Living with food allergies

allergy-dalYou can tell quite a bit from this picture:

1. That I have never been called an artist and likely never will be
2. That I have also never been called a calligrapher and likely never will be
3. That I have brought home take out Indian food at least once in my life
4. And, most salient to today’s topic, that I live with someone who has food allergies.

My husband Martin is one of the 3% of adults who has a peanut allergy. He is also deathly allergic to hazelnuts and gets sick in varying degrees from eating other legumes such as lentils (pictured above as Dal Tarka), chickpeas and pine nuts.

Most of the time, we work around his allergies just fine; however, it does mean that I do a lot of label reading when I grocery shop. I cook lentils and chickpeas and buy hummus often but keep them (as illustrated above) well labeled so that Martin doesn’t inadvertently make himself sick.

When it comes to the deadly stuff (peanuts and hazelnuts), I’m a lot more careful and seldom use them at home. That said, I have to admit that I sometimes have shameful, distracting cravings for peanut butter. Since peanuts are, in essence, my hubby’s kryptonite, it seems wrong to fantasize about peanut butter and banana croque monsieurs. Wouldn’t a better woman be able to swear off this stuff out of loyalty?

A result of my day-to-day peanut butter deprivation and this deep-seeded guilt, is that when Martin is out of town, I  succumb to unabandonned peanut butter binges. The high of dipping a spoon into a jar of that sticky goodness is tempered only by the intensive, obsessive kitchen cleaning that comes afterward. It’s pathetic, but it’s who I am.

Do any of you have to cope with living with someone  who has a food allergy or such a strong aversion to certain foods that it affects your shopping and meal choices? If so, how do you run your household safely and harmoniously?


9 Responses to Living with food allergies

  1. Jane George says:

    My nine year old grandson has Celiac disease, he can not have wheat, rye, barley or oats. He lives down the street so he spends a lot of time at my house. I buy gluten free products and store them on a separate shelf in the pantry. I have a small set of three pans that I keep separate from the rest of my pans, likewise spatulas,etc. Sometimes it is tricky to make sure you are not cross contaminating. I keep jars of peanut butter,mayonnaise,relish with his name written on the top, a knife that has been used on wheat bread and redipped into the peanut butter can really make him sick.

  2. Barb says:

    I have a frequent guest who has chronic pickiness as opposed to serious allergies. I also (is “celebrate” really the best word? no, it’s not) with legumes, spices, and herbs when on my own. Can you tell him what he is missing? He won’t believe me.

  3. My father-in-law has a seafood allergy and carries an Epipen. Because he discovered the allergy while his children were young, my husband grew up without fish or seafood as part of their diet. My husband now hates anything that lives in the water. Obviously, when I have my in-laws to dinner, we never serve fish or seafood. I also avoid Thai since shrimp is the basis of the requisite fish sauce.

    However, I like the occasional seafood meal, so I order it when we eat out . Also, now and again, we opt to barbecue different meat. My husband has a beef steak and I have fish. The rest of the meal we share.

    It’s an easy allergy/aversion to work around. Nut allergies and Celiac are far more challenging.

  4. Hélène says:

    No I don’t on a day to day. It would be hard for me to resist PB. I eat toast with PB every morning.

    Once in a while we will have friends of my kids over that have allergies. I take all the precaution so that they don’t have peanuts around them or PB.

    And when my brother-in-law visits (he his celiac), everyone is eating the same thing as him. Makes my life easier for few days.

  5. Cheryl A says:

    I’ve found bakeries and cafes that make the best PB cookies since we can’t have them in our house. We found out that The Monster is at greater risk for the nut allergy so we’ve held off on any introductions. Having a friend with a kid with nut allergies we’ve taken the extreme route and simply don’t bring anything with nuts in the house. I’m paranoid, I guess. (Or lazy, and not wanting to clean up). But she is rather verbal now so we will probably introduce them soon. I want her to be able to say, “Mommy, my tongue feels funny” before she has anything.

  6. Dan Kohler says:

    Dana, I know exactly how you feel. I grew up in a household with varying allergies (me-gluten/dairy, mom 1-dairy/chocolate, mom 2-tomato/corn/gluten). Needless to say, we all found ways to binge when someone was out of town!

    The interesting thing for our family is that these restrictions led to us being more creative in the kitchen. We spent a great deal of time planning menus and shopping and cooking together, which, when I was young, was a great introduction to the food world. The allergies are a given, we can’t avoid them, we can’t ignore them and we can’t budge on them. But we can trick them. There are so many ways to re-invent your favorite foods for family members living with any number of food allergies. We always approach the kitchen with the grandest of plans, not simply an attempt to “get by.” And very often we achieve these goals! (Ask me sometime about our memorable mistakes along the road of substitution, there have been some brilliant errors!)

    For me, cooking is a full contact sport. I strap on my apron, walk in the kitchen and throw the playbook out the window. Renegade Kitchen is a rag-tag group of like-minded chefs dedicated to alternative cooking, we play hard and eat well. Thanks for sharing your story Dana!

    Serious Cooking for the Allergy Bound.
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  7. Alison says:

    I thought readers with allergies or those that live with someone who has a severe food allergy, would appreciate this new allergy-friendly recipe, developed by Lucy Waverman for EpiPen. This new Easter treat doesn’t contain common food allergens like peanuts, milk products or eggs. You can find this recipe at ,along with other allergy-friendly recipes from Lucy Waverman.
    Thanks & enjoy!

  8. danamccauley says:

    Thanks Alison!

    Also, great comments everyone – I can’t imagine living with a celiac issue like Jane describes – how stressful for the afflicted and all around him!

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