Food Challenge Round 27: Cindy vs. Olive Oil — The Rematch

First of all, yes, the punctuation in the title of my blog post is stolen from Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. No, I didn’t seem Tom Cruise at the allergist.

But I DID successfully eat olive oil.

As you may recall, on July 31, 2012, I posted about my first challenge with olive oil. It was a horrible experience. Not anaphylaxis bad, but not fun. I remember how lethargic I was after eating those rye crackers, how everything hurt when I moved. Not today, though! Today, I ate potatoes with olive oil and was totally fine. I ate like a normal person eating potatoes. It’s so strange how I can so easily recall feeling my whole body start to shut down just a year ago, and today, I ate food and just felt like I’d eaten. Not like a bulldozer had dragged me halfway across Prague. (Not sure why I picked Prague).

It's Chanukah in August!

It’s Chanukah in August!

So yay! I can now eat olive oil! This is a serious life change. It’ll be easier for other people to cook for me, I can probably go to more restaurants, and I there’s one invisible food that’s off my list. And more importantly:

I’M GETTING BETTER.

The hypersensitivity that started two years ago (isn’t it just dandy that the X-Games are a reminder of my first hospital visit?) is on it’s way out. I’ll always have allergies, but some of the ones that went all wackadoodle on me are waning. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. My body is recovering. It’s relenting in its war on food. Just call it Robert E. Lee. Proclaim me emancipated, or something.

I have to be careful about how much olive oil I eat so as not to overdose again — twice a week, in limited amounts (basically one dish per meal, twice a week, preferably not in back to back meals), but it’s still a game changer. It’s on the table…literally.

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 19

Allergens: 6 (yayyy this number is going down!)

Up Next: Onion Powder

Cross Contamination Can Happen to Anyone

On Thursday night, I cooked what should have been a delightful Shabbat meal. I made turkey cutlets with safflower oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, and pepper, sweet potatoes with safflower oil, paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper, butternut squash kugel/pie, quinoa with safflower oil, salt, and pepper, and a grilled chicken with cumin and oregano.

I was just about done at 9:30pm when I decided to start on dessert – a gluten-free oat apple/pear crisp/crumble/pie. While mixing the pie crust ingredients together, I wandered over to my oil counter to see which oil I wanted to use as a substitute for vegetable. Canola? Safflower? Grapeseed?

As I looked at the bottle of safflower, my night began to derail before me.

It was a bottle of sunflower oil.

Sunflower oil, otherwise known as one of my allergies.

Can you tell the difference?

I threw a package of ribs on the counter to defrost. The chicken might be fine, but I’d had chicken twice that week already and I needed it for dinner Friday and lunch on Sunday — which would leave me at four times a week, a serious no-no. Whole Foods only has turkey sometimes. The trip I’d made to the kosher grocery store at lunch earlier that day seemed futile — especially since I’d held two package of turkey in my hand, and thought, “why cram two packages into the minifridge at work, when I clearly don’t need a backup? What could possibly happen?”

Halfway to Whole Foods (which luckily is a mile away), I realized I’d used the same knife for the turkey and the chicken. I’d thought, “It’s my own kitchen; it’s not like anything can get cross contaminated.”)

Except, I guess, that I was too tired to read when I’d bought the oil. Too tired to read before I used it (like I ordinarily do). So my trip to Whole Foods now expanded to chicken, turkey if possible, and sweet potatoes. Luckily, I still had some quinoa. And even better – Whole Foods had ground turkey!

I came home, ate my delicious soup quickly, and got back to work. Finished the pie crust, which had been sitting nearly ready while I was out, and threw together the same sweet potatoes (using sweet potatoes instead of Japanese yams, though), tri-colored quinoa (because colors make me happy), baked chicken with cumin and oregano, and turkey burgers. Thank goodness the squash kugel, the hardest dish to prepare, didn’t require oil.

It was a rude awakening – an allergic accident and cross contamination incident in my own home. Lessons learned:

1. READ EVERYTHING. Not just when I buy it, but when I cook it, and before each dish I use it for.

2. DON’T SHOP/COOK WHILE EXHAUSTED. I’m not sure how to get around that one, but I’ll figure it out.

3. EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES. I obviously have more invested in my allergies than anyone else, and I have to remember that I am human and can make mistakes. I will probably make more mistakes in the future. I know anyone else around me is capable of the same mistakes. That’s why I carry an epi-pen and benadryl, even at my own meals. Because you never know. I can try my best, and that’s all I can expect from myself and others. I just have to be cautious, vigilant, and prepared. Avoidance is the only way to prevent allergic reactions, but the only way to practice 100% avoidance is to stop eating altogether, and so I have to settle for less. Luckily, my elementary school teachers used to say, “100 is reserved for God, 99 for the teacher, so the highest grade you can get is a 98.” So too with my allergies, though I don’t know who the teacher is in this case. Whatever. It’s a close enough analogy.

Anyway, one really good thing did come from this: I know what I’m going to challenge on Wednesday. Sunflower oil. And if I pass, I can not only eat a ton more processed foods (which I’m actually not that excited about, I like having no choice but to be healthy), but I have 4 meals worth of food cooked. TIME SAVER. To counter the exhaustion, I’d hope.