So, I’ve been writing on Mondays about Gluten-free. That’s not my only food sensitivity, however, I also have an anaphylactic allergy to shellfish.
Which is worse? On a day to day basis, gluten-free is certainly more of a challenge for me. It’s a challenge to find food outside my own kitchen and some of the substitutes either aren’t very good or can be pricey. Shellfish? Well, I’ve always thought it smelled like a combination of decaying garbage and kerosene and have never understood why anyone would want to eat something that smelled like rot marinated in petroleum products. I’ve voluntarily eaten it once or twice in my life and promptly threw up, so, yeah, skippable.
Of course, my gluten sensitivity and shellfish allergy have something in common: for whatever reason I avoid them, when I turn the responsibility and the control for preparing my meal over to others, I’m really on thin ice. Whether it is a private home or a regulated commercial kitchen, food sensitivities and the sanitation/segregation issues around them are poorly understood by most people.
The common perception seems to be that food sensitivities are short-term reactions that result in someone throwing up. Not true. Food sensitivities can take hours or even days to manifest, and they can cause rashes, headaches, brain swelling, respiratory distress, shock and death. Some, like gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance can even cause long-term cumulative damage contributing to cancers and malnutrition. And they don’t always manifest the same way in every person, or even in the same person, depending exposure pathway, time, phase of the moon, who knows?
Another common myth (understandable) is that food sensitivities manifest as the result of eating the offending item. Believe it or not, that is not true. Some people can suffer an adverse reaction to touching a food item, or from being in a place where the item is cooked or prepared. Also, very small amounts of cross-contamination from work surfaces, knives, plates, boiling water, frying oil, reused pans, etc, can contain enough of the offending substance to trigger a reaction in some people. Gluten-sensitive people even react to soaps, cosmetics and other health and beauty aids that contain gluten as an ingredient.
What to do? Well, I’ve always been one for eating in, so there is that. I’ve also long been one for dollar voting. So, for now, I’m skipping out on places that serve things that will make me sick and cannot convince me that they handle them properly. Do I eat out less? Sure, but that is OK. It saves money and I like cooking.
I wish I knew how to get through to people how serious and debilitating food sensitivities can be. I know a lot of parents of allergy kids get worked up about this stuff, but I think it is harder as an adult to paint yourself as sympathetic. It’s like you’re some kind of weirdo who can’t run with the cool kids. But then disability is always like that. And I’ve never been cool. So, I guess I’m in familiar territory . . . .
Because yourself is the only thing you can be. 🙂