I am a Chef; having cooked professionally for 35 years.
I am personally allergic to wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and the chemical, sodium triphosphate, used in frozen seafood to help it retain moisture. I am also profoundly sensitive to gluten; with immediate and long lasting intestinal misery involved. My sensitivity to all bovine dairy products affects my ears; within minutes, of consuming one bite of cheese, my eustachian tubes start to collapse. This means for me to be involved in the remainder of the dinner conversation, everyone will need to shout, for me to hear them. This lasts a couple days; frequently resulting in fluid build up behind my eardrums. To complete the list, Dr. Priscilla Natanson of Seattle Natural Medicine also determined, in 2005, that I was sensitive to all members of the nightshade family. The consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, etc. was causing severe arthritis type pain in my back.
Being a Chef, learning about all this was all a pretty low blow! But, you know, not feeling ill all the time, was a huge trade off for me! This situation also gave me the impetus to really understand what foods cause symptoms and how to avoid them. My multitude of customers reaped the benefits as well. I truly understand what it’s like to be ‘afraid’ to go out to eat. When your airway starts closing due to anaphylaxis, it pretty much means the meal is over. If you’re lucky, you won’t require a trip to the hospital.
Most people don’t ever experience this sort of reaction. Hallelujah! A vast percentage of people do have sensitivity issues, though. Many are aware they shouldn’t eat these things, but feel they can ‘control’ it, so continue to consume foods that they don’t understand are making them feel chronically ill, bloated, lethargic. They are used to feeling that way all the time. For example, the guest that requires customization of their entire meal, to eliminate gluten, who then orders a big piece of cake. Hey, it’s your life. These are personal choices.
I listen to so many people complain about their weight; giving up on diet after diet, trying to take off stubborn pounds. The key to success, may be the direct result of that one ingredient they are sensitive to! Sure, only eating the item once in while, is better. It’s incredibly hard to relearn life long eating habits. It’s a decision we each have to make. When I made that decision, people in my life were incredulous that I was able to give up ALL the foods I shouldn’t be eating. I simply felt that much better! I also dropped 25 percent of my total body mass in about a year. As I said, this is your choice. It’s hard, but I can help you make it easier. The first step is to understand where to find these ingredients hiding.
For those that do grasp the basics of avoiding their particular food demons, the compounding problem escalates regardless, when people eat at most restaurants. The majority of the populous simply don’t have a great deal of food preparation knowledge. Without that, it makes it tremendously difficult to order food in a restaurant without questioning the server and hoping they either know the answers, or are able to clearly ask the kitchen staff, to keep their guests safe. Numerous entrepreneurial and corporate houses alike, are rising to this challenge and providing concise information to their staff and customers regarding potential allergens in the food they prepare. I will be writing an additional page, on the blog, that keeps a tally of restaurants that are, and are not, helpful on this subject. I would love to hear from you with your experiences dining out. We want this list to be as comprehensive as possible.
I am in the process of continuing pages that will cover specific allergens and ingredients that frequently trigger sensitivities, one by one. Sufferers can anticipate an easy to use guide in the near future.
In the meantime, I will continue to create recipes that will keep meals exciting, while avoiding listed substances. You will find those noted in bold print, in each recipe.
A toast to a healthier future!