Wearing a Scarf in the Grocery Store

I’m taking a writing class, and wrote a rant last week when I had to deal with the drama of paying out of pocket for my Epi-pen to replace my Auvi-Q. The rant kind of broke me, and maybe some day I’ll post a version of it here, but for now, I want to keep it tucked away in that spot in my mind where the realities of anaphylaxis live.

In the rant, though, I referenced having to wear scarves at the grocery store, and this caught the attention of my workshop peers. They wanted to know more about that experience, and their curiosity piqued my interest, because I’m not really sure what there is to say. You know when you do something that you find to be virtually mundane and someone says, “wow, that’s interesting?” and then you think about it, and you think, “oh, I guess it is interesting.” Like when someone is friends with a celebrity, and to them the celebrity is just their buddy but to the rest of the world, it’s Brad Pitt. (No, I don’t know any of Brad Pitt’s friends).

Me, in one of my scarves.

Me, in one of my scarves.

So, “Wearing Scarves in the Grocery Store: a decidedly curious exploration of what having airborne allergies is like” 

When I was younger, only one of my allergies was airborne, but I don’t think I ever used that word. The allergen was, of course, horseradish. My experience of its airborne-ness was that the one time a year we ate it, on Passover, I would leave the house when my mother would grate it. I was fine with it out and grated, but during the grating, no matter where I was in the house, I would get sick. It was the perfect time to do errands before the Passover Seder. It never once bothered me to the leave the house; I actually looked forward to it as my special break to go do errands and report back on what I saw in the ruckus outside.

When I was 15, I began to experience more airborne allergies. Specifically, to cabbage. I surmise, though there’s no way to verify it, that it was the stench of September 11 that affected my body. There were all sorts of FEMA indications that people with asthma and allergies would have worsened symptoms, so it was unsurprising to me that constant exposure to cole slaw that summer on my teen tour of the West Coast led to mild reactions. Mild meaning headaches, dizziness. Nothing too crazy by my standards, but my standards are, well, not typical.

In college, over exposure in the dining halls made my allergens worsen significantly. My list of airborne allergens grew to include all leafy greens. That was fun. When I went to the grocery store, I would simply avoid the section with the lettuce, and stay on the other side of vegetable aisle. If I was lucky — and I often was, as I tended to grocery shop in college with friends or at home with my mom — I stayed outside of the vegetable aisle all together and hung out in the adjacent aisle reading boxes of things. I didn’t always want to read boxes, and often insisted on trying my luck with the vegetables (“oh, I’ll just stand near the tomatoes…”there’s this thing called denial that’s really important) but my friends and family were really good at protecting me from myself.

And then I moved to LA, and lived alone, and had to grocery shop alone. Which was fine for a while. I could run through the aisles quickly, I could cover my nose and mouth if I ever had to pass the lettuce section. And then, it was 2012, and I started this blog because my allergies got crazy worse, and also kale and horseradish got more en vogue, and grocery shopping became harder.

I would go to the vegetable aisle and break out in hives, or have my throat swell. I would pop Benadryl in the supermarket, but then be all woozy while I shopped. It was totally unproductive. I was incredibly fortunate to have a friend offer to go shopping for me — really, N, you saved my life and my sanity a lot, and I am forever indebted — but sometimes I would forget I needed an ingredient and have to go myself. If it was between February and May, and horseradish was in season, all bets were off. I talked to my doctor about options. He suggested I wear a surgical mask. But since I don’t live in Singapore, I really didn’t want to. I have pride, you know? What was I going to do, go to the Whole Foods in Beverly Hills looking like I was scared of SARS?

But then I thought of scarves. Really, scarves are a genius invention. I often wore scarves to work because it was an easy way to dress up a T-shirt for the office, and I’d be damned if I was going to sit at a desk for 10+ hours in a fancy shirt. But scarves can also double as face masks. So, I would put on a scarf if I was planning to go grocery shopping, and in the vegetable aisle, I would lift the scarf to cover my mouth and nose. Not the chicest look, but less awkward than a surgical mask!

Sometimes, though, if I forgot a scarf, or had a last minute trip, I’d run into trouble. I broke down in tears a few times when I realized I wasn’t wearing a scarf and was really hungry and needed food and couldn’t decide what was a better option: eating less or worse food for dinner or braving the grocery store. How fast could I run in and out of the aisle? Six seconds? You should see me shop, by the way. I’m like the Flash. Lightning fast. In and out and don’t linger.

Now, though, I don’t need the scarf. That’s the biggest thing Xolair has brought to my life. Sure, it’s nice to eat spinach salad (usually I pick out the spinach), and it’s really nice to sit in restaurants, but it’s SO NICE TO GROCERY SHOP WITHOUT A SCARF. It’s nice to be able to go to this tiny little produce market with no windows or non-produce aisles and examine my fruits and vegetables before plopping them in my basket. Even with the scarf, I used to just take from the middle (less likely to cross contaminate) and run. I would still avoid shelves too crowded with allergens — like if eggplants, which are absorbent, were next to broccoli, I wouldn’t buy eggplant. Which was hard, because I can’t really eat that much to begin with, and my diet has to stay varied, and eggplant is really important structurally to my meal plans. That’s past Cindy’s problem, though. With Xolair, and its mitigation of my allergies, I can pop by a store on a scarfless whim and buy an eggplant no matter where its staged on the shelf.

In fact, I haven’t worn most of my scarves in a while. Except on airplanes. I don’t want to be caught with stale air on a flight where someone decides to eat wasabi snacks (now sold in LAX!) and tempt fate. But my grocery scarves are now travel scarves, and who knows…some day they might just be scarves…

And side note: the writing group is a Muslim/Jewish writing group, and it’s really interesting to me that I’ve found ways to incorporate scarves into my wardrobe for a totally non-fashion related reason, and many of my Muslim friends do the same to cover their heads for prayer. While I was thinking, “I can’t leave my house without a scarf today” I’m glad to know I had friends-to-be-made that were doing the same, creating a kind of retroactive kinship.

Advertisements

Food Challenge Round 40: Cindy vs. Lox

When I was a child, one of the things I wanted most in the world was to grow up and eat chocolate covered lox. Now, before you gag, understand: my friends/peers would only make me feel bad about being allergic to two foods — chocolate, because what kids don’t like chocolate; and lox, because it’s a staple of the American Jewish diet. I hadn’t ever tasted either, so I assumed if everyone loved both, eating them together would be stupendous. I’d tell my family and my doctor that when I grew up, I’d eat chocolate covered lox.

Today, I learned that dreams do come true — just not how you’d expect.

I challenged lox today in my second post-Xolair challenge. It started off like spinach — touched it, rubbed it on my fingers, freaked out about my lack of hives. Did ya’ll know fish is super slimy? Gross.

Then it stopped being like spinach.

I took a bit of the lox — like a sliver the size of my thumb — and put it in my mouth. Spit it out on the doctor’s desk almost immediately and shouted “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Fish, it seems, is an acquired taste.

I didn’t want to eat more. It was vile. And slimy. And gross. But I want to be able to eat fish. So, after whining overdramatically and having the nurse come in to soothe me, I took a bite. I swallowed. I SWALLOWED FISH. LIKE A SEA LION. I haven’t swallowed fish in years — maybe since I was a toddler. Never swallowed lox. It never got that far.

I then asked the nurse if I could take a bite of chocolate to fulfill my dream. She said sure. With the taste of lox fresh on my tongue, I ate a piece of chocolate. And you know what I have to say to all you naysayers out there who gagged in the beginning of this post? The tastes sort of blended. Like chocolate covered pretzels. Bittersweet chocolate with a salty smoky edge. If Gwyneth Paltrow “Goop’ed” it the whole world would be on that like it was a kale chip.

My dream of opening a lox and chocolate factory was soon dismantled. I got extremely nauseous. The doctor tossed me his trash bin. I didn’t use it. But I started feeling off. Ear burning, throat scratchy (though that was solved with water). My vision was intact and there was no sign of hives — both the typical symptoms I’ve gotten from touching fish — but I was lethargic, cranky, and groggy. Also typical symptoms of close encounters with the sea kind.

I stayed for monitoring and just kept getting more nauseous. The doctor gave me Claritin, which helped. We assessed that I can’t eat lox, though if I want to, I can challenge other fish and other cooked salmons (I may not want to). We also assessed that my threshold had significantly changed — I could now swallow fish without a severe reaction. A reaction not even worthy of Benedryl! This means I can touch it, I can be near it, and most importantly — I can now go to restaurants, not just in LA, but anywhere careful.

Am I disappointed that I can’t eat fish? Sort of. Am I cranky because I still don’t feel great? Sure am. But, I’m also really happy, and here’s why:

1. I grew up to eat chocolate and lox, and even though I’d given up on that dream long ago, it still feels great to have achieved it, even for a moment. The world is never how we expect it to be, but it sometimes surprises you and lets you have a taste of something you really really really wanted. I’m feeling very empowered.

2. I can now get closer to fish than ever before. I can feed a sea lion. I can go to the New York Aquarium and touch the starfish. As a kid, when we’d go there on class trips, I’d sit in the hallway by this fountain thing and wait until my whole class had touched the fish and soaped their hands. No chaperone ever stayed with me (seriously, the 90s were cool) and while my friends joined me once they were done, I was alone for most of the time and bored to tears — and also sad. Like, really left out sad. But now, I can touch the fish like the rest of them. Also, zoos and aquariums aside, I can be around fish eaters. Cooking just got so much easier for large family gatherings. I can clear off a plate that had lox on it and help my dad out after he’s done eating. That’s big.

3. It’s confirmed that the food challenges I’m set to do to keep assessing the Xolair aren’t for naught — each allergen will have a different threshold, and it’s important to find out what they are. But they’ll all be better. BETTER. That’s pretty damn good.

A keeper at my old stomping ground, the Prospect Park Zoo. I could be her!

A keeper at my old stomping ground, the Prospect Park Zoo. I could be her!

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 28

Allergens: 5

Next Up: Vote?

Food Challenges Rounds 25 & 26: Cindy vs. Peanut Butter (2tsp) and Rum

This week, I completed one year of food challenges! When I started this process a year ago, I thought for sure it’d be quick, that I’d do a few food challenges, and get a nice amount of food back into my life pretty quickly. When my doctor told me he thought it’d be a good year before that happened, I was totally sidelined and confused. Now that it’s been a year, I am grateful for all the foods that are back in my life, but also still running through the list. Fine, so I didn’t do a challenge every. single. week of the year — had to take breaks for holidays, anaphylaxis, and important work events — but 26/52 is a lot. I imagine I have another year left to go. And honestly, it’s not so bad. Keeps my weeks interesting, it’s good to check in with the doctor and get my questions answered regularly, and when I succeed, it’s great. There are some foods I’ve incorporated less than others (I really should eat more barley…but I imagine I will come the winter, something about barley in the summer seems weird even though the weather doesn’t change here), and some that have become staples again (wheat, sunflower oil, lentils). I’ve learned a lot about my body in the last year, about food in general, and about courage. I still get scared every week, but I keep going back. And when it’s fine, it’s really fine. And when it’s anaphylaxis, I just shake a lot and get really cold and feel out of it for a week. That’s what blankets are for, right?

Anyway, so my last two food challenges went really well. So well that the blogging need wasn’t that immediate. I can now have two teaspoons of peanut butter, which is awesome. It’s still not enough for me to actually eat – I can’t seem to figure out the proper occasion for two teaspoons of peanut butter, and am scared I’ll start eating it and want more and get sad, plus I can’t eat crackers that I don’t make myself and that’s not worth two teaspoons – but I will try more soon. I have to take a break to make sure I don’t overdose, so those challenges will come down the road.

After the two teaspoons of peanut butter, I was going to try wine vinegar. But I couldn’t really settle on a recipe with wine vinegar that a) would be normal at 7:30am and b) I’d actually make often. People often get annoyed when I can’t eat wine vinegar, but I never liked the taste and never cook with it myself. Still, I was going to try it to succumb to the peer pressure.  But I couldn’t get to the kosher grocery store in time, and Ralph’s didn’t have any kosher brands. PS, I hadn’t been in Ralph’s in forever, and can I just say, that place is SUPER BRIGHT. Like, I don’t know how people can even see properly after shopping there. I have become a Whole Foods/Farmer’s Market Snob. Penn and Teller would hate me. That makes me question a lot of things. I don’t want Penn and Teller to hate me. I don’t want the version of myself who used to traipse around the Whole Foods in Union Square angrily and bitterly to hate me, either. But that girl could eat more, so what does she know?

Anyway…

I couldn’t find the wine vinegar in the brightly lit supermarket. I decided to wander around trying to find something else to try. This is maybe the most depressing thing a person with my allergy list (aka me, I’m unique that way) can do. If you can’t have processed food and you can’t have lots of unprocessed food, a supermarket is just miserable. I looked at all the aisles, all filled with things I couldn’t have, and got overwhelmed by how much there was to try. Did I try another cereal? No, aren’t Honeycomb, Kix, Chex, and Captain Crunch enough? What kind of person needs Frosted Flakes (omg, me). Did I try Entenmann’s donuts? Almost, but I could just picture my doctor’s face when I brought those in, my mother’s reaction to that phone call, and just the general public’s “what’s wrong with you, who needs donuts?” collective sigh. And also I was scared to read the ingredients and see cottonseed oil and know I could never try them again. (Just googled the ingredients for glazed pop ’ems which would be the kind I’d try, and they have xanthan gum in them. So fuck Entenmann’s. They are not on team Xanthan Gum is evil).

I thought about trying other sauces. Maybe a mustard with “spices?” Maybe a different kind of pickle? But all of those foods seemed useless to me in my life. And it was close to 11pm and I was getting tired. So I decided to try white wine. I headed over to the alcohol section, but I couldn’t decide which wine to try. Pinot Grigio? Chardonnay? It’s been so long since I had white wine, and the last one I had was Moscato (which I couldn’t find) that I just got overwhelmed. Plus, if I can have red wine, then is it that important that I have white wine? And then I realized — RUM!

This year on Cindystock, we gonna sip Bacardi like it's my birthday.

This year on Cindystock, we gonna sip Bacardi like it’s my birthday.

The last few times I’ve been at bars, I’d had too much wheat for Heineken and the bars didn’t have corn or potato vodka. Not that I’m the biggest drinker, but I do get “drinks” for work, and it’s frustrating when I do go out to have to look through the menu and not drink. Especially when I make someone else be the designated driver, or pay for a cab. That’s just rude to someone else’s night. But rum…rum is on every menu. And I didn’t think I’d be allergic to it. So I grabbed a bottle of Bacardi for myself and one for the doctor and nurses as a thank you for a year of food challenges gift, and 8 and a half hours later, had a rum and coke in the doctor’s office.

I passed! Not surprised, but very happy.

Also, after the overwhelmed feeling the night before and the stress of a food challenge, it was sort of nice to have a shot and a half of rum first thing in the morning. Not to become an alcoholic or anything, but after the panic and fear before every food challenge, getting a little relaxer in is sort of nice.

I celebrated that night at karaoke, where I rapped like nobody’s business. I’m getting better at that, now that it’s my go-to check to see if I’m breathing. I’ll be Nicki Minaj yet!

On Monday, I’m going to re-challenge some foods I stubbornly believe I can have but just overdosed on at my last challenge of them. Olive oil is Monday (scared), onion powder the week after (scared), and pasta after that (petrified, mostly because I’ll be so mad if it doesn’t work).

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY:

Cindy: 18

Allergens: 7

Undecided: 1

Up Next: Olive Oil, take two.

Food Challenge 22: Cindy vs. Green Peppers

This was perhaps the silliest food challenge yet. I expected it to be uneventful because I wanted to start slow on this new post-anaphylaxis round of challenges. (In case you’re wondering why it’s been so long, I had to take a break after the cottonseed oil anaphylaxis and subsequent overreactions, and then Passover got in the way, and then work was too busy for me to take risks).

Anyway. I decided to try green peppers because they are around a lot, in spices and in general. And I used to love them more than any other pepper. And I can eat all the other colors. So I thought, “shoe in!”

Nope.

I mean, maybe nope.

The first time I ever had a green pepper, I said it tasted like spoons. Specifically, the dairy spoons from my parents’ house. This grilled green pepper, of which I had one bite, tasted like old metal pipes in dishwashing liquid.

Green peppers or dishwashing liquid? You decide because my taste buds simply don't know.

Green peppers or dishwashing liquid? You decide because my taste buds simply don’t know.

As I chewed the bite, I started making a horrible face. The doctor took one look at me, said “Oh, the pleasant face,” and handed me a trash can to spit it out before I got sick. The last time I made a face even half as horrible was avocado and we all know how that turned out. (If you don’t, read about it here).

So no green peppers for me. Not a confirmed allergen, but a confirmed disgusting food. For now, at least.

The good news, though, is that when I first started going to this allergist, he told me we’d talk about allergy shots when he thought I was in a better place. We talked about allergy shots, so I must be in a better place! I’m getting scratch-tested on Monday for environmental allergies (anyone have a good playlist to distract me from the horrible pain of that test? Or something fun to read? I read Mindy Kaling’s pilot last time, so I’ll take another pilot recommendation). Depending on how that goes, I’ll start getting shots.

So essentially, I’ll be at the office once a week for shots and once a week for challenges. 2 out of the 4 days its open.

Does that mean I qualify as a Beverly Hills resident?

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 14

Allergens: 7

Undecided: 1

Next Up: I’m taking suggestions.

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

Food Challenge Round 14: Cindy vs. Wine (Sulfites)

It’s fitting that on the day I drink wine at my doctor’s office at 7:30am, I also spend the rest of the day at the Cougartown set*. While I drank out of a plastic purple Solo cup and not Big Joe or Big Carl, I know Jules Cobb would have traded places with me any day. In fact, if she or any of the Cul de Sac crew had my list of allergies, I’d bet the first — and not fourteenth — challenge would be with wine.

*I was not actually shooting Cougartown, we were just shooting an upcoming webseries basically in their space. But yes, I saw almost the whole crew (minus Andy and Travis) as well as the writers, and damn, those are some fantastically talented people. 

What would my doctor have said if I brought Big Joe to his office?

What would my doctor have said if I brought Big Joe to his office?

Anyway.

I challenged wine this morning because in early April, towards the end of my original 30-day elimination diet, I had some grape juice and had a pretty bad reaction. White wine had less of a reaction but still an evident one. On the eve Passover (the holiday where, like, you know, you drink 4 cups of wine, but whatever) the doctor told me I was no longer allowed to drink wine that had added sulfites, as sulfites commonly cause a chemical reaction that’s similar to an allergic reaction (but NOT an allergic reaction. You can’t be allergic to sulfites. Just intolerant). So I’ve been drinking Elima wine, which is kosher no added sulfites wine that costs an exorbitant amount and while it’s decent, is not worth a weekly purchase for kiddush, the Sabbath blessing over wine. Especially because it doesn’t hold overnight. It’s missing the preservatives so it doesn’t quite preserve.

After calling the Herzog winery to find out if they use isinglass (ie fish bladder) in their wine, like many wineries do, I found that isinglass isn’t kosher for Passover, so they don’t use it, and therefore, I can safely test their wine. I can’t get anywhere near fish, of course. Side story: a few of weeks ago, someone in my office ate fish and I broke out in hives and had throat tightness for 2 days. That was fun. It also knocked fish bladder clear off the list.

So this morning, I brought a bottle of Jeunesse, a cabernet sauvignon to the doctor’s office, poured a Solo cup, and drank wine while everyone in the office — doctor, nurse, patients — all commented on how funny it was to be challenging such a thing. “I could never be allergic to wine, how hard.” “I could never drink wine at 7:30am.” “Why try a red, chardonnay is so much better?” “Are you kidding? Chardonnay is gross. If you can only have one wine, please say it’s a cab.” “You really can’t drive home after one glass? You’re such a lightweight!”

The challenge went well, I started the morning after what was a pretty stressful week with a glass of wine and a nice buzz, and chilled at the doctor’s office until I DUI tested myself by leaning my head back, standing on one foot, and touching the tip of my nose with both pointer fingers and determined I was safe to drive. The mile back to my house, anyway. I needed some more water, Rice Chex, and couch time before I could head to work. But gotta say — there’s nothing that a good solid glass of wine in the morning can’t fix.

Well, maybe some things. But it’s a start.

AND, allow me this Jewish pride moment, if you will: I can officially do both blessings on Shabbat (wine and bread) without too much trouble! It’s been such a pleasure this Chanukah to have latkes and not miss out on the traditional food, and to know I can have that back week after week is reassuring and calming. While I’ll never be able to eat all the Passover foods (bitter herbs are deathly herbs to me), and cheesecake is sort of out of the question since most cream cheeses are made with gums so Shavuot is shot, and I can’t have new fruits on Rosh Hashana (unless I invite my doctor over…) I’m grateful to have the ritual foods of some Jewish holidays. And of Thanksgiving. Because there’s not a single Thanksgiving food I’m allergic to at all, nothing to even challenge.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy – 10

Allergens – 4

Up Next – (Why do I even bother, I never listen to my plan!) But let’s go with avocado.

September’s Living with Food Allergy Blog Carnival

I’m so thrilled to be a part of this blog carnival, with some amazing posts by other writers and members of the food allergic community.

Weird that I think of it as a community nowadays, but I do. It’s as though at every corner I meet someone new with a food allergy or two…or several. And it’s kind of nice to know that people are more open about this health issue and what it means for how we eat, etc.

Anyway, check out the carnival here. I particularly connected with The Journey of Food Allergies post and I thought this teenage boy’s take on kissing with a nut allergy was just delightful. But read the rest of the posts, too — lots of great information in there! And thanks to Caroline “Grateful Foodie” for hosting!

Food Challenge Round 7: Cindy vs. Tahine

This was probably my least favorite food challenge. I challenged tahine (aka tahini), a sesame paste/sauce food that I’ve always hated. Why test something I hate? Well, because it’s in hummus, and I love hummus, and have to challenge that as well. So this was like the pre-req for hummus. Hummus 101 or something.

It was also not my favorite challenge, because I’ve come down with a virus, and mixing that with new foods on a rainy day is just wrong. So while the challenge didn’t go poorly, it didn’t go well, either.

I forced the tahini – homemade, btw, not hard but I can’t recommend recipes for gross foods – down plain, and was mostly fine. Until I had crazy ear burning. It was awful. And then my tongue got a teensy bit bigger, but I was fine, coherent, and only a little whiny. I had to take a Claritin, but it was enough to get me to hummus next week and to prove I can have foods that may have come into contact with sesame (read: challah and bagels).

So, overall, C+. Not bad. Probably would have been happier with the result if I didn’t spend the rest of the day sick, but what can you do? At least I can sort of maybe kind of eat sesame.

In other good news, my friend S is visiting this week, and the last time I saw her was her last night living in LA, the day I got my original skin test results. It’s crazy to think how far I’ve come. When you spend time with a friend and it feels like no time has passed, and then you look back and realize that in that same time period, you went on a crazy diet, on a crazier diet, off the crazy diet, and started a food challenge process — not to mention switched jobs twice — it’s kind of jolting, in a good way. Last time S was here, we baked oatmeal pumpkin muffins because I was having a breakdown about never eating another baked good. Today, I ate homemade pizza made with wheat like it was no big deal. Maybe next time she comes to town I’ll eat pizza from a store?

Nah. Homemade is way better. Recipe to come!

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 5

Allergens – 2

Up next: Hummus

Food Challenge Round 5: Cindy vs. Onion

It’s hard to believe that I’m already up to my fifth food challenge. Considering I have what feels like a billion more to go, it’s actually kind of seeming like time flies. Wheat still feels new, I’ve still only had the one beer, and I already figured out how to compensate for the lack of pasta. And with my 7:30am doctor’s appointments, I haven’t even been late to work these last few times. You know how some people miraculously find time in their week to go to the gym, and they keep that routine for the foreseeable future? That’s how my food challenges are. Once a week, I wake up early to dedicate an hour or so to my health. Only, instead of working out, I eat while my doctor watches me.

That’s the same, right?

Anyway, on to the topic at hand. Onions. Or, should I say, a sweet yellow onion cooked in a soup or stew or the like (ie: boiled). Because that’s what I challenged today. The results are only applicable to sweet yellow onions cooked in soups or stews (yes, that includes cholent) or the like (ie: boiled).

The good news is, the results are positive! I can now eat sweet yellow onions cooked in soups or stews or the like (ie: boiled).

Just barely, though.

As my mother said when I made my weekly, “post challenge debriefing call,” — “You can’t barely pass a food challenge. It’s not like a math test where you get a 65, not a 64, so the teacher lets you pass. You’re either sick or you’re not.”

Well, I guess foods are more like math than I thought (maybe that’s why I’m so bad with them!). See, I was fine. I was “perfect” as the doctor joked. Except, while eating my chicken soup, I got a crazy sinus headache and felt all funny but not bad funny, just not normal funny. I wasn’t sick enough to give up onions for good, but I also wasn’t interested in finishing the whole bowl of soup (though, I did finish the half of the onion. Like a certain person I know at the Brandeis Chabad. Though, J, you can have the onion, every time. Not interested).

The doctor said it was not enough of a reaction for a Benadryl, but an Allegra, Zyrtec, or Claritin might do me well, if I had one on hand. I didn’t. He said next time, bring one (Claritin, because I already take Allegra and Zyrtec daily). This time, just move on with my life.

It’s also totally possible my reaction was due to the pasta reaction followed by an airborne horseradish reaction, followed by a feverish virus, accompanied by jetlag. My body might just be rebelling. In any case, I did learn that I have to be a little careful, as in avoiding leafy greens and other occasional airborne allergens when I eat sweet yellow onions cooked in soups or stews or the like (ie: boiled).

So it was an iffy, pass which is why I think I only passed onions in this very specific form, but hey. It’s something. Onions in soups are kind of a big deal. And I hate sauteed onions anyway. And onion powder – not something I miss in my own cooking but at all. Sure, it would be nice to eat it in other forms, but whatever. Next time. Like lifting the heavier weights at the gym…sometimes you just tackle that hurdle the next time.

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 3

Allergens – 2

Up Next: Tahina

Anyone who has awesome, simple homemade tahina recipes, please let me know!

Food Challenge Round 3: Cindy vs. Beer

I can no longer say I haven’t had beer at 7:30am. If this were a game of “Never Have I Ever,” my finger would go down, and I guess I could take a swig of my Heineken.

It’s not just me who thought the idea of having beer at a doctor’s office at 7:30am was kind of awesome and kind of weird and kind of ridiculous. My doctor did, too. His son was at the office today to help out with some filing (ah, college), and my doctor called him in to the appointment (with my permission, of course) to show him that his job was cool.

Not sure why I was hating on Brandeis parties, considering the unofficial Modfest I threw as a statement…inspired, of course, by the previous year’s Purple Rain where I insisted on free Heineken…

Dr: Do you see what Cindy is doing?

Son: Uhhh…

Dr: She’s drinking a beer. At 7:30 in the morning. To see if she’s allergic to malt. This is how we have to test her.

Son: That’s kind of fratty.

Me: I know, which is weird because I went to Brandeis.

Dr: They’re not known for that over there.

Me: Where do you go?

Son: I went to UC Santa Barbara, but I’m transferring to USC.

Me: Oh, so this probably isn’t as weird for you.

As I continued to drink, after not having had alcohol since the beginning of April and beer since late February, I started to get tipsy. Obviously. A handful of Rice Chex isn’t really going to do much in terms of sobriety.

It was kind of weird to experience tipsiness while gauging to see if I felt totally fine, since the symptoms of an allergy aren’t that different from the symptoms of drunkeness (hazy vision, dizziness, feeling out of it) but the doctor and I talked through what I was feeling and as I was rambling we both kind of figured out it was a buzz. It felt nice. Awkward, but nice. I got giddy and did what any girl would — drunk text. I caught my friend J on the way to work and told him I felt like spinning around in his coworker’s chair. Because I really did. Still kinda do…they have a toasty and inviting office.

By 8:30, the doctor determined I was ready to leave. That is, until I sobered up to drive. Not that I was actually drunk, but you know, it’s bad to drink even one beer and get behind the wheel without waiting it out (Thank you, years of teaching alcohol education. End PSA). I hung out in the waiting room totally reliving my college experience by reading an essay in “Religion and Popular Culture in America.” Because once I get a Heineken and some free time, I morph back into an American Studies major.

Bottom line: I can now drink one Heineken, and that counts as about 1/2 a wheat in my weekly count. I can also eat malted barley, which means I can have basically every enriched flour. Which, in turn, means I can eat more breads from bakers I speak to, cakes, cookies, etc. Homebaked good! I dont’t have to bug people to read the ingredients on their flour. Kinda cool. However, I cannot have any other kinds of beer (they all have different ingredients — including FISH BLADDER! In researching which beer to drink, I found that many beers, especially those from the UK, are made with isinglass which is code for fish bladder which is code for possible anaphylaxis — explains why I never understood the deliciousness of Guinness but rather could barely swallow a sip), and I can’t have more than one beer without a possible overdose without testing it, which my doctor thinks is unnecessary and probably problematic.. But hey. It’s a win. Because I’m tiny and prefer Heineken anyway.

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 2

Allergens – 1

Up next: Onions