This past Thursday I got some unfortunate news - I found out that I’m allergic to a bunch of things, including eggs, gluten, and peanuts, and reconfirming dairy. I didn’t change what I ate for a couple of days, though, because yesterday I went to Harvest on the Harbor and was determined to enjoy the food without worry. (See my previous posts from 2011 and 2009 for descriptions of this amazing foodie event.)
But I was already thinking ahead to what life will be like moving forward as I avoid these things, and I realize I’m feeling something like grief as I bid farewell to some favorite foods.
Cleaning out my cupboards and fridge, I know breakfast will have to change radically, as I get rid of Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, English muffins with their lovely nooks and crannies, and eggs (so much for scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, or frittatas or omelets). Snacks, too, will change, as I pull out crackers and peanut butter, although at least I can get gluten-free crackers and almond butter.
Still, I’m not terribly worried about being home and dealing with these things, since I already cook and bake a lot and have been experimenting with gluten-free and egg-free for other reasons. What’s harder is venturing out into the world.
Yesterday at Harvest on the Harbor, every time I ate something I’m allergic to, I couldn’t help feeling a pang, knowing this might be the last time: pizza, gelato, grilled cheese, chocolate eggnog (pretty awesome, I have to say), pretzels, artisan bread, and probably some things I wasn’t even thinking about.
Even worse was food planning and shopping. Flipping through my books for good recipes, I kept finding things that had eggs, or ginger, or some form of gluten (bread, wheatberries, couscous, spelt, bulgur, barley). At Rosemont Market and Bakery, I realized that I won’t be able to buy any more of their awesome bread, just inhale the wafting scent.
Stranger, though, is realizing that I’m feeling regretful for foods that I haven’t eaten in years and don’t even truly want. The simple fact that they’re forbidden calls up an odd yearning, more nostalgia than reality. For instance, seeing all the Halloween candy, I suddenly think about not having Reese Peanut Butter cups, or peanut M&M’s, or Snickers. I smile sadly at pretzels and Wheat Thins and animal crackers and Cheerios.
I wonder if I’ll crave those things more as I cut them out, if I’ll feel compelled to try them simply because I can’t have them, not because I want them. I’d like to think not, especially since I’m sure I’ll find other foods and recipes I can eat.
But the holidays will be hard, since I may well do baking with gluten for other people while letting them know not to give me anything having that or eggs. Cookie swaps will only be possible with those willing to get creative with their baking, and holiday parties (or pretty much any social gathering) will be tough. I had gotten in the habit of taking my family out to high-end restaurants for dinner as their gift, but that will probably go by the wayside, and eating out in general will be tricky.
I suppose in some ways that’s what I’m grieving more than anything - the inability to partake in some of these foods with others. It’s different, somehow, when it’s by necessity rather than choice.
On the up side, I remind myself that none of these allergies are life-threatening, and if I very occasionally have a small amount of food on this list, it’s not the end of the world. And since I might be able to eat some of them again if I avoid them long enough, perhaps I shouldn’t think of it as farewell, but instead bid au revoir to these favorite foods, and hope for the best.