Saturday, March 24, 2007

This isn't what I was going to write about

I got hit with my food allergy today.

I'm allergic to peanuts, always have been, since the first time someone gave me a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup when I was three or four years old. I am, fortunately, not allergic to peanut oil, nor the scent of peanuts (some people are). Until about six or seven years ago, the most obvious manifestation of the allergy was respiratory distress - the feeling of my throat closing up. The more dangerous symptom, however, was that my blood pressure would drop. Now the allergy takes the form of my stomach swelling and nausea. My stomach hurts, too: The time I got hit with the allergy the worst after its manifestation changed, I felt like there was a mace inside my stomach, and I wound up looking four months pregnant.

It is anaphylaxis, a pretty common severe allergy reaction. I wish I could say I carry a bottle of Benadryl and an Epi-Pen all of the time, but I don't. I try to take it with me when I'm going out to dinner at an unknown place or in a hotel, on planes, and when I'm more than twenty minutes from a hospital. But mostly I don't eat stuff that gives me the willies, like cookies baked at home (unless I can talk to the baker) or those from a package of mixed cookies, or label-less candy that I can't cut in half. I read labels and I talk to servers in African, Chinese, and Thai restaurants.

Today, I got hit by a samosa. In fact I'm fairly certain it was the red sauce on the samosa; I bought it from a vendor at the Farmers' Market, and when he asked, I said yes to cilantro/mint sauce. I even asked what was in it, which I usually don't. When he smeared on the sweet red sauce as well, I didn't ask him what was in it, nor did I refuse the red- and green- smeared samosa. I would not be surprised to learn that he uses ground peanuts in the red sauce (of course, I hope he does, or uses them in the samosas themselves, because that's vastly preferable to not knowing what the reaction was for). Usually I can taste peanuts, but not over the spicy heat of this thing today, so the itchy mouth was my only warning. Instead of going back to the dance studio for the afternoon dance party, we came home and I swallowed four teaspoons of Benadryl and brushed my teeth. Then I sat in the blue chair, read, and felt sick and sleepy for four hours.

The strongest emotion I have about my food allergy is annoyance. It screws up the rest of my day, because I feel sick and because the Benadryl makes me groggy. I mostly feel annoyance at myself, because I'm the one who controls what I put in my mouth. I also get annoyed at the food preparer when I'm allergic to foods that shouldn't have peanuts in them, which happened once each with enchilada sauce and pesto (or samosas and associated sauces!). Before I left home, my mom tried to terrify me with the story of the girl who'd died eating chili at the college cafeteria, but I just didn't eat chili - that is, until I met Chili Fritos [see his 01/23/07 post]. I may have walked to the Food Services Office and asked if there was peanut butter in the chili, but I don't remember.

The only good things about my allergy are: 1) I have an early warning symptom, in that my mouth itches immediately after the first bite; and 2) I don't like peanuts or peanut butter, or candy that includes either. In fact, I can't bring myself to eat soy or other nut butters because they look so much like peanut butter. One time I made these almond butter cookies, even pressing them with a fork for the traditional pattern, and felt like I was getting away with something when I ate the first one.

I was going to write about this writing project (is blogging about blogging a meta-post?) but that will have to wait until I have the brains to go with the time.

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