I first learned about my severe tree nut allergy (anaphylaxis) when I was 3 years old after trying cashews for the first time warranted a trip to the hospital. After that childhood incident, I was encouraged by doctor’s to stay away from all tree nuts. Throughout my life, I never felt that my 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 year with the growth of dairy/gluten free alternatives and other health food trends, I’ve had 2 incidents with tree nuts.
January 28th, 2017 was an incredibly eventful day to say the least. KB (my boyfriend at the time) and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time as adults, not students on a field trip. Afterwards, we stumbled upon a winter festival in Bryant Park with ice skating, shops and a Biergarten. Finally, we sat down for a well-deserved dinner, veggie burgers *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 dessert shop. Maybe, I thought the ice cream on the menu would be made from coconut milk, or maybe I was too exhausted to be making a judgement call at all. Nevertheless, 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 wrong. My mouth immediately felt itchy and I sat there paralyzed with fear trying to decide what to do next. My internal panic attack was interrupted by a question, “Do you not like your ice cream?” Clearly, KB was confused as normally I would have finished my dessert in a couple of seconds. I very calmly responded that I did like my ice cream, it tasted great, however I was 1000% positive that there were tree nuts in it. He asked one of the people who worked at Sweets by CHLOE. if he could see the ingredient list on the ice cream package and 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 given Benadryl and an IV drip with other medication to combat the allergic reaction I was having. I was then told I would be kept in the hospital for up to 4 hours for observation, as reactions can often recur as the allergen passes through one's digestive system.
Fun date to say the least.
In the days after this experience, I started to think about ways to help others with similar life threatening food allergies by sharing my story. 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." I wanted to create this blog and fill it with healthy (and sometimes not so healthy recipes) that are most importantly tree nut free.