Throughout my life I have never felt like my tree nut allergy got in the way of my diet. Usually, if I avoided foods clearly labeled with tree nuts I was safe. Unfortunately, in the last 6 months I have had 2 incidents with tree nuts... specifically cashews.
January 28th, 2017 was an incredibly eventful day to say the least. I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time as an adult, not a student on a field trip. I stumbled upon a winter festival in Bryant Park with ice skating, shops and a Biergarten. Finally, sat down for a well-deserved dinner a veggie burger (*tree nut free from Phebe’s on Bowery and E 4th street).
After dinner came the most important question: what’s for dessert? Tired and indecisive, I googled several options in the area and finally decided on Sweets By CHLOE., an all vegan establishment. Perhaps, I thought the ice cream on the menu would be made from coconut milk, or perhaps I was too exhausted to think at all. I ordered and began to consume my peanut butter and jelly flavored ice cream (*disclaimer I am NOT allergic to peanuts, thank goodness).
One bite and I could already tell something was not right. My mouth immediately felt itchy and I sat there paralyzed with fear over what to do next (ugh... did I mention I was on a date). I asked one of the people who worked there if I could see the ingredients in the ice cream. Sure enough the dessert contained almond milk, hazelnuts and cashew paste… Next stop? Lenox Hill Hospital.
In the cab and throughout the first moments spent in that hospital bed I proceeded to feel worse and worse; swallowing was challenging, my body shaking, face hot, eyes itchy and stomach cramping. I was administered Benadryl, epinephrine and IV drip with other allergy medication. I was then told I would be kept in the hospital for up to 4 hours for observation, as reactions often recur as the allergen passes through one's digestive system.
In the days after this experience, I started to think about ways to help others with similar allergies by sharing my story. As a vegetarian working in the food industry, I constantly come in contact with new food brands offering healthy vegan or vegetarian options of some of my favorite foods (granola bars, cheese, ice cream etc.). My first question to the brand is always "do your products contain nuts?" and unfortunately more often than not their answer is "yes."
Seeking to bridge the gap between healthy living and tree nut allergies, I want to show how you can eat out and prepare healthy/plant based recipes with tree nut free alternative ingredients. Although I am not vegan or celiac, I will also aim to show dairy-free and gluten-free options in the meals featured on my blog. I hope you enjoy!