And Two Years Later…Ruminations on Purim, Food, and Other Stuffs

I started this blog two years ago yesterday. Time flies, huh?

I remember going to the allergist for the first time two years ago, getting my test results, and freaking out that Purim, the Jewish holiday that involves not only a meal but an exchange of food gifts (imagine Halloween + Thanksgiving) was days away, and I didn’t know how to eat. A friend of mine and I went to a high-end kosher restaurant. I ordered off the menu and got mildly sick, which made sense given the state of shock my body was in then. Eating was a chore, figuring out what to eat was hard. I clung to my list of allergies at all times, fearful I’d forget something. Things got worse before they got better, and I resorted to a diet of eating the same foods only three times a week and eating nothing — NOTHING — that was prepared by someone other than me or a friend I could truly trust. No packaged or processed foods. 700-900 calories on a good day.

I don’t know how I did it.

Today, for instance, I ate chips, cheese, chocolate chips, soda, matzah, pasta, and canned beans. All foods that were off limits back then (I also ate other food today, don’t fret). I hate to say and am thrilled to say I took that all for granted. It’s become natural to me, again, to eat certain packaged foods. I’ve learned to count in my head (as the three times a week rule still applies). I don’t have a calendar, I just go with my gut, which usually knows when to stop.

I think about how far I’ve come, and what’s next. On Tuesday, I begin a treatment called Xolair. It’s complicated, and in the interest of not spreading misinformation because I’m a blogger not a doctor, I implore you to visit their website and consult your own physician before trusting me. But basically, there’s a chance Xolair can help mitigate my food allergies. There are risks involved (anaphylaxis among them) and it may not do anything at all, but if it works, I may be able to eat some foods I’m allergic to, or at least cross-contaminate with them.

Two years later…and I’m doing something I didn’t think I could: I’m getting better. Or at least trying to.

But I’m also terrified, I won’t lie. I’m terrified of the following:

1. Anaphylaxis. It’s a risk, and I just don’t want to experience it. I’m already on steroids to cope with pollen allergies, and I just want to get back to normal and sleep better and not have a near-death experience that incapacitates me. I’m trying to remember that this risk of anaphylaxis is okay because I’ll be at the doctor’s office, and that every time I eat food I’m somewhat at risk, especially outside of my own home, especially processed food. Every time I go to the grocery store, I’m at risk. So, why am I more afraid knowing on Tuesday there’s a new kind of risk? If anything, its safer. But I think it’s the same reason I don’t get the flu shot. I usually get fever and flu-like symptoms from vaccines, so the idea of scheduling the flu always seems sillier than taking my chances with the actual thing. This is like that, only flu = anaphylaxis. But, I’ll have medical care. Don’t be scared, Cindy.

2. The treatment not working. What a let down that will be. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and what if it’s not there? Science will improve, surely, and this isn’t my last chance, but right now my eggs are in this one basket and I am very scared that it’ll be for nothing. Can I live this way forever? Yes. But knowing there’s a teeny tiny chance I don’t have to? I don’t want that chance to be taken away.

3. The treatment working. What is the world like without food allergies? What if I could eat fish? What if I counted at catered events? What if I didn’t have to lug 4 epipens with me everywhere I went? What if I didn’t see kids with sticky fingers and get terrified of them touching me? What if people think that since this treatment worked, allergies aren’t real? What if they go away and come back? My whole paradigm might shift and it sounds extraordinary but it’s also like waking up one day and realizing you don’t speak the same language anymore. That the world you live in is at once the same and totally different. It might be AMAZING. I hope it is. But it’s scary, too. Will I become a binge eater? Will I like kale? More importantly, will I lose my sensitivity to others? I never want to eat nuts on an airplane. But if I can eat like a normal person, will I forget the tricks of the trade that keep my former peers safe? I have a sixth sense now. I’m like a food mentalist, tracking motions of foods and eating behaviours. Will that go away when I don’t have to care? And if so, will that jeopardize the people around me and the advocacy I’ve begun to treat as second nature?

All of these fears have occupied my headspace for months. I have found ways to talk myself out of each one. They even largely contradict each other. But they are swimming in the back of my mind.

Two years ago, I was terrified I’d never adjust to a new diet and a new set of rules and weekly food challenges. Now, I’m given the chance to not only go back to before that — the days of carefully eating out, of having 20 allergies instead of 50 — but to a place I’ve never been. I can do this.

Maybe next Purim, I will be able to partake in any feast. I will be able to give and receive Mishloach Manot baskets of food without fear. I’m lucky — this year and last, my friends and family went above and beyond to include me in the holiday — my parents had a friend bake me food I can eat, my friend hosted a feast I could partake in, and friends gave me unconventional food baskets tailored to my diet in the nicest ways. I feel bad wanting more, hoping that next year it will be easier on me and on them, because I’ve already been given so much and treated with such generosity. And yet…I’m excited.  I’m excited to not have to be an exception or a hindrance or even noticeably different.

These last two years have been rough but I’ve settled in. I’ve learned a lot about strength, food, friendship, family — not in that order — and it feels at once like no time has passed and like I’ve lived this way forever. So whatever’s next…whichever fear is realized…I know I can face it.

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So, Are You Gluten-Free?

I am not gluten-free.

First of all, I can eat loads of gluten (loads being a hyperbole. I can have rye, wheat, and barley three times a week each and can’t have spelt yet). I may be cottonseed oil-free, leafy green-free, fish-free, nut-free, pomegranate-free, horseradish-free, plum-free, peach-free, grapefruit-free, cauliflower-free, mushroom-free, gum-free, chickpea-free, etc., but bring on the gluten!

Oh yeah, and second of all, I’m not a food. Or the lack there of.

A cookie can be gluten-free. A burger. A menu option. Even a shampoo. Foods or products that one could suspect contain gluten can, in fact, turn out to be free of gluten.

People, on the other hand, do not contain gluten. Therefore, I’m as gluten-free as the best of them, but I’m also door-free, spoon-free, DVD-free, paper towel-free (is it obvious I’m just naming things I see in my apartment?).

I’m often asked, though, the titular question of this post: “So, are you gluten-free?” I always say, “No, I’m all about gluten, I just can’t have that bread because of x (where x=cottonseed oil; traces of nuts; untrustworthy factory; too-processed; not challenged yet, etc.).

I know it’s not meant to be a hurtful question. And most of the time, I don’t let it become one. I like to pretend I’m impervious to pain. But I’m not. And sometimes, a gnawing thought will come to my mind and I’ll recall the last time someone asked me if I was gluten-free and I just scream to myself, “No, I’m CINDY!”

Cindy.

I am a writer, a leader, an advocate, a doer, a thinker, a consultant, a reader, a TV-fanatic, a dog lover, a student, a teacher, a cook, a dancer, a rapper, a comedian, an ENFJ who teeters on the lines of ENTP. A friend, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a person. A Jew, a New Yorker, a Brooklynite, a Brandeisian, a sort-of Angelino, a Trojan.

I’m reminded of an art exhibit I read about recently that I can’t stop thinking about. A group of people were photographed with writing on their body indicating an identifying factor, and the photos were accompanied by a caption indicating what they were not. (http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/161489/provocative-photo-project-goes-viral-among-orthodox-students#undefined). I often ponder the questions of identity (there’s a whole rabbit hole there, and this isn’t the blog for it. Please see my other blog at www.aliceinwonderland.com for those questions #notreallymyblog), and I think some of that is because my identity often gets taken away from me.

What I mean is, I often first meet people in the context of meals. Food is how we socialize these days — especially in the Jewish community — so the first thing most people learn about me outside of a professional environment is “Cindy is allergic to lots of things (but isn’t gluten-free).” That’s fine, and my life depends on it, but there’s so much more. See above. That’s a partial list. And while I’m “the girl with the many food allergies” I’m not just “the girl with the many food allergies.” And I don’t want to be.

So why keep this blog, you ask? You, meaning anyone who’s ever had the above conversation with me in real life. For a few reasons. One, to update my family and friends on my challenge status. I neglected to mention in my “identity paragraph” (ew) that I’m a social butterfly (BH, that one’s for you, and for everyone else, it’s tongue-in-cheek). I live far away from my family and many friends, and this blog allows me to keep them (you?) updated with my progress without having to make a bunch of phone calls. Two, to keep a log for myself. I could keep a private diary, but the motivation is stronger when I know I’m accountable to an audience. This log has proven helpful as I’ve decided what to challenge, as I’ve looked back on recipes, as I’ve struggled to remember how far I’ve come. Records are important, and this is mine. Three, when I was first experiencing increased symptoms, I turned to Google because I was too scared to talk to most of my friends (though, T, thank you again for being my constant G-chat support and Benedryl enforcer). I found blogs to be helpful resources, but also primarily geared toward mothers or people who had more common allergies. I wanted to be a voice in the space for someone with multiple allergies, in their 20s, who had the allergies forever but saw them get worse. And some of you have reached out to me letting me know I’ve helped you — which means everything. When I see someone’s search query “allergy to horseradish???” I know that I made them feel like they weren’t crazy, something that’s rarely been done for me. In turn, and this is number Four, by seeing people’s queries, by interacting with readers, I feel like I’m not crazy. Someone else is allergic to horseradish. Therefore, I’m not making it up in my own life.

All of the above wins in the cost/benefit analysis of my identity issue. But. That doesn’t mean I want to be Super Allergic Cindy. I just want to be Cindy, whose food allergies are impactful but not any more identifying than someone’s IBS, cancer, insomnia, ADHD, etc. Not that those are all equal, but you get the point. Everyone’s got something. I have this. But that doesn’t mean I am this. Tener and Ser are two different verbs (thank you, Duolingo!)

I don’t need anyone to validate my scope of identity. But I would like it to be invalidated less often. And I know I’m not alone in this. So, instead of asking “Are you gluten-free?” next time someone doesn’t reach for the bread, try one of these two options:

1. Don’t ask anything, and let them not eat bread. Who are you, Marie Antoinette?

2. Ask, “Would you like me to steer clear of you with the bread because of a dietary restriction?”

Or, I guess, 3. “Do you not eat gluten/do you only eat gluten free?

Same goes for all food-related things. If you must know, ask about the food, not the person. But maybe don’t ask, and wait for someone to say something. My friend wrote an excellent piece about this on his new blog about living with Type 1 Diabetes, how we don’t know why other people eat the way they do and shouldn’t make assumptions about their habits. He’s right. And I promise, if my life is in danger, I’ll let you know.

Because I’m Cindy. And among other things, I’m the furthest thing from shy.

This is Cindy.

This is Cindy.

This is food.
This is food.

 

Food Challenge Round 36 & 37: Cindy vs. Balsamic Vinegar & Tequila

I promise, I don’t drink that much. Even though 5 of my 37 challenges have involved alcoholic beverages, I promise I don’t drink that much.

I just…I know I’m not really allergic to alcohol, and I’m too scared to try food. The almonds were so painful, and then I followed that up two weeks later with a restaurant experience gone wrong (will try to share when I feel fully emotionally healed), and I needed to just try things that felt safe so my body could continue to heal while I also increase my diet.

So I tried balsamic vinegar first. I had intended to eat it on peppers, but on the insistence of the nurse, I ate it plain. Dipped my pinky finger in it and licked it plain. Like it was Passover and I was dipping my finger in the wine for the plagues. 1. It was gross. 2. It was seriously gross. 3. My doctor was cracking up and finally realized why people like instagram (no, he didn’t instagram me, but he thought it would make a good moment. Further no, I still don’t get instagram). 4. I passed!

I asked if that meant I could have sulfites. I mean, seriously. Beer, rum, two kinds of wine, and vinegar — who are we kidding, I can have sulfites. Just because once some grape juice kicked my ass doesn’t mean I’m reactive to sulfites. So the doctor said I could try one more alcohol and be cleared for all sulfite beverages…meaning all wines…yes!

Hence, the tequila.

I had never done a tequila shot before. My tequila was strictly reserved for margaritas and on screen via Meredith Grey. But, apparently, challenging a margarita could yield incorrect results as who knows if the margarita ingredients were the issue, so, a shot it was. And not a shot with salt and lime. Just plain ol’ tequila.

At 7:30am.

Which I thought would be horrifying.

Turns out it was perfectly pleasant.

Please note again, I don’t drink that much.

But damn. Tequila is way better than vodka. It hits you hard. It’s lighter than I expected. I could drink it again. And I will. Because I passed. So now…all wines!

I’ll still favor cabernet sauvignon. It’s been a good friend and it’s delicious. But not having to worry every Shabbat that I’ll miss out on kiddush, the blessing over wine, because I’m at a dinner where the wine served isn’t cab sav — that’s a weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s hard to explain how happy I am, how relieved, how normal I feel now.

Who knew a tequila shot could be so strong?

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy: 27

Allergens: 4

Food Challenges Round 31- 35: Cindy vs. Peanut Butter and Pretzels, Sauteed Onions, Special K, White Wine, and Almonds

Lots of food challenges to catch up on. Things have been hectic with a ton of weddings, switching jobs, and holidays. But here’s the deal:

Most of the challenges went swimmingly. I can now have 3 tsps of peanut butter, Utz Halloween pretzels (in case the factory processes the regular pretzels differently), ALL ONIONS (the third challenge of onions opened all those doors up — and shallots and leeks, too!), Special K cereal (and cereals with similarly low trace amounts of wheat, though I should still avoid them if I can), and sauvignon blanc.

I can’t have almonds, as I learned today. Today, I bit into the top of an almond, chewed it, paused, and put the rest on the allergist’s desk. “No more. I want medicine.”

My lip was tingling and my ears were starting to burn. I’ve gotten really good at sensing the beginning of a reaction. The other foods just felt like foods when I tried them, but this almond tip felt like poison and anger. But now I know: I avoid traces of nuts for a reason.

Thank God I didn’t need epi – just benedryl, steroids, and sleep (why is it that steroid injections don’t make me as weird as the pills?). My throat is aching, my face is mildly swollen (I can feel it and I can tell, but unless someone’s used to my face, they wouldn’t know that my right cheek is over-puffing and throbbing). But I’m ok. I caught myself before I got too far. Now I know — no nuts.

Maybe when I’m off the meds I’ll console myself with a nice bottle of wine, because I CAN.

Sidenote: tonight is the Jewish New Year for trees, and it’s traditional to try new fruits and to eat almonds. Good timing, right, Cind? Guess I’ll just find a bonsai tree or something to celebrate.

The tip of one of these had me sleeping all day.

The tip of one of these had me sleeping all day.

Cooking for Sukkot Part 3

Tonight, I finished the pre-holiday cooking. It was pretty uneventful, which is good, because I’m hella tired. 

Curry Chicken

Curry Chicken – I sprinkled on cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger and some canola oil. I couldn’t tell you how long I cooked it for if I tried. I was seriously thisclose to falling asleep when I put it in the oven, did a bunch of things around the house anyway, prepared the upcoming carrot cake and then eventually checked on the chicken and it was done. Maybe 40 minutes on 350? Maybe more? Seriously, who knows?

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake – followed this recipe minus the walnuts: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/carrot-cake/64acd01e-14ad-4e03-9fe1-b62b03ff4667. Can’t remember the last time I baked following a recipe exactly. Hope it came out good.

The good news is, with all the cooking, I still fixed a sukkah, ate dinner (for reals!) and watched Fox’s new comedy block minus The Mindy Project. God, I missed New Girl. 

Still to cook (but won’t blog because it’ll be sukkot already):

grilled asparagus, peppers, zuchinni, eggplant

corn on the cob

green beans (sauteed with garlic)

lentils

pineapple fritters (fried pineapple coated in garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika…you can also bread it if you want but I’ll likely be lazy).

roasted pears (seasoned with tarragon, ginger, and brown sugar; might not do the tarragon this go-round)

roasted carrots (seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary)

Grill pans are the greatest invention of all time. If you don’t have one, buy one. Best gift I ever got. Except maybe an M&M dispenser filled with M&Ms in the exact color order I wanted without my knowledge. That was a good gift, too. 

Less good gift? The hives that keep appearing on my neck sporadically. Kind of think they’re exhaustion related since I’m not eating. Are exhaustion hives a thing?

No matter. Grill pans, chicken, carrot cake, and half my cooking done means I can rest happy.

Cooking for Sukkot Part 2

The cooking saga continues…but tonight’s dishes were a little less intense. Which may be why I decided to make beef ribs at 11:30pm for lunch tomorrow?

I’ve been to three different grocery stores this week so far – Whole Foods (per usual), the kosher market (also usual, though less frequent than WF, which I’m now calling WF, so get on board), and Ralph’s which I go to almost never.

And I have suspicious feeling I’ll need to go again. Because three zuchinnis does not feed 8 people. Though, I also have about a hundred peppers (or three packages) for one meal of 8 and one meal of me, and two unnecessary circle boxes (what is the word for those yellow containers?) of tomatoes, so maybe I’ll make a medley of sorts. Even though veggie medleys with tomatoes remind me of ratatouille at Brandeis which was/is the bane of my existence because it was a)gross and b)full of hidden mushrooms which meant that c)it made my allergies worse. But anyway. I digress.

Tonight, I cooked:

White Rice

White rice. Now don’t get excited. It’s plain white rice with a little salt. For instructions, see a package of rice. I believe this is Indian Basmati if we want to get really specific.

Curried Sweet Potatoes

 

Curried sweet potatoes –

thinly slice sweet potatoes. Place in pan that’s coated with oil (I used safflower). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and parsley to taste.  Drizzle on more oil til moist. Mix. Cook until potatoes are soft. This totally depends on your oven. Usually it takes me 30 min at 400, but this time it too me 50 on 350. So whatever works for you. Bottom line is these taste like chicken and are awesome. And also I stole this recipe from a friend, so thanks, Al.

Lentils

 

Lentils – self explanatory. Follow the instructions on the bag. I use red lentils. I just added salt, pepper, and garlic to the water. Not sure I made enough though, so may have to revisit this tomorrow, too. We’ll see.

Potatoes with Rosemary

Potatoes – slice thinly. I liked to halve and quarter the slices, too. Coat the pan in oil. Again, I used safflower. Any will do. (Like Joseph’s dreams. Damn, I’m tired). Sprinkle on rosemary, garlic, and salt to taste. Then a teensy bit more oil, mix, and cook. See sweet potatoes re: timing, as in oven times may vary, etc. but these take about 20 min on 400. These should be soft yet crunchy. So like not mushy but not raw. You know a cooked potato when you see one because it takes all your willpower not to eat it.

And for funsies, my lunch for tomorrow — beef ribs and tomatoes: put on grill pan. Add rosemary. Cook until desired tenderness. I like them well done but also I’m tired so I can’t care much.

Grilled Beef Ribs with Tomato

Did I mention I also have the lofty plans of watching Sleepy Hollow and The Newsroom tonight? Oh, but it’s midnight. This is that other kind of Cinderella story, where midnight comes and screws things up.

 

Cooking for Sukkot: Part 1

It’s holiday season in Jewish land! Which means a TON of feasting. And a ton of cooking.

This time of year has been scary for me the past few years, because I have to figure out how to cram multiple feasts into my lifestyle, keeping in mind my three times a week rule and the everything homemade rule.

First of all, I need to give a shoutout to my mom and sister who made Rosh Hashana so much easier than it would have been. They slaved for a while to make sure I could eat well.

And now, it’s up to me to finish off the season with Sukkot. Luckily, I’m not cooking ALL six meals (Wed dinner – Sat lunch, not including breakfasts). Just 3 large ones, contributing one dish to a potluck, and having small meals that are just for me. Still, this kind of task can be daunting. For anyone, but especially when it comes to specific dietary needs.

But I am proof that it’s doable!

Here’s night one of cooking — recipes are either stolen or from my gut, or a combo. My apologies for the low quality pictures. Just go back in time to when Blackberries were the bomb diggity, and you’ll be like, WOAH, your phone took that picture???

Also, these are for two separate meals. More sides for each of these meals to come…

Herbed Chicken

Herbed chicken:

chicken , canola oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, black pepper. Cook at 400 until the juices run dry, anywhere from 30-45 minutes

Butternut Squash Kugel

Butternut Squash Pie/Kugel

http://www.joyofkosher.com/recipe/butternut-squash-souffl/

In the above recipe, I use frozen butternut squash cubes that I stick in the food processor. It’s also AMAZING with oat flour, but use 3/4 cups instead. This is my first time making it with maple syrup and cinnamon. Substituted ginger for nutmeg.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

Sauce: tomato puree, garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper

Cook in layers: sauce, small pieces of eggplant, pizza cheese, sauce, eggplant, pizza cheese, sauce, eggplant, cheddar cheese, sauce, parmesan cheese. Cook at 400 for 30 min covered, then 10 uncovered.

 

Gnocchi in maple butter sauce

 

Gnocchi in maple butter sauce

Gnocchi: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/gnocchi-i/ (make sure to follow this recipe. I recently tried to make this while I was exhausted, and wound up reading the instructions wrong and mixing the flour without the sweet potato. And then I had this whole to-do where I burned my fingers. And then the gnocchis wouldn’t stick. I wound up with what I call inside out ravioli casserole. It was DELECTABLE. But ugly. Not that these gnocchi are gorgeous, but they are at least a shape.

Sauce: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/sweet-potato-gnocchi-with-maple-cinnamon-sage-brown-butter-recipe/index.html – I substituted parsley and garlic for cinnamon, pepper, and sage. We’ll see how it goes!

Tons more to cook before Wednesday. But I’m happy and proud. I can eat really interesting, fun dishes. No need to be bland just because there are foods I can’t eat!

Food Challenge 28: Cindy vs. Maple Syrup

The food challenge was the least interesting part of my appointment this morning. First of all, I apparently cancelled my appointment on Friday when I called the doctor with emergency throat swelling, but I was not 100% on my game during that call and may not have actually said, “I want to not challenge food but I want to keep the appointment.” In any event, I brought food to challenge anyway, because when I woke up this morning, it seemed silly to go there just to say hi. So I settled on maple syrup, since I was pretty sure I could eat it (spoiler alert: I can) and just hadn’t been because a) I like pancakes better with sugar and b)trees have scared me since the pollen shots.

Anyway.

The reason this challenge is interesting, is because the doctor tried to set me up with another patient who was in for skin testing. It was like something out of a sitcom. Suddenly, the whole office turned into a bunch of yentas – “you’d be such a good match, both allergic to fish!” and “tell him what happens when you’re near horseradish at a bar mitzvah!” Allergist, allergist, make me a match…find me a find…

I rolled with the punches, of course. My suggested beau was way more tolerant of the skin test pain than I’d ever been, barely flinching. My fish test made me cry. Of course, I awkwardly told him that. And when his accompanying mother (apparently, she’s the usual patient) asked me if I could have lox (no) I decided to tell them how as a kid, all I wanted was chocolate covered lox, since I didn’t know what either tasted like but my friends all liked both. We got a good laugh. Which was nice, since the story was preceded by, “Did Cindy tell you she writes comedy videos? Come on, tell them about the videos! They’re funny!” So I guess I proved that?

There’s no wedding date set, but hey. They say it’s best to meet men by sharing a hobby/common interest; maybe an allergist and a shared fish allergy is the same thing?

“What do you do for fun?”

“I build model airplanes. And you?”

“I’m allergic to fish.”

Plus, I bet we can both have maple syrup.

Oh, and ps. I had no reason to be scared of maple syrup. It doesn’t have pollen in it. Neither does honey. Just an FYI. I love how much I learn every time I do a challenge. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to these appointments. If you’re going to risk your life challenging a food, it may as well be with one of the best doctors around who also happens to be super fun.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 20

Allergens: 6

Up Next: Onion powder

Things I Learned Tonight While On Benedryl

1. Don’t touch people in grocery stores.

2. Don’t go to the checkout aisle with gefilte fish on the conveyor belt

(one of the above might actually be ok. There’s no telling which, and there’s no telling if it’s the combo)

3. Try to always bring a new bottle of water in the car when driving in case you need to pop some Benedryl on location, and the water that sat in your car all day is burning hot from the 90 degree sun.

4. Singing/rapping is a good test to see if your throat is closing. But also, singing “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and “As Long as He Needs Me” for the better part of an hour is not great for your throat. If you get hoarse, scratchy or generally irritated it might be because you’re NOT a Broadway star.

5. It is possible to cook 95% of a shabbat dinner plus tonights dinner while on Benedryl. And also random turkey burgers because it’s hard to remember that freezers exist while you’re cooking on Benedryl. And also that you can’t eat 4 turkey burgers in one day.

6. The above cooking is tiring. Sitting down feels much better.

7. Sitting down is important.

8. Like, super important.

9. Stopping to sing is also important.

10. Lists should always have ten things.

THE JOYS OF AIRBORNE ALLERGIES!

Food Challenge Rounds 20 & 21: Cindy vs. Apricot and Cottonseed Oil

I didn’t get a chance to write about last week’s food challenge – dried apricots – but that’s pretty ok, considering how uneventful it was. Basically, I ate a bunch of apricots, talked to the doctor for ten minutes, went home, and went on with my life. You know, the way normal people eat food. They just eat it. It was cool to experience that with a food I’ve been terrified of for basically my whole life for no other reason than I can’t tell the difference between an apricot, a peach, and a nectarine and that unsettles me.

So woohoo! I can eat apricots! Celebrate good times, come on. Or something.

I'd rather eat an apricot than cottonseed oil anyway.

I’d rather eat an apricot than cottonseed oil anyway.

Today’s cottonseed oil challenge was a whole ‘nother story. One that starts with two bites of an omelet fried in cottonseed oil and two baby bites of a sweet potato drizzled with cottonseed oil and ends with anaphylaxis.

This was the quickest and most severe reaction I’ve ever had. I started coughing at the second bit of the sweet potato, but figured that sometimes people cough, and took a second bite of the egg (I was alternating sweet potato, egg, sweet potato, egg to make sure I didn’t eat too quickly). After that second bite, I pushed the tupperware away and started panting. The doctor looked at me and kneeled down to be eye level to my sitting in the office chair and asked what was happening.

“Help” was all I could say.

He ran to tell the nurse to prep the epi injection, and came back and said “Tell me what you feel.” Through gulps of air, I explained that I felt like I was running a marathon but I didn’t run marathon and the air was not coming out and I was scared.

The nurse shot me with the epi and then took me to a room for a Benedryl injection. I stayed there shaking for a little while and then poked my head out because my throat started feeling tighter and tighter. They switched my room because the patient occupying the closest room to the doctor’s actual office had finally left (ok, so it was 20 minutes and that person is entitled to be a patient, too, I guess) and gave me more epi. So that meant more shaking but some major relief.

I just sat on the exam table without moving for a really long time, staring off into space, unable to lie down or close my eyes because I was too out of it. Finally, I mustered the strength to take a nap. I woke up periodically for more medicine – some inhaled steroids, more Benedryl – but essentially just lay there sleeping. I’d say “dead to the world” because that’s the accurate idiom, but considering I could have actually died that doesn’t seem so cool anymore).  The nurse brought me some extra sweaters and jackets because I was freezing — it was about 80 degrees in the office and I could hear all the patients complaining about the heat and the nurses on the phone with the building to fix the thermostat, but I was freezing in my t-shirt, sweater, and shearling jacket.

Finally, at around 1pm, I woke up and had enough strength to stand up. I’d been at the doctor since 7:30am. I started eating at about 7:40, and got sick at 7:45. That’s a long time to be at the doctor. They joked that I worked there, and never one to miss moment, I suggested they pay me for my time. They responded they charge by the hour, and we all had a good laugh.

I had enough strength to drive the mile home, which was good, even though the valet guy who is the best in the world offered to drive me home, and  told me he would drive me home at any point if I was this sick. Such a good hearted man.

I got home, called my mom, and slept on and off for the next 5 and a half hours. I’d be perfectly awake one minute, just lying down, and the next minute, I’d look at the time on my tv and realize I’d been asleep for 40 minutes. I guess 100mg of Benadryl, 2-ish doses of epi, and not breathing will do that to you. Kind of knocked the wind out of my sails, but hey. I learned something.

Actually, I learned a few things:

1. I can never have Pringles again (until the food industry realizes cottonseed oil is so unhealthy and they switch to canola)

2. A hello kitty bandaid makes everything better. I’ll totally take Benadryl injections into my hip if it means getting some hello kitty fun.

3. Passover is my favorite holiday even though it’s really not accommodating of my allergies. Like, seriously? Maror and cottonseed oil? Come on.

4. Epinephrine really does work and it’s not scary. Not breathing is scary. Breathing is great.

5. Rapping Nicki Minaj is a good test to see if I can breathe. Because I tried it quietly at the doctor’s office, and only got to the line “he ill, he real, he might got a deal” before I started panting — and that’s only the 5th line.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 14

Allergens: 7

Next Up: Grape Juice (for sulfites and passover. and bc I’m 99.9% sure it’s fine since I have other wine and grapes and raisins and there’s no way I can do a rough challenge while I recover from this lovely bout of anaphylaxis).