Allergy Bulling: When Food is a Weapon

Allergy bullyingAccording to CNN’s article, Allergy Bulling: When Food is a Weapon, “35% of kids over age 5 with food allergies have endured bullying, teasing or harassment. Parents of children with food allergies reported in the study that these incidents—both physical and verbal—happened because of food allergies” (Landau).

Thanks to my own life-threatening peanut allergy (anaphylaxis) I spend a lot of time and brain energy at college trying to keep myself safe.  It’s challenging and scary.  But at least, as an adult, school isn’t nearly as dangerous for me as it could be for a child with my allergy because I don’t deal will allergy bulling.  I can’t even imagine how scary that’d be.

“It’s hard for parents of food-allergic children to keep them safe at school when there are so many opportunities to eat snacks and meals with unsafe ingredients.  For some kids, just touching a certain food or inhaling particles of it could cause a reaction” (Landau).  That’s something Mr. Munger and I have talked about before.  Hopefully, if/when we have kids they won’t share my peanut allergy but if they do, school would be a very unsafe place for them.

Elementary schools are unsafe even for me as an adult. I used to volunteer to read with second graders, but I can’t risk it anymore because so many of the kids have peanut products for lunch.  If I read with a child who’d just eaten something with peanuts, I could end up in the ER.  So I can’t even imagine how scary it’d be as a kid to be bullied with something that could literally kill you.

Do you or your kids have any experience with allergy bullying?  Thankfully, my peanut allergy started later (I was 21 when it decided to join my list of food foes), so I never experienced living with a life-threatening allergy as a child.  It sounds terrifying for both the child and the parents.

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A Year in the Life of a Food Blogger

New YearsBreak started off at such a brisk pace I’d expected it to be full (maybe too full) with get-togethers, holiday-related outings, and attempting new recipes.

Well, that’s what I’d thought it’d be like.  But then everyone came down with the flu right over Christmas.  Thankfully, family was flexible and presents keep, because the festivities had to be put on hold for a couple of days this year.  And that’s the long-ish explanation as to where I’ve been.

Now that I’m feeling quite a bit better (managing to eat solid food providing it’s mild and relatively soft), I’ve been thinking about what a lot has happened in the last year.  And how quickly it’s gone by!  The Crunchy Cook was my new years resolution from last year (this was when I  had a very small handful of food foes), which means my blog is almost exactly a year old.


Biggest Changes:
1. Discovered I have 10 additional food allergies (including eggs, soy, dairy).  This was a HUGE challenge that impacted my entire family.  And it’s still something I’m learning how to work with.

2. Graduated from community college with a two-year transfer degree.

3. Completed my first quarter at the University of Washington (I swear, it’s not nearly as hard as figuring out how to cook with food allergies).

Favorite Foodie Reads:
1. Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found Food that Loves Me Back … And How You Can Too by Shauna James Ahern.  I found this book very encouraging.

I don’t know that I’d love it quite as much now that I can’t eat the majority of food mentioned, but Shauna’s advice to use food restrictions as a reason to say “Yes!” to foods you’ve never tried has been very helpful in my own food journey.  And a good reminder that there is still a world of flavors out there waiting to be tasted.  Even for allergy girls like me.

Firsts:
1. Started my food blog, The Crunchy Cook.

2. Went on a cruise and was actually able to eat (I got to hand it to Disney, they sure do handle dietary restrictions well).

3. Took a junior-level class at the university (it was awesome, and also not nearly as mentally challenging as figuring out what to cook for dinner when you have a whole collection of food allergies).

Goals/Hopes for 2013:
1. Learn to cook more gluten-free/allergen-free food.  I’m hoping to attempt a new recipe every weekend (not all of them will show up on the blog because not everything will work, but it’ll get me in the habit of trying out new things and being fearless in the kitchen).

2. Blog more regularly about the food I’m learning to cook; I want to have a record of all the recipes that have worked.  And just generally what it’s like being gluten-free/allergen-free.  I’m new to the blogging community, but loving it already.

3. Finally be able to set the date for the wedding (fingers crossed!).

Well, what about you?  What are your goals, hopes, or resolutions for the coming year?  Anything you’re hoping to learn or cook?

The Week in Review: Graduation & Gluten

2012-12-14 16.48.55Mr. Munger is now the proud owner of a BA.  He’s been out of the area for the past two years, so I haven’t even begun to fully adjust to the idea that he won’t have to head back up north once 2013 rolls around (this also means we’re one step closer to being able to finally nail down a date).

My immediate family and I all spent last weekend in Bellingham in order to be there for Mr. Munger’s graduation.  The graduation ceremony itself was the usual mix of extremely exciting and extremely boring.  We also had fun looking at Christmas lights and doing a little last-minute shopping. 

But the most complicated and painful aspect of the trip involved, of course, food.

I hadn’t really gone out to eat since I learned about my 10 newest food allergies a couple months back, so going to Anthony’s Homeport in Bellingham, even though we’d previously had good luck with the place, was a little worrisome.  I brought an index card listing all of my major food allergies (soy, eggs, dairy, shellfish, tomatoes), ordered off the gluten-free menu, and stressed the importance of my food being safe to the waitress.  Everything seemed fine.  But later that night the unmistakable, makes–me-feel-like-I’m-going–to-end-up-doubled-up stomach pain kicked in.  Glutened again.

I’d been feeling kind of blue the last couple of weeks about the fact that going out to eating (whether at restaurants or even a friend’s house) really isn’t an options; my list of food foes is too long and the risk is too great.  The funny thing is that even though my latest glutening dashed my dreams of eating out, I also don’t feel like I’m missing out anymore.  Sure, I’d love to go out to a nice restaurant during the holidays but one evening out is not worth the stomach pain (that, at the moment, has been going strong for a solid week and a half).          

Guess this means that my New Year’s goal of learning to cook more recipes (hopefully trying a new one or modified version every week) is now even more important.  And, since Mr. Munger is back in the area again, I have another person to take me grocery shopping (grocery stores are dangerous due to peanuts so I have to take someone with me) and someone to help remind me of all the good tasting food that I can still eat.

My Allergen-Free/Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Yes, I know it’s now December and this is no longer seasonally fitting to talk about Thanksgiving.  I’d planned on showing off pictures of my Thanksgiving feast sooner, but the combination of coming down with a cold that just didn’t want to go away and attempting to get back into school mode enough to finish out the quarter meant that blogging has taken a backseat the last couple of weeks.  Thanksgiving was great though, so it at least deserves a quick mention.

My immediate family—mom (several allergies), sister (gluten-free and multiple allergies), and brother (practically vegan and also a couple of food allergies of his own)—is, needless to say, pretty gosh darn hard to feed.  And with the addition of my 10 newest food allergies, we weren’t sure how we were going to work out Thanksgiving.  Not to mention, the extended family has never really understood allergies (they’re getting better) but having a meal at their house felt like I would’ve been risking a trip to the ER.  

Thankfully, Mr. Munger’s parents invited us over for dinner.  This meant that there were more heads trying to figure out what would be Kelsey-safe and less food for any one person to make.  And it worked out great.  

What I had for dinner: turkey, cranberry sauce, peas with onions, stuffing (my future mother-in-law actually found gluten-free/dairy-free/egg-free/soy-free bread!), smashed red potatoes, sweet potatoes, pickles, and even rolls (made by yours truly).

I’ll try and get the roll and cranberry recipes to you soon because they turned out great.  And the cranberries are super easy to make! 

So how was your Thanksgiving?  Any tips for working around food allergies this holiday season or figuring out how to explain your dietary restrictions to the people you’ll be celebrating with?

Peanut Allergy Update

peanut_freeI just wanted to quickly update everyone out there in my blogging neighborhood on my peanut allergy from yesterday before I got distracted with finals.  I’m doing much, much better.  Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments. 

Yesterday was scary and after a serious allergy I always feel like my body is absolutely exhausted.  So I still feel like I’m recovering, but the allergy itself is long gone.  And there’s nothing to worry about now.  It was a close call but I’m doing just fine now. Smile

An Allergen-Free Thanksgiving: Healthy, Safe, and Yummy

pumpkinsWhen I first found out about my newest assortment of food allergies a couple weeks back—10 new food allergies, baby—I felt like the floor had just dropped out from under me.  What will I eat?  Will I ever bake again?  Will I be able to eat anything that actually tastes good?  Ugh!  I’m starting all over again!

I felt like I’d finally reached a point where I didn’t have to constantly think about celiac disease, I’d gotten used to reading every single ingredient label before popping even the smallest thing into my mouth, and I was slowly coming up with new favorite recipes.  But now I was starting over from scratch.  It was very discouraging.  Very discouraging.

As a result, I’m thankful for my family, fiancé, and future in-laws.  They’ve all made the transition to allergen-free eating a lot easier by sportively helping me find food and never making me feel like an inconvenience. 

It’s so nice to know that tomorrow I’ll not only have a plate full of Thanksgiving food but that I’ll feel safe eating it because everyone has gone out of their way to insure it’s Kelsey friendly.  Not only will my food be safe and decently healthy (junk food is pretty much off limits now), but it tastes good too!

And, perhaps one of the best reason to be thankful, since I’ve been avoiding all my many allergens I’m feeling a lot better and my stomach has stopped hurting continually.  I may not be able to eat all of my usual Thanksgiving-y favorites (couldn’t figure out how to make a pumpkin pie but maybe I’ll do one for Christmas), but I feel like I have my health back.  And my family and family-to-be have made this Thanksgiving not just something to survive, but something to enjoy.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Crunchy SunButter Snack (gluten & allergy free)

SnackWhen left to my own devices I tend to eat crunchy food (also called “hippie food”), but I was still a little unsure about this gluten-free, allergy-free little snack.  Despite the unusual ingredients, it’s delicious!

My mom used to work in a health food store and she said that this (with peanut butter instead of SunButter) was their bestselling sandwich.  And she thought it was something that could easily be modified into a snack-form that I could eat.  And she was right. 

Mom made these for me a couple of days ago and I’ve eaten them every day since.  They do look and sound a little strange, but they’re my new favorite snack.


Ingredients:

  • Rice crackers or you could put it on bread (I use Organic Brown Rice Snaps because they’re free of gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs).
  • A jar of SunButter (it’s peanut-free and soy-free!)
  • Shredded carrots
  • Raisons

Directions:

  • Spread SunButter on rice crackers.
  • Add carrots and raisons.
  • Give it a try even though it looks funky.  And enjoy.

Simple Spaghetti (gluten & allergen free)

PastaTomatoes.  I’ve really been missing tomatoes since I found out I was allergic to them three weeks ago.  Partly because they’re yummy and go well with so many things, but mostly, at least at the moment, because I’m having a hard time adjusting to life without spaghetti sauce.

This is something my mom has made for me before but I hadn’t made it myself until this week because previously I’d just dump red sauce on everything.  But it’s pretty darn easy.  And yummy.  And gives me hope that a red-sauce-free live doesn’t have to be one void of flavor.


Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces of gluten-free spaghetti
  • 2 large minced garlic leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook spaghetti as usual—boil water in a pot, put pasta in, cook until soft, and strain.
  2. Place cooked spaghetti in a large bowl.
  3. Mix all other ingredients together in a small bowl.
  4. Pour olive oil sauce over the pasta and mix it together well.
  5. Serve, and enjoy.

Debi’s Confetti Salad (gluten & allergen free)

101_1075I’ve shared this recipe before, but I had to post it on The Crunchy Cook again when I realized yesterday that it’s one of the few recipes previously posted on my blog that I can still eat.  I can eat something!

Due to my extreme peanut allergy, I can’t even walk through the food area at my university around lunch time because someone might be eating something peanut-y.  And that would be bad.  Really bad.  This means that the one and only microwave on campus is completely off limits to me (who had the grand idea to only put one microwave in at a college?), so foods that don’t have to be reheated are the best options for lunches.  And I can still have one of my favorites!

This recipe, Debi’s Confetti Salad, is something my mom came up with.  And it’s a dish my family tends to eat a lot.  You can find her original post about this recipe on her food blog, Cheap Eats.


Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked rice, cooled (I usually use brown rice but you can also use white or basmati)
  • 1 can (16-oz) red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can (16-oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can (16-oz) corn (drained)
  • 4 sliced green onions
  • 1 small green or red pepper (finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar if you can eat apples)
  • 1 tablespoon Spenda/sucralose (or sugar if you prefer)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients together in another bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over salad, mix together.  And you’re done!  It’s that easy.

We be Pirates

In honor of Halloween I thought I’d take a brake from my usual theme of food allergies and gluten to show off my costume.  Mr. Munger, the fiancé, is graduating with his BA this December, so as a graduation present his parents took the two of us plus my mom and sister all on a Disney Cruise.

I’d honestly been kind of leery about going; I pictured myself super hungry and far away from any grocery stores and it seemed like it might be like vacationing inside the Small World ride (cute in small doses, but a bit too perky and little-kid-ish to make you really want to settle down and get comfortable).  I was wrong on both accounts.  Disney did a fantastic job of feeding me (Me!  The girl who can’t eat anything) and ship was beautiful, relaxing, and fun.

Pirate Night is the special evening on the cruise where everyone dresses up. And, luckily for us, my future mother-in-law has some mad skills when it comes to costumes.

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My mom and sister, Shannon, think that Mr. Munger and I should use this as our engagement picture.  Maybe.  We all picked out the colors, material, and patterns that we wanted for our costumes and then De worked her magic (I decided she’s like a fairy godmother for pirates).

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The gang!  My sister, Shannon, is in the fantastic hat and striped pants, Mom is in the middle (her costume is the same colors as her university), and my future sister-in-law, Sarah, is on the bottom right.  De, the woman who made these awesome costumes, is on the top right.

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A touch of Disney magic.  I think we look like the pirates in Peter Pan (perhaps Captain Hook’s nieces?).  I doubt I’ll ever want to dress up as anything other than a pirate again for Halloween now that I have a pretty nifty costume.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  So, what are you dressing up as?