The nut-free nut lover
I am about to get personal for this post. It isn’t exactly about food and delicious recipes, but yet it is. This is a story about going nut-free. This is my story.
Growing up, I ate PB&J’s and Fluffer Nutters (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich) for school lunches. I loved Whatchamacallit’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. After college I was well known for my amazing Pecan pies. I mastered the art of baking them and getting just the right mix of both dark and light Karo syrups. I loved nuts!
Then in 2005 I had an allergic reaction to a lotion- a full, all over body rash. I had never had an allergic reaction to anything before. I went to a doctor and they said they needed me to go to an allergist. They wanted to do the scratch tests on me. To my knowledge, I was not allergic to anything. I was so wrong! I sat in a rolling chair facing the back of the chair with my back exposed to the “scratches”. They tested for me a series of items like dust, tree pollens, grasses, and nuts. Have you ever had a scratch test?! Try sitting in a chair itching like crazy and not being able to scratch! It drives a girl crazy!!
The nurse comes back in the room about 15 minutes later. She says “Wow! Are you itchy?” I said yes I was. She looks at some of the scratches on my back and says I am allergic to dust (ok, who doesn’t sneeze around dust?!), some tree and grass pollens. (again, not a big surprise). Then she tells me I am highly allergic to nuts. Ummm, what? What about all of the peanut butter cups and pecan pies?! No more she says. The tree nuts are the worst, peanuts are ok but given the fact I was not previously allergic to nuts, avoid them too. Oh boy! I was given one Epi-Pen immediately and a prescription for more. She was concerned that I could have an anaphylactic reaction. So now what? How do you “unlearn” your taste for nuts?
Food allergies are not all the same. Many people have asked me if I can just not eat them, it is not that simple. My stomach doesn’t get upset if I eat nuts, I have difficulty breathing. I can have a reaction by being near them, or even near someone who has eaten them.
I have eliminated all nuts from my diet. No more peanut butter, no more pecan pies. It was difficult for me, very difficult. What I didn’t think about what how difficult it is for my friends and family. Two years ago, I was attending a U-8 girls soccer game, watching the girls play with my two pre-teen daughters by my side. About halfway through the game I started to clear my throat. A bit later, the coughing started. Next was the voice changing, violent coughing and wheezing. I was at a soccer game, I didn’t have an Epi-Pen with me, and I was outside. What was making me have this reaction? It turns out a little boy, very near and dear to me, was enjoying a very large bag of almonds which watching his sister play in her soccer game. He was sitting maybe 20 yards from me. My daughters started to panic. “Mommy, your lips are blue.” Mommy, you aren’t breathing right.” Mommy, let me get help!” The coaches wife was sitting close by and heard the girls’ concerns and my coughing. She took one look at me and took me to find some medication. I took tons of Benedryl and other medications to try to open my airways. This event is a blur to me. I did not have to use my Epi-Pen, but I know one day, I will not be so lucky.
Over the last couple of years, I have had to watch the horror in people’s faces as I have a reaction. I have also had to deny my loved ones their love of nuts as well. Going out to eat or even to the grocery store has become an adventure. The kids are heightened to nuts. They find them everywhere and warn me. They even make sure to carefully select their Halloween candy so it does not have nuts in it. If it does, they make sure to throw it away or give it away.
So how does one cook without nuts? I will over the next few posts tell you how this foodie dines out and cooks at home nut-free. It has been and continues to be an adventure. To read more about food allergies, click here.