Allergies and Playing With Your Food (a primer, for adults!)

So some of you may have noticed by now that I don’t tend to list onions or garlic (or even much citrus) in my ingredients lists, and there’s a really good reason for that: my wife.

My wife has a severe allergy to the tulip family, so onions and garlics of all varieties are out of her diet, lest she want an exciting and adventurous trip to the ER (since she won’t let me perform one of those cool-looking emergency tracheotomies with a pocket knife and crazy curly straw).  There’s also mild-er allergies to: tomatoes, bell peppers, and (all) seafood that I need to keep in mind.

Then, to add a little fun to the mix, a little under a year ago I developed my own first food allergies: citrus!  No lemons or limes for me or I start coughing uncontrollably – even a little bit can set me off for over a half-hour of uncontrollable hacking.

Combine these two sets of differing allergies and then add in the fact that I’m a professional cook and enthusiastic foodie, and… well, you end up having a really hard time finding safe places to eat.  No restaurant is completely safe, as even higher-end establishments have missed the ALLERGY notes on the food slips printing in the kitchen.  Onions and garlic are pretty universally used, too.. off the top of my head, I can’t think of any culinary styles that don’t use one of those (or at least, not without being heavily focused on fish, which is also a no-go).   Heck – many restaurants I have to send my water back, as all too often I still forget to ask the servers to not put a lemon wedge in it.

Now, if you’ve read through all of this, you may get the sense that I’m complaining, but here’s the thing: this has forced me to really focus on becoming a better cook, and for that I will always be grateful.  I’ve learned ways to get around not being able to use two of the most popular seasonings world-wide in our home cooking, and since I’m not willing to compromise on variety or quality, well..

…our awesomely awefull allergies allow an aggressive approach to ameliorating acquired [culinary] assets!

The point of this, though, is simply to point out two things for those of you that follow my humble blog:

1)Good food is ALWAYS possible, no matter the allergies you have to work around.  Don’t avoid good food because of allergies – just find a way to *make* the food you want!
2)NEVER be afraid to play with a recipe and put your own spin on it.  As much as one of my training Chefs hated it ever time I said this, I still believe to this day that a true passion for food means you are going to “Play” with your food.  If you have a passion for finding the best foods you can, how will you know what’s best unless you are willing to adjust, change, touch-up or outright butcher an idea to maybe find something even better?

So yeah — adults everywhere, consider this your call to glory: for the culinary good of all, play with your food, and allergies be damned!

  1. although I am no longer a professional cook, I too still love to cook (as you know) and like my sister, I have many allergies (different from hers) and one of my son has a number of allergies as well. I have found many ways to get around not using cinnamon, orange, grapefruit, tomatoes, peanuts, avocado, bananas, kiwi, and peas (I know I am missing one or two) and then my son is allergic to fish, and dairy. (he used to have more allergies and outgrew them but recently they are returning 😦
    I agree totally that you can create delicious and interesting food working around allergies! I love the challenge most days 🙂

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