Grocery shopping is tedious. But it can also be fun; sometimes it’s cool to go to different cities and wander through the supermarket to see what different places sell. My family always stops by a local supermarket when we go on vacation both to get provisions and because my dad loves discovering new products. Like interestingly-flavored Triscuits or cool oreos or whatever’s new. So buying food can be an adventure.
Sometimes, it’s not a great adventure. It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland instead of the awesome Indiana Jones (no offense, Pirates fans, but the ride is mediocre).
For instance, tonight I went to the Santa Monica Co-Op. A lovely place with lots of organic fruits and vegetables. Unique products. I go there because I know I’ll get organic stuff (which I have to these days) and they have so many kinds of squash, and it’s right near my office. It’s a delight.
Except when they have horseradish. They don’t always. But this was the second time I’ve noticed fresh horseradish there, and of course, been sick.
So yeah, it’s a lot more simple than managing an airborne peanut allergy. People eat peanuts a lot. Though, people also get it when you can’t be around them. I must look like a crazy person run away from the fruits and vegetable aisle. Literally, run.
Luckily, this time wasn’t so severe. I just got dizzy, lost most of my voice, got cloudy thoughts, and some ear itching. My throat is swelling a bit now. See, you can’t take benedryl when you have to drive home from the grocery store. I’m not dying, just uncomfortable and I guess sick, but a car accident could be a lot more fatal. (Don’t worry, I’ll take the benedryl as soon as I finish writing this. At this point, time doesn’t matter).
It got me thinking, though: you never hear people talk about doing adult activities with an airborne allergy. What do you do when you’re grocery shopping and you suddenly can’t anymore? Or you can’t buy the foods you needed to because they’re too close to your allergen? The last time I ate food that was near horseradish — an apple that was in the fridge with the horseradish we were going to use for Passover (yes I’m stubborn and don’t want my family to use a different vegetable for maror so I used to just leave the house when my mom would grate it and we’d keep it in another room for the whole seder except when people would gulp it down, and yes, now that I’m hypersensitive we won’t use it again) — I went to the ER. So I don’t buy anything near it anymore. I run.
The solution, I guess, is for someone to grocery shop for me. Once, my friend J came to visit me in LA and we were going to cook for Shabbat together. I had a cold at the time, and she asked me to stay away from the vegetable aisle in the supermarket while she shopped there because I’m always more allergic when I’m sick. I refused. Then I started uncontrollably coughing. She sent me to the cereal aisle and told me to wait there while she picked out the foods we needed. I told her I didn’t need to.
“Cindy, you can’t be in the vegetable aisle.”
“But you’re not always here, sometimes I have to be in this aisle.”
“And then you don’t buy most vegetables because they are too close to things you can’t be near. I want to cook with these vegetables and you can eat them, so let me buy things you otherwise couldn’t. Take advantage of my being here. Stop being stupid and go wait.”
And she was right. I almost never bought fresh produce. If I did, it was whatever came in plastic boxes and was kept far away from everything else. But I can’t eat processed foods right now so I have to buy everything fresh. It’s delicious, but hard. Because I can’t just wait in the cereal aisle while I astrally project my non-allergenic self to the produce aisle.
J, wanna come back to LA and help me grocery shop? And make delicious soups from peeled carrots and celery? Because that’s the other thing – I can’t touch the vegetables that touch the things I’m airborne allergic to (horseradish, and I’m guessing the bacteria on leafy greens [I’m not allergic to leafy greens themselves, apparently, but I can never be around too many of them without getting sick and I’m allergic to the xanthan in xanthan gum, which is the aforementioned bacteria]). So J peeled, washed, and chopped everything we made that time.
But I wonder…how can one be truly independent when one can’t even be around certain foods? It’s not like we can ban any allergenic foods from grocery stores. And even so, who else is allergic to horseradish to my degree? Not enough people, that’s for sure. Food delivery services don’t let you pick, and everything is cross-contaminated. Friends are nice, but I could never accept that help on a regular basis. A food nanny? Maybe that’s the solution.
For now, I guess I’ll wait for the dead of summer so horseradish season will be truly over.