The Allergic Foodie Rap

The Allergic Food Rap

 

See those  girls at the bar banning gluten to look fit?

They’ve got no clue how rye and wheat make a celiac sick.

They sip their Skinny Girl martinis and Omission beer,

Feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow when it was cool to be her.

Even Dr. Oz can’t decide if gluten-free is good or bad,

But smart chefs sure know how to profit on a fad.

Every corner restaurant got wheat-free spaghetti,

Even the waiters say no bread’s made them skinny.

“Well good for you,” An Allergic Foodie wanna say,

“I haven’t lost a pound since eating this way.”

Neither can the girl eat dairy, corn and soy–all make her sick.

Ah, yes dude, take out your pen and pad–this isn’t a trick.

This girl’s diet has nothing to do with the media craze,

For most, this gluten-free thing is just another phase.

But after the gluten-free menus are long gone,

A.F.’s need for A.F. food will still be goin’ strong.

So treat her right–don’t give that girl food without checking

That nothing she eats will be a reaction in the making.

Your tip will reflect the attention you’ve given,

To make sure that girl leaves your restaurant livin’.

But see those girls at the bar skippin’ the crackers?

They don’t get how for celiacs gluten-free matters.

At the end a meal, celiacs will pass on the cake.

But NOT  the girls at the bar cuz their GF diets are fake.

(C) Amy E. Tracy

The Allergic Foodie Rap originally appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day!

An Allergic Foodie Gets a Facelift

I blog for one reason–and one reason only–to help people.

When I discovered I had celiac disease and multiple food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis–all in the same year!–I felt incredibly alone with myriad questions. How would I prepare meals for a family who ate EVERYTHING when I couldn’t eat ANYTHING? Would I ever be able to eat in a restaurant safely? What about travel? What would I say to friends who invited me over to dinner?

And the biggest question of all: WHAT WILL I EAT?

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

 

Two years ago, I turned to blogging because I needed to voice my fears, frustrations and foibles. I also hoped that maybe, just maybe, some kind soul out there with similar issues  would write back and tell me everything would be okay.

Both happened.

I found a safe place to vent–and do so often!–and I met other food-allergic folk like me. I even attended a conference for Food Allergy Bloggers. I’ve received and given hundreds of virtual hugs.

I am no longer alone . . . and I’ve found a purpose.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Still, blogging is time-consuming. Learning how to make a “Pin-It” button is exasperating! Will someone teach me please? If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to put even more hours in. Then there’s all the social media required to promote your blog and gain readers. Social media sucks the minutes out of your day like my vacuum would if someone powered it on.  How did I know I’d become addicted to Instagram? When I returned a lovely necklace my husband gave me so I could get a new camera with Wi-Fi capability.

 

Instagram

 

After your readership grows,  your mailbox fills with requests to review products. This is not a bad thing. I’ve learned about allergy-friendly foods and cookbooks I might never have discovered on my own. By readers’ responses, they like learning about these products, too. They especially like the giveaways!

A side note to marketing gurus: If you are going to send me a gluten-free product, check my allergies. I am an allergic foodie–not a gluten-free foodie.

Here’s the ugly side of product reviews.  Sometimes when you give a “bad” review, you get slammed. Read what happened to Gluten Dude. If bloggers can’t be truthful, what’s the point of blogging at all?

At some point, a blogger looks around at the piles of paperwork, laundry and dishes and says, “Maybe I should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

Or the blogger’s partner says, “Maybe you should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

So you sit down your iPad or iPhone or walk away from your computer.. . but wait! Was that the ding of a new message? It’s an unfamiliar name–a message from a follower thanking you for your latest post!

Your heart leaps.

We bloggers want to know we are making a difference. It’s what sustains us. Especially those of us who are doing this for free.

The other day a friend with a soy allergy told me on the phone how my post on soy-free eggs allowed her to enjoy eggs again. Then she mentioned her husband who is gluten intolerant liked my post Breaking up with Dr. Oz. I’m glad she couldn’t see the happy jiggle I did . . .  or the dishes in my sink and the laundry on my floor.

Because of her kind words and the kind words of so many readers, I once again set aside the book I’ve been writing for the last five years and wrote this post.  I even gave Adventures of An Allergic Foodie a facelift; after two years, she looked a little tired.

It’s not really “Hug a Blogger Day.” I made that up.

But go ahead–hug a blogger anyway.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day! originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic College Student You Just Have to Meet

One of the things I love best about being a blogger is meeting remarkable people who are making a difference in the food allergy community. Recently, I met such a person, a college student about to graduate named Amanda Merrill. Amanda won the giveaway Amanda’s Own Confections and I ran a few weeks back. Coincidentally, she shared the first name of the owners’ daughter, which the company was named after.

As Amanda and I emailed back and forth, I knew right away that I had to share her story. Though Amanda was in the middle of final exams at Tufts University, in Boston, she took the time to answer my emailed questions.

An Allergic Foodie: Congrats on winning the allergy-friendly chocolate bars, Amanda! In an email, you mentioned your senior honors thesis has to do with food restrictions  . . . can you elaborate?

Amanda: Happy to, and I’m thrilled to win the chocolate bars because with my allergies it’s almost impossible to find chocolate I can eat. The title of my thesis is “Is Gluten-Free Worth the Price?” Basically, I looked to answer two questions: 1) if consumers are willing got pay extra for gluten-free certification, and 2) if so, how much are they willing to pay? This is the first study in this area, and I devised my own survey to distribute. In short, I concluded that consumers are willing to pay a premium. I am planning on publishing my findings in a journal.

An Allergic Foodie:  I know you came up with this topic because you yourself have many food restrictions. Did you always have food allergies?

Amanda: As a young child, I was first allergic to tomatoes, potatoes and chocolate, which was very hard for me because my dad is Italian and my mom has an Irish heritage. I couldn’t eat any of their traditional dishes. Luckily, I mostly outgrew these allergies –especially the chocolate!

Around middle-school, I started becoming violently ill after eating and I broke out in this terrible skin reaction that left me unable to even open my mouth. I saw many dermatologists who couldn’t figure out what was going on, and I did all sorts of dye and metal allergy tests. My mom was the one to ask for food allergy testing; that’s when I found out I was allergic to soy, nuts and beans. I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent and with more testing, I found out I was allergic to wheat. I have luckily never been hospitalized for a reaction, but I always carry an epi-pen because some of my allergies are life-threatening.

An Allergic Foodie: You said you “outgrew” some food allergies, have you developed any new ones and/or other health issues?

Amanda: I get tested for food allergies yearly. I am now only “borderline allergic” to tomatoes and potatoes so I can usually handle then in moderation and in small amounts. Unfortunately, some of my other allergies are worsening, and this year I discovered I’m allergic to apples, pineapple and sesame. I also have extreme seasonal allergies to everything from grass, pollen, dust, and mold to dog, cats and rabbits. I also suffer from IBS as well as a slow-moving colon and stomach-emptying processes, which constantly leaves me feeling bloated.

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

An Allergic Foodie: Your food restrictions must make dating and eating out difficult. How do you do it?

Amanda: If I am going on a date that involves going to dinner, I often spend hours researching restaurants, menus, policies, and contacting managers to coordinate a meal. One time, I was out in Boston and when the waiter brought over the manager, I began going through my allergies and making adjustments, etc. At one point, the manager, jokingly, told me that he might as well put me in a rabbit cage with a piece of lettuce and a water bottle. The funny thing is, I’m allergic to rabbits as well!

An Allergic Foodie:  I have a son in college dealing with celiac disease and I’d love to hear your tips for eating in a school setting.

Amanda:  When was looking at schools, I was really concerned about how I would eat.  When I arrived at Tufts, I met with a nutritionist/dietitian on campus. I’d advise any student with food allergies to research everything they can about the potential school’s dining services and to meet up with a nutritionist to discuss an eating plan.

In Tufts University’s dining hall, a nutrition card is placed above every food and condiment; the cards list every ingredient and has an allergen statement. The problem I run into is that Tufts, like many other dining halls, have all sorts of sauces, marinades, breading, etc. that contain wheat, soy, or another one of my allergens. I often cannot eat much or anything offered for meals and often end up eating a lot of salads and plain grilled chicken.

Since I cannot eat many dinner food items, the chefs prepare a separate meat for me–chicken, pork, or steak. They use a separate pan and just cook in olive oil, salt and pepper. Tufts had never had to deal with a student with so many allergies before, so I worked with the nutritionist to get more allergy-friendly choices. Now there is a separate refrigerator/freezer for items such as gluten-free breads, bagels, pizza crusts, and other baked goods as well as a special shelf with gluten-free cereal, granola, ice cream cones, and peanut butter and jelly–there’s even Sunbutter for those of us allergic to peanuts. I have my own special area for my foods that don’t contain my extensive allergies, and I even got the school to change to a soy-free cooking spray.

An Allergic Foodie: That’s so great that you’ve made a difference for future allergic students going to Tufts. I think you also are involved with FARE . . .

Amanda: I put together a team to walk in the Walk for Food Allergy Boston to raise money to assist in research for a cure. I hope to continue researching and advocating for food allergies in more ways post-graduation and would love to get more involved with FARE. I try to pass along their messages and awareness information as much as I can.

An Allergic Foodie: I love that you don’t let your food allergies hold you back! What are your plans after graduation?

Amanda: My double major is in Mathematics and Quantitative Economics. I will be working in a pricing and risk analyst position while taking the actuarial exams. My goal is to become a certified actuary. Also, I have been dancing since the age of three, taking ballet, tap, and jazz. At Tufts, I joined the ballroom dance team and competed in all ballroom and Latin dance styles. After graduation, I want to get back to studying classical ballet and pursue my dream of taking classes at Boston Ballet. Dancing is and has always been one of my passions aside from academics.

An Allergic Foodie: Thanks so much for making a difference, Amanda, and good luck with your job and dance– you are an inspiration to other college students with food allergies.

An Allergic College Student Your Just Have to Meet originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Symptoms and Celiac

Not All of Us Want to Share Our Symptoms

I explained to the white-coated chef at the Marriott Residence Inn that I had celiac disease and a bunch of food allergies so I couldn’t eat the potatoes cooked in butter or the eggs or the yogurt or the cereal.

While I scooped fresh blueberries from the waffle station to top my Bakery on Main oatmeal, she circled me like paparazzi around Gwyneth Paltrow.

I knew what was coming.

“What are your symptoms?” she asked loud enough to make my husband cringe.

I looked around the room full of men and women in business attire and families with young children on school break and said softly, “Unpleasant ones.”

Now I have no problem talking about celiac disease and food allergies. After all, I spill my guts in this blog (pun intended). Of course, you may  notice I hide behind a lemon in sunglasses.

But if I’m in public, I’d rather not talk about my bathroom habits. And I’m almost positive these people eating their bagels and cream cheese didn’t want to hear about my flatulence and IBS.

This gal was relentless. “How unpleasant?”

Really? You really want me to talk about my diarrhea and painful cramps before I’ve even had a cup of coffee?  I glared at her. “I experience gastrointestinal issues.”

She got it. Finally.

Blushing, she said, “Oh, I just asked because I have eczema and people tell me maybe I should go off gluten.”

Why didn’t she just say that!

“Have you gone off gluten to see if it helps?”

“I probably should,” she said. “But I couldn’t possibly live without bread and pasta.”

May is Celiac Awareness Month

Let me share another story.

We are at a restaurant and the waiter asks what kind of allergy I have: “Is it the kind that makes you run to the bathroom, or run to the hospital?”

I know what you’re thinking: I’m making this up. I wish!

I could have told this waiter–who happened to look like one of those bronzed guys with the abs of steel in middle-of-the-night infomercials–if I eat even a crop of the sauce with the cream, I will spend the next three days glued to the toilet seat.  I could–and probably should–have told him it didn’t matter what kind of allergy I have–both symptoms are bad. If I continue to get sick from restaurants like his, I could get cancer.

Actually, I can’t remember what I said.  I’m pretty sure I went to the bar and ordered a goblet of wine, and my husband ordered me a plain filet with olive oil, salt and pepper and steamed broccoli (my go-to-allergy-safe meal).

Food Allergies have many symptoms

Now some people–I can think of several of my fellow bloggers–can easily speak out about their bathroom habits. Erica Dermer has a chapter in her book, Celiac and the Beast, titled “Let’s Talk About Butts: A Story of a Girl, Her Rectum, and the Scope That Loved Her.”  Erica probably wasn’t raised by a mother who ordered “chicken chest” for dinner, as I was.

Ironically, Erica doesn’t have the nasty GI symptoms that many of us do. In the first line of her book, she says, “I wish I could tell you that if I ate a bowl of Pasta Roni right now, I would swiftly crap my pants. I only wish this because then you would plainly see that something is very, very wrong with my insides.”

Erica goes on to say that her symptoms appear days or weeks later–sores in her mouth, a swollen tongue, extreme tiredness. “I experience the same life post-gluten as every other celiac,” she writes.

While we all are in this together, our symptoms may be similar and different. Celiac disease has over 300 symptoms! 300!  Throwing food allergies into the mix only complicates matters.  Your autoimmune system reacts to proteins in foods differently from my autoimmune system.

So when a waiter, a chef, your spouse’s boss, or someone in the grocery store checkout line who sees you buying Udi’s gluten-free bread asks you what your symptoms are, feel free to share if you like. But I prefer telling them to go to one of these websites:

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

Fare has recently launched SafeFare, a resource center to make dining out safer

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Make sure you print out NFCA’s Celiac Awareness Month 2014 Toolkit

* * *

May is Celiac Awareness Month, and Food Allergy Awareness Week starts May 11, 2014.  Please share information about celiac disease and food allergies–especially symptoms so people will stop embarrassing An Allergic Foodie.

Not All of Us Want to Share Our Symptoms first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Why He'll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

We’d been driving for a day and a half and were only halfway home. The high winds across the Kansas plains and the oversized trucks creeping into our lane forced my husband to keep a hands-of-steel grip on the wheel while I kept eyeing the sky for a tornado.

An Allergic Foodie and her husband don't always agree on where to eat

We were a little on edge.

And we were hungry.

When we finally decided to stop for lunch, we began quarreling. For us, quarreling involves a lot of silence.

Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything wanted to stop at Taco John’s. With my soy, dairy, gluten, and corn allergies, I didn’t even want to breathe the air in Taco John’s.

Besides, Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything knew I wasn’t looking forward to the three-day-old tuna and garbanzo beans I’d packed for myself. He knew this because I kept opening all the apps on my iPhone–Allergy Eats, Find Me Gluten Free, YoDish–and reading the reviews.

Still, he said, “Taco John’s has salad. Did you bring salad dressing?”

“Yay, more salad,” I said.

“The lettuce looked fresh last time.”

“How would you like a bowl of lettuce for lunch?”

Silence.

I pulled up Taco John’s list of allergens on my iPhone. Just about everything has milk, wheat and/or soy.

Except maybe the lettuce.

“I just thought you ‘d want to order something while I ate,” he said.

“Lettuce?”

More silence.

Food Allergies and relationships are a difficult journey

A few exits later, my husband of 20+ years tried to explain how he thought he was being thoughtful. Almost six weeks ago, on the drive out, he’d gotten Taco John’s to-go and taken it to Subway; a food-allergy app had given the Subway salad bar a good review.

While standing in the salad line, I watched the worker make pizza with gloves, then dip the same gloved hands into the salad ingredients. Even if he changed gloves, the tomatoes and lettuce and cucumbers were already contaminated with wheat.

I passed on the salad. My husband ate his tacos and I ate my fruit and almond-milk yogurt in one of the Subway booths.

It was a little weird. But if  an employee had said anything, they’d get an earful about how anyone with celiac or a gluten intolerance would get sick from Subway’s unsafe practices.

So this time around, my husband didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable by eating outside food in a Taco John’s booth. That’s how he was being considerate. To me, suggesting we go to a grocery store and picking up food we both could eat would be considerate. But that’s just me.

Here’s the thing: I GET IT!  My food allergies are not only a pain in the butt for me– but for him, too!

After a long difficult drive, he wanted tacos. He didn’t want to have to drive around looking for a grocery store or a safe place for me to eat–and allergy-friendly options are limited in Colby, Kansas.

Still, if he’d just said, “I’m sorry you can’t eat tacos or burritos or nachos, but do you mind if we stop at Taco John’s?” I would have been okay with it. Sometimes I just want confirmation from my husband and others that they get how food restrictions make life’s road bumpy.

Just don’t tell me to eat lettuce for lunch.

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Doesn't always pay to be polite when you have food allergies

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie

Lady in food counter overhears An Allergic Foodie regurgitate her litany of allergies and says: I would just die if I couldn’t eat cheese!

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at upscale restaurant: How do you not eat bread and butter?  (She may have really been thinking, You look like you eat a lot of bread and butter.)

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Cafeteria server during son’s college tour: Lady, you sure are picky.

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely so as not to embarrass teenage son and because she taught him if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at Japanese Restaurant: You can eat the tofu (I’d just told her I was allergic to soy).

An Allergic Foodie smiles, stands up, loudly tells the waitress that tofu is soy, tells the manager he needs to train his staff, then stomps out of the restaurant because her mother never had to cope with food allergies or celiac disease.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, LEAVE THE RESTAURANT.

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

Breaking Up with Dr. Oz

Breaking Up with Dr. Oz

Dear Dr. Oz,

After thousands of afternoon dates, it’s time for us to go our separate ways.

You have lost my respect.

Like Dorothy who discovers the wizard is a fake, I have discovered you, Dr. Oz, are not the wizard of medicine you claim to be.

YOU CALLED A GLUTEN-FREE DIET A SCAM ON NATIONAL TV!  Millions and millions of people heard you! Including a few of my family members who think my celiac disease is all in my head. Thanks, Dr. Oz.

The audience even started cheering as if to say, “I knew all those gluten naysayers were idiots! Give me a slice of pizza now!”  Yes, you tried to cover up your error by saying “there are a lot of folks who have big time problem with gluten so I don’t have a problem with people who don’t like eating gluten foods…”

Don’t LIKE eating gluten foods! Huh?  I would LOVE to eat gluten foods–it’s my body that won’t let me!  Coincidentally I got “glutened” at a restaurant last night. Imagine a brick making its way through your digestive system. Today, I tried to run some errands, but I was so lethargic I was afraid to drive. It will be at least a week until I feel normal again.

This, Dr. Oz, is what living with CELIAC DISEASE is like. It is not a scam. Is is not BS. And when people hear a doctor call a gluten-free diet a scam, you hurt people like me and my son and the one in 133 of us with celiac disease. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of others with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

That is why I am breaking up with you, Dr. Oz.

Don’t even think of sending me flowers.

Breaking Up with Dr. Oz” originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.