On a Sunday night in April, I attended a cocktail party before a work event. As someone who has known for the better part of my life that I am allergic to peanuts and seafood, I tend to shy away from food when I am not privy to how it’s been prepared. But, this night was different. I had on my new blue blouse and wedge heels that made me feel tall. And who doesn’t like wine and cheese to get the night started? So I decided to indulge. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
Thirty minutes later as I was walking to my car, headed to the event, I began to cough. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first because it was just a cough. But by the time I crossed the street, I started to feel a bit light-headed and itchy all over— my head, my face, my arms, my tongue, my legs.
My bestie followed me in her car to make a pit stop at Walgreens for some Benadryl. The cough soon turned to a wheeze and I was now having trouble breathing, so I did what any only child does — I called my mom. Her first question: “Do you have your EpiPen?” My response: “My clutch wasn’t big enough.” Sigh. Bad choice. Let this be a teachable moment. If you have an EpiPen, carry it … even on what you think will be a super chill outing. Don’t try to be cute like me — well, be cute but also be safe … but back to my story.
After hearing me wheezing on the phone, my mom and friend insisted that I go to the emergency room. As we sped down the 134, I began to feel sick so we found ourselves on the shoulder of this busy highway with me throwing up whatever was attacking my insides. My eyes had become bloodshot, I was hot, and wanted to scratch off all of my skin. The ride to the hospital felt so long, but when we arrived, I received immediate care. I was in anaphylactic shock. I had successfully avoided my allergens for more than 20 years, but on this night things got real.
Fast-forward three weeks … I’m now in Beverly Hills to visit my brand new allergist. He allergy tested (or prick tested) me for over 90% — yes, you read that right—of the foods in the world. (Prick testing, for my non-allergic friends, is when an allergen is placed just beneath your skin to see how your body reacts.) It took three appointments to complete my testing and when I got my results after each visit, I became more and more alarmed. Some of the foods that I consume almost daily made the list of allergens. Um, can I get a retest … ?
Allergies: Peanut, Shrimp, Tuna, Hazelnut, Lettuce, Lobster, Codfish, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mushroom, Oat, Orange, Green Pea, Pecan, Salmon, Strawberry, Citric Acid (including, but not limited to: Tangerine, Tomato, Lime, Guava, Pineapple, Citron, Grapefruit, Raspberry, Pomegranate, Passion Fruit), MSG, Flaxseed, Cottonseed
Citric acid?! Seriously? Who’s allergic to citric acid?! Goodbye pizza! And yes, I have since tried white pizza … it’s not the same.
In this blog, I want to take you on the journey of my life as a young, African American woman trying to navigate life with food allergies. I will highlight restaurants that I visit that are accommodating, recipes satisfying to the palate, allergen-free products that work, and any interesting things that I discover along the way.