in a casserole dish served with a spoon... 

Chicken thighs á la Pizzaiola
Take chicken thighs with skin and sear with oil and garlic in a fry pan. Cook on high-- but don't burn-- for 5-7 minutes. Turning a couple of time to get a full sear. 
Place in rectangle "casserole dish" (AKA baking dish) and spoon canned, diced tomatoes over all thighs.  Salt and pepper.  Add thick cut carrots. Bake in a 350 over for 45 minutes to a hour. Chicken will fall off bone. 
  Spoon over rice or noodles. 

Chopped Chile Beef Casserole

Sautee chopped beef and chopped onions together-- cook thoroughly. About 10 minutes. Add small can of tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes. 
Take a 15 oz can of kidney beans, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1/4 cup chopped red pepper. 
In a casserole bowl, layer the meat mixture, beans, and peppers in a casserole dish, sprinkle liberally with chile powder. If you have leftover rice, use that as bottom and top layer. 
  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350, until bubbling. 
 Enjoy!!!
  

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.