Oh, It’s Horseradish Season Again.

I haven’t had a horseradish reaction since early September. But I guess four months was all I got, because today, I ran into some horseradish in Whole Foods. Oh, airborne allergies, how I love thee.

I was looking at some eggplants and found myself a little off, but I was mulitasking on the phone. I look down, see horseradish, gasp (smart — intake the breath, Cinds) and run out of the vegetable aisle. Well, jog-ish to the peppers, look to see if the yellow ones are organic, and jog away.

And then the tongue tingling started. Like I had just burned my mouth with hot soup. Burning and itching (delightful, right?). No swelling of the throat so that was cool, but I ran through the rest of my grocery order, started feeling like I was going to pass out, and drove home.

Seriously, this ugly random food is my kryptonite. Can I at least get a cape?

Seriously, this ugly random food is my kryptonite. Can I at least get a cape?

Took some Benadryl as soon as I got in, and glanced in the mirror. There were so many hives on my chest and neck. Like, 10? Maybe more?  And then one appeared on my left wrist, which is where my horseradish hives have tended to appear — why, I have no clue. All I know is, thank God for steroid cream!

But seriously. Does this mean I’m not going to be able to grocery shop properly? Do enough people even eat fresh horseradish root to make it a good item for sale? It’s a bitter herb, folks. It’s supposed to symbolize torture and slavery. It’s the Zero Dark Thirty of foods. Not that I’ve ever tasted it — never been close enough to try — but I can’t imagine it’s that good (I know my family members may disagree, but I still don’t get it).

I don’t really know what to do. Last time it was in season, I just ran out of the Santa Monica co-op all the time. But I was at a job where sensitivity to my allergies was abundant, and if I was off my game from a reaction one day, the world went on turning. Now, notsomuch. Which is fine. But worries me, because if every time I grocery shop, I’ll have to take Benadryl, I’m bound to be a little woozy.

Anyone want to be my personal grocery shopper during horseradish season? Like Fonzworth Bentley, P.Diddy’s umbrella carrier? I’ll cook you dinner every Sunday if you go to Whole Foods for me…

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Goodbye, Squash Aversion (and a recipe, too boot!)

There’s a difference between a food overdose that makes you sick and a food overdose that makes you just averse to the food. The first is something reserved for those among us with serious allergies and escalated food sensitivities, and the second is, well, pretty normal.

But I gotta say, it’s terribly inconvenient to experience a food aversion when you’ve got a billion food allergies. So it hasn’t been great that I’ve been distancing myself from squash these last few months.

Over the spring/summer, when I could eat basically squash, zucchini  beans, eggplant, sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, non-green peppers, corn, quinoa, millet, pumpkin, oats, lamb, chicken, turkey, and bison, and all of the above only three times a week, I ate a ton of squash. Like squash at every meal, because every squash counted as a different food. But once my diet opened up, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat squash that regularly. Sure it was in season. And I did buy it a lot, just in case. But I could never bring myself to cook it. Maybe some bottleneck or zucchini here and there, but acorn? Dumpling? Kabocha? Not so often.

This shabbat, I decided it was time. Mostly because I’d bought the cutest little kabocha squash and didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. Oh. My. God. Can we say DELICIOUS? I felt like I’d travelled back in time. Friday night dinner, complete with reading and sleeping and resting, mixed with a challah and a matzah (didn’t want to buy two when I can only eat a handful of bread anyway), chicken, green beans, and kabocha squash. And pumpkin oat muffins (that had flour and eggs, but let’s not unnecessarily torture ourselves, esp. when baking ten minutes before Shabbat starts).

It was like being transported back in time. It was lovely. I realized how far I’ve come, how many new foods I can eat, and how I don’t need to eat literally everything I am not allergic to, even if I don’t like it. I thought about how lucky I am that I get to have more foods and say things like “sometimes I don’t like squash.” I thought about eating kitniyot on Pesach and whether I really have to this year (the answer is yes, because a potato and tomato don’t replace millet, beans, green beans, lentils and corn). But I thought about how I WILL get to eat karpas (the ritual potato). How I had wine. And real wheat matzah. And how much has changed since last March. And how it’s all so good.

And tonight, as I dogsit for my quasi-aunt and uncle’s dog Roxie, I think about how I used to spend every Shabbat here in 2008 when I was at USC for the summer. How I live in LA for real now. How then, they didn’t have a dog, and now their dog is a family member. How I spent those Saturday nights watching movies on their couch, and how now I go to the theater with friends.

How a year ago, I didn’t know why I was getting sick every day when I ate lunch. How I gchatted T every day saying “tell me to take benedryl bc I’m sick but I don’t want to be.” How I had finally got test results back that said I was allergic to nuts, sort of, and fish sort of, and cabbage not at all, and how I thought that was it, but still got sick. How now, I get sick randomly once a week max (usually less), or when I have a bad challenge. Which has happened exactly 5 times. My list is getting “back to normal” every day. Soon I can say “I’m allergic to leafy greens, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, fish, horseradish, some onions, avocado, artichokes, hearts of palm, and pasta.” Which isn’t a big deal at all.

So bring it on, squash. We’re not averse anymore.

We're back, baby.

We’re back, baby.

The recipe, in case you’re curious:

One Kabocha squash, cut into manageable pieces (depends on size of squash), with the seeds and guts removed

Some kind of oil. I use safflower, grapeseed, or canola, but use whatever. Oil is oil. It works.

A sprinkling of salt and pepper

Some ginger

Some nutmeg

Coat the pan in oil. Season the squash. Drizzle a little more oil on if desired. Roast in the oven for 30-50 minutes at around 400 (or 350, just check it), depending on the size of the piece. When it’s soft and smells good it’s done.

Food Challenge Round 16: Cindy Vs. Basil

I finally tried basil! After a failed test where the basil was spoiled, I was a little apprehensive. What if the basil wasn’t actually spoiled that time, and really I was just so allergic to it that it tasted bad, like avocados or nuts do? Sure, I used to eat basil all the time, but with overdoses being what they are, I was scared.

Luckily, my friend M was generous enough to eat a leaf in my apartment the night before. And he assured me it was not spoiled basil. So I knew that if it tasted weird the next morning, it would be me.

Sure enough, the basil was not spoiled. And I am not allergic to it. Fresh basil made my lips slightly tingly, so the doctor limited it to twice a week, but hey. That’s twice more than I’ve been having it, and as it’s an ingredient in so many foods, there are so many new doors that will open for me. (Here’s looking at you, tomato sauce).

So hopefully last time’s avocado was a one-off. I much prefer successful challenges.

In other news, the doctor finally told me I could go out to eat “no problem.” Not in any restaurant, obviously, but he did say that it would be better for me to go on dates in a restaurant where I can custom order than resolve to cooking for random men in my home. So that’s a win!

I also learned that the peanut challenge is a full day affair, half day if I’m lucky. Since it’s so common, that challenge involves a double blind test with a placebo food. So peanuts are a ways away, as I can’t really take a day off work for a nut. I guess the question is: how much money is a peanut worth? A day’s pay + doctor copay? How much would you pay to be able to maybe eat peanuts and all the items that contain traces of peanuts?

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 11

Allergens: 5

Up Next: Hummus