I never thought it would come to this.
One thing I don’t write about enough on this blog is food allergies. Three-fifths of our family have serious food allergies but the Captain wins the allergy competition by far. His list of allergies is huge and, sadly, continues to grow. It seems we add one new food allergy every year.
When people hear that he subsists on a diet that is free from eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and other legumes like lentils and chick peas, with coconut looming as a dark horse, they often wonder what it is that he does eat. It can sound awfully intimidating to people who really like cheese and peanut butter and french toast, but we have learned to work around it. For years now I’ve done all our own baking, I’ve learned how to modify recipes for us, how to use the alternative products that (thank GOD) are available to us these days.
Here’s what I used to say to those people who sympathized with us: “At least we still have wheat! I don’t know what we’d do without wheat!”
Famous last words.
The Captain went for a new kind of allergy testing last week that indicates a growing sensitivity to wheat and gluten. So our doctor would like to take him off these products for at least six months, then reintroduce them, to see if we can help some growing problems he’s had lately with asthma and sinus congestion.
So, welcome to the world of gluten-free baking! Complete with no eggs, no milk, no soy flour, no chickpea flour, and no nut flours!
I actually cried in the grocery store today. First because I have no idea what to have for dinner. I have been working on a fixed 4-week menu plan for a few years now, recipes I’ve made a hundred times that I can crank out at a moment’s notice. Our meals run like a well-oiled machine, I know where everything is in the grocery store that I will need from week to week. Now half of those meals are out, and I have no idea what to make. I don’t have the time, energy, or enthusiasm to start over from scratch – I have four new gluten-free cookbooks awaiting my attention but my getting-us-through-the-holidays strategy is likely going to involve hot dogs and rice crackers at least every other night.
Later I cried again because I actually found some products at the health food store that he can have. It’s not much but there is actually a line of cookies and granola bars that are free from ALL his allergens, and are gluten free too (made by Enjoy Life, GOD I LOVE YOU PEOPLE). And I cried to think of being able to hand my kind a granola bar like a normal parent to a normal kid. I cried because the very existance of these products means there may be others out there that share our experience, and people who love them and so are doing something about it. It was a moment of real self-pity that I hope will not be repeated, because I need to focus on the positives and embrace this and move forward happily if I really, really want to help my kid.
I know there are worse things out there, but I am so tired of the constant shrinking of our diet. I just want to be able to eat out with my family at a restaurant. I want to be able to throw a frozen pizza in the oven on days when I’m exhausted and can’t face cooking from scratch. I want to be able to travel, even just on a day trip, without packing and carrying an entire suitcase full of food.
But most of all, I want someone to figure out what the HELL causes allergies, then tell me what I have to do to fix it. It is so hard, so hard, not to feel like we are somehow at fault, that something in our house or lifestyle is causing it. I could live with the allergies if only I felt like this was the end of the line. Living with the idea that any food, previously considered safe, will suddenly become un-safe is very, very hard.
I find I am envious of people who have kids with just one allergy. People who can eliminate that one food and then carry on their merry way. And don’t even mention it to me if your kid had an allergy, then outgrew it. It only makes me want to rant, wail, and scream until someone tells me what you did, that I didn’t do. How did you fix it? How can I?
Pull up the bootstraps.
Time to keep calm and carry on. I’m steering this effort and I need to buck up, soldier. Self-pity is getting me nowhere.
On a side note, anyone with some great gluten-free recipes or cookbooks to recommend is my new best friend. Bring on the suggestions.