I used to love food.

Amy’s Sunday post over at BabyBabyLemon was simple enough: a list of restaurants she’d like to eat at. I read through the list and thought, “Yes! All the food!” but by the time I got to the end, I actually had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.

Since kidlet’s food allergies were confirmed my entire relationship with food has changed. I no longer read food magazines, I don’t look through cookbooks with enthusiasm, I don’t dream of the wonderful places we’ll eat when we go out of town, or even the amazing places to eat in town. I don’t tear recipes out of magazines to try later. In short: food rarely brings me joy the way it used to.

Having a kid with half a dozen food allergies (egg, sesame, mango, walnut, almond, peanut, and fish) has changed the foods we keep in the house, and makes every new restaurant a potential allergic reaction waiting to happen. In fact, it even makes restaurants we’ve been to dozens of times potentially dangerous places for us. Just last weekend, after having breakfast at our go-to bagel place, kidlet threw up in the car 5 minutes after we left. Why? Cross-contaminated food, I guess.

When we go out we carefully study the menu to gauge whether or not there is anything on the menu that he will be able to eat safely, and since we’re always touching his food, the food we eat needs to be safe for him, too. Which rules out a lot of food. Chinese and Japanese food is often cooked in sesame oil, and uses fish sauce. Many cream sauces used in Italian cooking have egg in them, as does some red sauce. No sushi, no fried food (the batter often has egg in it), no baked pastries, even bread can be tricky since some breads are baked with egg, or have an egg wash to give them shine. No seafood restaurants and no breakfast places – I get freaked out just thinking about all the eggs, and pancakes and waffles have egg in the batter. And when we do venture somewhere new, more often than not we are met with a CYA attitude of, “Yeah it has egg in it,” or a disinterested, “I don’t know.”

I sound like I’m crying in my milk, and I am. I’m feeling sorry for myself because of the food I will miss the opportunity to eat. Because if I want to eat sushi, I have to leave my kid home. Because food allergies SUCK.

I read somewhere that kids learn their attitude about their allergies from their parents, and so if they have parents who are, “No big deal” about it, the kids will be that way too. They won’t see their allergies as a burden, or be afraid of them. So I try very hard to be matter of fact about them, and not talk about how frustrating they are for me in front of him. But sometimes…it gets to me.

A year ago I would have made a list of restaurants that I want to eat at and laughed at the unlikeliness of it happening from a geographic perspective. Like, what are the odds that I will find myself in Napa with a babysitter so I can eat at French Laundry sometime in the next 10 years? Not very high. But now, I can’t even make the list without feeling wistful.



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19 responses to “I used to love food.

  1. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be for you and for the Kidlet. I don’t know if it will help with at-home eating, but I can recommend some wonderful vegan baking and breakfast books; in fact, that’s about all I use for my at home cooking. Cookies, cupcakes, brownies, waffles, pancakes … etc. Let me know if you’re interested. ❤ ❤

    • I would love some cookbook recommendations. I know I need to get some, but have been dragging my feet. Any you love already would be awesome.

  2. Man, I can’t even imagine. We only have one mild food allergy and I still feel like a goober going around everywhere we eat, “Does this have egg in it?” Thankfully Calder’s allergy is pretty mild because I have accidentally poisoned him on several occasions. He does have a good attitude about it though and is aware of the things that he might not be able to eat when making choices on his own. He even once of his own accord had my brother read the ingredients on a veggie dip to look for eggs.

    • You’re hilarious. And those damn veggie dips got me this weekend. I failed to read the ingredients in the grocery store, I was in a hurry and just tossed it in the cart. Took it out at our picnic and was all, “DAMMIT.” At least I read it…

  3. You are totally allowed to cry in your milk about it. I’m such a food lover myself. I wake up thinking about what I’m going to eat and love reading complicated cookbooks of things I’ll never make.Hopefully, you both can have some indulgent date nights. And at least, the world is becoming more food-allergy sensitive so that by the time your child is a teenager, he won’t even think twice about it. Stay strong!

    • We need to get better about having date nights. I think that would help a lot. Because then I would feel indulgent and not exclusive. Now, if we eat something he can’t have I just feel like an asshole in front of him. But if it’s a date…well, then, that’s for our emotional well being, right?

  4. I think more than ANYTHING ELSE a food allergy would challenge my parenting. I love food. I hate restricting anything about it. I can’t imagine the stress this must put on you, but you HAVE to do it for your kid.
    Maybe he’ll outgrow some of it? My cousin was allergic to practically everything as a child and now as a 20-something she’s allergic to nothing.

    And I say while you’re in NYC with us we eat ALL THE THINGS you couldn’t normally as a family.

  5. Jay

    This is HARD. And it’s a real loss, the kind of loss that leaves you grieving, which is what you’re doing. It will always be hard but you will manage your grief in different ways, and it won’t always feel this yucky.

    But yes, food allergies and other diet limitations SUCK. Food is such an important part of our culture – it’s one of the ways we nurture each other and connect with friends and build community. Food isn’t just food, and this is, as I said, really hard. No apologies. Cry all you need to.

    • I almost wrote that I was in the anger stage of grief. And, YES. Food is so much about community. It’s so much about gathering, and celebrating. And all of this has changed because I can’t just go over to a friends house for dinner now. Without packing food for him, and following him around, making sure that no one hands him something to eat. Bah. Thank you for these words.

  6. I can’t even imagine parenting with so many food allergies. It must be so difficult. I know sometimes restaurants will be helpful if you call ahead. The ones I worked at (ages ago) would certainly try an accommodate requests. We made a fruit only “cake” for a child’s birthday.

    I’m trying to think of possible options. I was thinking indian, but I’m not sure about the sesame and there is certainly mango. French would have eggs in most things. What about bbq? Or a lot of old fashioned delis have the plates that come with just meats and cheeses. Or greek? I don’t know. I’m probably not helping.

    • I initially thought Indian would be safe, then I started to over think it and decided no. With Mexican I worry that there is peanut in the sauce, because I know some recipes call for nuts, and also some people just do shit you’d never expect with food. And A LOT of places just don’t know whats in the food they serve. Greek is pretty safe, as long as we stay away from hummus. Which blows, because he used to love hummus. BBQ is a good one, I’ll have to work that in more often. There’s a great place near our house. And cheese! Thank every deity under the sun that he’s not allergic to milk, because the kid LOVES cheese. Sometimes we just order him slices of it for dinner!

      I suppose the silver lining is that we have limited our go-to restaurants to places that make everything on premises. So when we eat out, we’re eating good food.

  7. I can definitely relate to the whole “studiously looking at the menu to make sure it’s safe” thing. Oddly, I find myself wishing that it was for food allergies and not because the spouse will only eat plain cheeseburgers with American cheese. That American cheese aspect is also quite limiting.

  8. Jay

    Cookbook recs from my friend – sorry for the delay:

    For simple dishes, I recommend the PETA Cookbook. For more elegant recipes, my two favorites are the Vegan Omnicon and Vegan Planet. For baking, any of the Vegan ____ Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz are excellent.

    Just a little bit late…

  9. I soooo get it. I’ve got allergies to egg (which I usually ignore), onions (and everything in the onion family), and the ultra annoying, gluten. And so I went from loving food unconditionally to weighing “Do I want want I can have or do I just want to deal with feeling sick”. I’ve eaten cheese and rice crackers and bananas for an entire week just so I don’t have to THINK about it.

    Celebrating the foods I can have (and the restaurants that are allergy friendly and don’t act like assholes) helps. Risotteria has a cookbook, I think? Nothing else to add other than I hear youse and I’m sorry :~/

    • I think you make a good point about celebrating the foods you can eat. I think I need to work that into my attitude more often. He’s able to eat a lot of food, and we’re able to provide a lot of that food for him. Focusing on that makes me feel a little less asshole-y. 🙂

  10. Hi! Just read your blog post, thanks to Alison Piepmeier over at Baxter Sez. I blog with Alison at the group blog Girl w/ Pen. Hang in there. It will get easier. My 8-year-old daughter is allergic to dairy (anaphylaxis), eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame seeds. Plus she was diagnosed with Celiac disease last August, which means NO GLUTEN. That really threw me for a loop & I was depressed for about a month. You write so honestly about your sense of loss, which is real. The good news is that there are so many resources out there now. FAAN (the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) has local support groups nationwide and there are also websites like allergyeats.com, where you can search for allergy-friendly restaurants. If you find a restaurant where the staff is trained and aware (they do exist!), then you can all eat out (and get whatever you want!). I have a lot of cookbooks to recommend as well if you need any suggestions.

  11. Julie

    I see this was a while ago, I hope things are getting easier. Mine favorite little guy is allergic to egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, lentils, mustard, sesame. It has found it’s way to being a gift to our family. I read cookbooks all the time, looking for a new combination that we could try. We eat reciepes that don’t relly on cheese to make them taste good….instead veggies, spices, etc make the difference. We eat together more and healthier food than almost anybody I know.

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