Thursday, April 12, 2012

Attack of the Food Allergies!

I've known I was allergic to peanuts and subsequently avoided them for more than a decade. For most of that time I had no accidental exposure and therefore no reactions. That all changed last year.

In May 2011 I had a mild reaction when a spoon that had been used for peanut butter was only rinsed instead of washed before it was used for my food. I went to the ER because I was itchy all over and because someone who saw it informed me of the contamination. They gave me an epi pen "just in case it happens again," but I was sure it wouldn't. I was so wrong. 2 weeks later, I unknowingly ate an entire meal cooked mostly in peanut oil. This time, the epi pen got me to the hospital safely and saved me from intubation, but I was still admitted overnight and pumped full of more steroids, Benadryl, and breathing treatments than I thought possible. After surviving that, I began always asking about peanut ingredients before eating anything.

However, I made one very stupid mistake. I had eaten several things that said "processed on the same equipment used for peanuts" in the past and never had a reaction so I continued doing that. I suppose it was only a matter of time before some peanut fragment jumped in my bag of walnuts. A matter of 10 months, in fact.

A few weekends ago I was itchy for 48 hours straight. I think the guy working at subway got out a peanut butter cookie for another customer and did not change his gloves before touching the veggies and making my sandwich. I didn't see it but it's the only place I could have been exposed that day and the only logical explanation.

Last night I ate some walnuts before bed. The bag said they were processed in a plant that also processes peanuts. Go figure. This morning I woke up with a rash that covered my body from my scalp to my feet, literally head to toe. Luckily it was a fairly mild reaction so I haven't had any throat-closing symptoms. I went to the doctor and got the medicine I need, plus some Aveno oatmeal bath.

I recently discovered I love tree nuts (I'm not allergic to those because peanuts aren't technically in the nut family) and almond butter is probably the best thing that ever happened to my taste buds. Unfortunately, it looks like my peanut-free diet will end up being a tree-nut-free diet as well since they're usually processed on the same equipment.

I don't understand this at all. Peanut allergies are known for being common and deadly so why in the world are they used with other foods so often?! Companies and restaurants who allow this are cutting out a significant amount of potential customers and that's just bad business.

I hope to find some safe tree nuts locally at the farmer's market or maybe at Whole Foods. If it comes down to making my own almond butter, I will (as long as I can find safe almonds). I just don't think it should be so difficult for someone with one of the most common and deadly allergies in existence to eat without worrying about death. Is that so much to ask?!

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. Back to vegan talk. I already appear to be a picky eater because of my vegan needs. Add in the questions about peanut ingredients every time I go out to eat, and I come across as a huge problem child. Oh well. I suppose a living problem child is better than a dead customer, right?

Time to go figure out a way to start a movement to convince companies to process peanuts and tree nuts separately and to convince restaurants to use a safer type of oil for cooking!

Walking in Memphis

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a fantastic blog post.'ll just have to take my word for it because when I was almost done with it, I accidentally deleted it. I was so devastated I didn't try it again until now. Here's my best attempt at recreating it or at least the idea of it:

Moving to a new city is a big change. Leaving all of your family hours away is hard and scary. Starting a new job is stressful. Going from vegan woman with a cat in a one bedroom to vegan woman, meat-and-dairy-loving fiancé, cat, and dog in an only slightly bigger one bedroom is....a hard, scary, stressful big change with an extra dose of overwhelming. Doing all of this in less than 24 hours? Only a crazy person would do that! Well, you can call me Ms. Crazy (soon to be Mrs. Crazy). On Sunday, March 18th, we left Nashville with a full U-Haul and replanted my life in Memphis (technically Cordova). The next morning, less than 24 hours after locking up my first "big girl apartment" and leaving it behind, I started my new job on the busiest day they'd ever had at the office.

Let me be clear -- all of these changes are things I wanted and I'm *extremely* happy about what's happening in my life. Unfortunately, being happy about life changes doesn't make you exempt from the stress and occasionally paralyzing fear about how everything is going to work now that your life has become a big ball of chaos. Luckily I've had a couple of weeks since the failed blog post attempt to get into a better routine and finally be able to enjoy these amazing changes that are happening. Still, there are those moments when I really wish my parents were still only 30-40 minutes away as they have been my entire adult life until now.

One of the biggest sources of concern for me as the move got closer was living with a MADL (meat-and-dairy-lover). This would mean my kitchen would no longer be a vegan one. I was also worried about how I would cook meals we could eat and enjoy together. It was overwhelming at first.

Turns out there was no reason to worry! My fiancé is open to trying the vegan things I make and usually enjoys them thoroughly! Sometimes he adds his own non-vegan touch to his plate only (such as cooking some chicken to add to veggie fried rice or adding Parmesan cheese to his pasta). He also enjoys cooking so he has no problem cooking/preparing his extra things himself. I don't think I could stomach it. Another great compromise has been finding non-vegan and vegan versions of the same dish. For instance, one night he made regular chili and I made vegan chili. Another night we made grilled cheese with tomato soup. He made his with butter and cheese; I made mine with earth balance and daiya. It's a great way to still feel like we're enjoying a meal together without compromising our personal food needs.

Overall, I'm finally adjusting.

I like the apartment we got (although I can't wait till we move into the 2 bedroom house in midtown right after the wedding in December) and it's finally all unpacked and set up. It feels like our home now.

I talk to my mom a lot on the phone and will be going to visit in a few weeks.

My new job has its challenges, as every job does, but I like it.

And somehow, Boomer, Tweak, Dan, and I have figured out how to live together in harmony. :)

Now I just need to find more time to create awesome vegan food and blog about it!