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?

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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