Nothing freaks me out more than seeing a pistachio. It didn't used to be this way. They were my friends. I ate them by the bag full, as I cracked their shells apart. It was, without question, my favorite nut. Never did I think that I would have to give them up. Until the day that I found out that my daughter is exceptionally allergic to them. (If you have never heard that story, you may read about it here.)
That was the day that I gave them up. Because if I were to consume them, even out of her presence, and if I were to kiss her or touch her... she could still die. She is that allergic to them. When dining at a restaurant, I will often wince when I see them an ingredient on a menu. The only time that I have had one, in the past 4 years, was at my cousin's wedding when I was served a pistachio-crusted chicken. I attended the wedding by myself and was away from my kids for the weekend. So I went crazy. Actually, I ate about three bites. It wasn't very good.
Lately, I have been on edge about all things related to nuts especially when my daughter is not with me. The recent death of little Amaria Johnson, a Virginia first grader, has rocked the allergy community. She died after eating a peanut that a classmate had given to her on the playground. There are two stories about why she was not given the medications that would have saved her life; she had a known peanut allergy but for whatever reason, the school did not allow her to keep her Epi Pen in their office. They were also supposed to administer Benadryl, as an emergency precaution. And they did not. She died of an anaphylactic reaction that led to cardiac arrest within minutes.
My daughter, Ella, is also in the first grade. After hearing about this tragic event I immediately drafted a letter to the faculty of her school. Even though I go over her "allergy protocol" at the beginning of each school year with whomever her teacher is, I wanted to remind them, again, of what needs to be done if she were to have an allergic reaction. Her school is "nut free" in that they request that parents do not allow their children to bring nuts to school. In spite of this general rule, kids still bring PB & J's to lunch from time to time. When they do, they are asked to consume their sandwiches at a separate table. This has not been a problem for us because our daughter does not seem to have an anaphylactic or airborne issue with peanut butter, even though she is allergic to peanuts. There are other nut allergic kids in the school, but I do not know what their particular situations are. Our school is small, less than 90 kids from TK-6 grades. It is a tight community and everyone always seems to look out for each other. The reason it is only "nut free" and not NUT FREE is because the school is a part of a larger facility that hosts many different functions. It is a religious day school and is part of a Jewish Synagog that is part of a much larger community. The spaces are shared for a variety of events, seminars and classes. It would be impossible for them to monitor every single situation where someone could bring food into the Temple. Long story short, nut contamination is possible but I trust the staff at her school to watch over our daughter and make sure she stays out of harm's way. Her friends have also proven to be marvelous advocates for her, which is another great line of defense.
Last week, I arrived to pick her up and discovered a trail of empty pistachio shells, leading toward the play yard. Naturally, you can imagine the panic that I felt. When I saw Ella she was surrounded by a couple of friends and all at once they told me, "You are not going to believe what happened today! Sasha brought pistachios for her morning snack and then she shared them with Zoe!" Sharing food is absolutely not allowed at school. But I know how things go doing morning recess, kids are running in a million different directions and it would be quite easy for a teacher to miss such a transaction.
I went home and wrote another letter to the Head of the School. At this point, I felt a little like a pain in the ass but it had to be done. The school policies are clear on the issue, nuts are not allowed. But legally, it is a bit of a grey area because the facility is shared. The Head of School got back to me right away (she is amazing and I adore her) and she had spoken to the first grade teacher about the incident. Because I had just sent them all a letter the week prior, the nut issue was very much in their minds. The teacher eventually saw what the little girl was eating, confiscated the contraband and asked both girls to go to the restroom to wash their hands. I do not know if the girl's parents were informed or not. After a few years of doing this blog, I have learned that it is best to let the schools handle these situations when possible. And I trust that they did. I feel like I would be overstepping my boundaries to e-mail the parents directly, especially because I do not know them that well. By the way, Ella is not the only child in her class of 16 that has deadly nut allergies.
As if all of this was not enough to add to my new crop of grey hairs, we had another little run in with our "enemy" at my nephew's birthday party. My sister had ordered a cous cous salad from a restaurant that we all love and it was made with pistachios! So once again, I went into "freak out" mode. The salad had been packaged with several things that my daughter would normally love to eat... fruit salad, steamed brussels sprouts, rice. I promptly told her that she could not get anything from the kitchen and that I had to select the foods for her to eat. And then I told my family that if they ate the offending dish, to please wash their hands and to NOT kiss Ella. Clearly, they must all think that I am the true nut. But honestly, you have to do what you have to do when it comes to keeping a child safe. I don't really care what people think about me. All I care is that my daughter makes it through life, without dying prematurely because of some stupid mistake.
Hopefully, we are done running into our little green friend, at least for a while. The year has barely begun and this is already too much.
I wish nothing but safety and good health for all of you in the allergy community. Check those Epi pens to make sure they are up to date. And make sure you have enough Benadryl or generic antihistamine to take down a horse. Better safe, than sorry!
If you have not done so already, please take a moment to sign this petition...
He's delighted children all over the world as the blue Wiggle and now Anthony Field is taking on a new role, teaching kids and adults alike about the dangers of allergies as a spokesperson for Anaphylaxis Australia. He and his son Antonio joined TODAY to talk about the campaign.
This is a horrible story to have to share at the beginning of a new year. I send much love to the people who are mourning this little girl. It is shameful and inconceivable that ANY school would tell a parent to "keep the Epi pen at home". This from an institution who's primary goal is to care for and educate children? Despicable!
Food allergies are real. People need to wake up and get serious about this problem before more innocent lives are lost. If there is anything that you can do to help affect change in your community, please, please do it. Stop the madness.
This is a blog for people who are limited in what they can eat. The focus of this blog is primarily wheat/gluten and nut free. Many of the recipes include dairy ingredients which can easily be substituted with a soy or non-dairy alternative. No recipes include shellfish or sesame. Another focus is healthy living through the use of organic foods and enriching activities like exercise and hobbies. I try to keep current on articles that are published about food allergies and their possible causes. If you know anyone with food allergies or happen to have them yourself, this blog is for you!
I hold a BS in Home Economics and Interior Design from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I have been a Set Decorator and Interior Designer for over 15 years, having worked on many films and television shows. Most recently, I won a Primetime Emmy for Best Art Direction for a Multi-camera Series for my work on Fox's MasterChef.
We have two young children... Milo, 6, and Ella, 8. My Husband is a comedy writer, whose Tweets are MUCH more entertaining than mine could ever be!
When I was 34 I found out that I am allergic to shellfish, after having eaten it my entire life.
My daughter has severe food allergies, including peanuts, sesame, and all nuts. She is especially allergic to pistachios. She had previously been allergic to wheat, eggs and soy... thankfully, she has seemingly outgrown those allergies.
Cooking for a child is usually a challenge, but finding things for an allergic kid to eat is next to impossible.
I started this blog because I have been learning so much and am eager to share information. Because I love to cook, recipes are a huge part of what I am posting.
It IS possible to live well with food allergies. Thanks for reading...