Friday, July 24, 2009

Feeling lucky

I had a great time last week eating my way across Manhattan and trying several new restaurants. It is never easy with food intolerances to pick a place and take that risk of not only how will it taste, but also wondering if it will make me feel awful later. I am really lucky to have a friend that was willing to go try these new places with me.

One afternoon while waiting for a place to open for dinner, we were sitting in a bakery thumbing through the magazines. There was a copy of Allergic Living Magazine based out of Canada. In it was an article titled "Relative Risk: When family doesn’t get your gluten-free diet" This particular article is not online - they do have to keep some reason for selling the magazine after all. Basically it was about the misery of having family and friends who do not understand a food allergy and some tips on when and how to protect yourself or your child. I cannot imagine not being able to leave a child with a family member for fear that they will not be careful of a food allergy. While I have experienced some of the more mild annoyances of friends not understanding and not remembering, I am lucky to have family and friends who understand or at least accept and actively support the efforts to love food rather than fear the effects of eating.

Even reading the article I was even more grateful for traveling with a friend that just expected to eat gluten free and organic for the trip. Even luckier that she seems to even look forward to my ideas for eating out. We even split most meals so as not to overeat and try more places. I would like some more of this kind of traveling. I am also totally blessed that when I visit her home, her whole family makes sure there are things I can eat and even makes last minute changes to recipes to accommodate my intolerances.

I am lucky that I have a mild intolerance even if it is to several items. I do not need to panic about cross contamination. I can manage a meal every so often that has an Asian sauce where they used soy sauce which contains some wheat. I can buy a prepared salad and pick off the croutons and not panic if I missed a few crumbs.

I am lucky that my immediate family does understand. In fact I learned of my intolerance through eating with my parents. My mother is very sensitive to all chemicals, particularly sulphites, and now wheat. The more I cooked with her recipes, the better I felt.

When it was just the sulphites and preservatives it was very hard to explain to friends and other family members. This same magazine has an article online that does a nice job: "Sulphites are cooking up trouble" It is hardest to explain the chemicals that are hard to pronounce and need a magnifying glass to find on the packages of food. At least wheat is supposed to be additionally listed in the "allergen" field at the end of ingredients. Sulphites are not - at least not yet. I am lucky that I have several friends who for years now will at least remember to ask "can you eat there" when the group is looking for a place to go out to eat. I used to go with safety foods like dinner rolls, hamburgers, french fries, and pasta dishes and I didn't realize how much that was actually making things worse.

It is easier to explain no wheat. When my students see me eating a packed lunch instead of the catered lunch and ask me why there is almost always at least one who responds to my "no wheat" comment with a phrase including "gluten free" or "celiac". They know what I am talking about. I am lucky that I do not always have to do all the explaining myself.

It is a real pain to have to deal with both. Because of the risks of allergy attacks, gluten free products are often made fresh and almost always made from basic ingredients and not a lot of processed mystery. That also makes it easier to check for sulphites without having to explain every detail of that intolerance. No wheat, no wine, no wine vinegar generally works - except that too many people do not realize that balsamic vinegar is a wine vinegar.

I am lucky that there are so many newer options and every time a do a new search online I find more places to visit. Like a place for a gluten free English high tea in Atlanta and the option of organic ingredients on a gluten free crust at some zpizza locations across the country.


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