"It could be you have food allergies. I want you to see an allergist." My doctor's diagnosis was delivered with an efficient, directly to the point manner of someone with an incredibly busy family practice, two teenage children, and a dedication to diving. I mean, it wasn't like she had just given me three weeks to live. Yet my foodie heart skipped a beat. Food allergies? Surely something else was causing the hives; the eye so swollen it looked like I'd been punched by an angry vegan and the runny nose...Not my beloved FOOD?? "I want you to avoid processed foods and cook at home until you get tested." Marching orders and multiple scrips in hand I went forth to make the pharmaceutical companies just a little richer.
The first thing I did? Google for info. According to many online sources, 8 common foods account for 90% of food allergies. My palms started to sweat in anticipation of all I could be losing. Could the culinary creature that I am survive avoiding 8 types of food? It wasn't like I was unfamiliar with allergies. Long ago an allergist gave me a scratch test to determine what I was allergic to in the plant world. When all the little scratch sites gathered together into one united hive front, it was safe to say that the known North American trees, grass, weeds and probably the dirt they grow in are out to kick my respiratory system's ass.How bad is it going to be? Let's check the tape. First up?Maybe it won't be so bad. A tall cold glass of milk only held an appeal to me if accompanied by a huge stack of Oreos. My cereal cravings have diminished as I've grown older. I think I can handle a milk allergy.Soy? OK, I could handle a soy allergy. I love Edamame but it's not like I'm constantly mowing them down like potato chips. But wait, that means the fried tofu with crabmeat sauce at my favorite Chinese restaurant is out. So is Agedashi-dofu. I reached for my new eye drops to disguise my tears.Wheat. While I might be living in the midst of America's breadbasket, I've never been a carbo queen. My mother thinks that I would enjoy a bread machine but I just don't eat that much bread. I do, however, enjoy good crusty loaf on which to slather soft and stinky cheese...And there is that lovely fruit and nut packed rustic bread I get at the farmer's market.Despite my sudden epiphany that cheese was in the dread milk group, I found myself craving a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe the hives weren't that bad after all...Peanuts? No great loss. I usually get nachos at the baseball game (I calmed myself by thinking of gooey nacho cheese made of oil and food coloring). The peanut butter in my house is mostly reserved for persuading dogs to consume their pills. Still peanut allergies seem to be one of the most serious. My instincts said this wasn't the culprit.Tree nuts. While I might not be a peanut fan, the rest of the nut families did hold a certain appeal. I can only eat brownies stuffed with walnuts. Pecan pie is a joy. Pine nuts often wiggle their way into my pasta and salads. My brother just sent me a healthy supply of sugared cashews. Suddenly I found myself reaching for the bag. No way I was going to let these go to waste. A yearning for spinach sauteed in a little olive oil with raisins and pine nuts, finished with a little balsamic vinegar was planned for the upcoming weekend menu.Danger Will Robinson!!!!! Danger!!! Houston, we have a problem!!!! Were my watery eyes deceiving me, or were the last three foods on the list eggs, fish and shellfish??? It couldn't be! What would my breakfast loving, sushi pounding, bay crab worshiping soul do??? Give up my crab? Omit the ovum? No longer swim with the fishes? Inconceivable. Thank goodness the sushi joints I frequent don't stay open late or I would have been sympathy sucking down some serious salmon, tuna and eel. I peeked at online crab shipping sights. What would I eat with my bacon. (OK stupid question since there's not much I DON'T eat with bacon.) Steamed shrimp with Old Bay would be off limits. And I could never be a judge on Top Chef since the abundance of scallop dishes would send me into a hive infested itch spiral.
I pondered all these things as I slugged down the small pills that would give me some relief from my symptoms. Maybe I was worrying for nothing. Maybe my skin suddenly developed a hatred for the laundry detergent I've used for years. I took some comfort in that but I also practiced my speech to certain restaurant owners that I could no longer patronize their lovely establishments. And maybe, just maybe those same restaurant owners would take up a little collections to keep me stocked in pills. Certainly a small price to pay to keep me coming through their front doors.