Food Challenge Round 9: Cindy vs. Sunflower Oil

Given the sunflower oil pre-glamping snafu, this week’s food challenge was a bit easier to prep. I just defrosted some potentially poisonous food and brought it over to the doctor’s office. Well, it would have been easy, except I needed a costume…

I challenged the food on Halloween, which is a big deal at my allergist’s office. But I’m not much for dressing up, so I didn’t quite know what to do. The night before, something hit me: I could dress up as the essence of a sunflower, since I was challenging the oil (aka essence) of a sunflower! Super easy, really meta, and seemingly creative.

i’m totally a sunflower…can’t you tell?

I threw on green pants, a black shirt, and a yellow sweater, with a little sign that read “Essence of sunflower.”

It was nothing compared to my doctor’s costume. He was dressed as a full blown chassid. The nurse was a vampire cat, complete with ears and makeup, though she’d removed her fangs because they were irritating her. My costume was not good enough.

Luckily, though, the food was! I ate the turkey and sweet potatoes that I’d accidentally cooked in sunflower oil, and it was totally fine. It felt more like breakfast (a big breakfast, but still) than a food challenge. And now I can eat sunflower oil!

You might be thinking, why sunflower oil? Who uses that?

Sure, it’s rarely used in home cooking. But go over to your pantry — go on, I’ll wait — and look at an item in there. Some sort of processed food, dried fruit, etc. Chances are it says sunflower oil. Or canola/vegetable/safflower/sunflower. Because that’s helpful.

My diet just totally expanded. I can eat so much more that I don’t cook myself. This was evidenced even further when I was shopping for a party this past Saturday night and needed to grab party snacks. BevMo had no Fritos, which was the only chip/party snack I was eating (corn oil!). But then I realized I could have more chips! And while most are still off the table for other ingredient reasons, I found a bag of Kettle chips and Pirate’s Booty that worked. Pre-party in aisle 7!

Now the trick is to make sure I continue eating healthily. Just because I can grab a bag of chips, doesn’t mean I should. But that’s where the 3 times a week rule kicks in. Why trade in a baked potato for a bag of potato chips? I’m thinking snack food is now in case of an emergency — which is way better than snack food being the cause of an emergency.

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 7

Allergens – 2

Up Next: Cottonseed oil (aka Bagel Factory bagels)

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.