As I look back at 2018, I am humbled by how the year unfolded for Allergic Traveler.
To begin with, 2018 was Allergic Traveler’s best year to date.
This is clearly because of you – my supporters, my food allergy friends, my
food allergy parents and the food allergy community. We shipped more chef cards
to more states and more countries than ever
Many get anxiety when it comes to food allergies and the holidays. While food allergies can be daunting when it comes to gatherings, they need not be. As a child, this Allergic Traveler always went to her grand parents for the holidays. Out of 18 years of holidays (Christmases, birthdays and Thanksgivings), I can only remember getting sick once. My late aunt was the culprit. She was of the generation that did not understand food allergies. When I started eating a dish that she made and had an immediate reaction, my mother asked, “Are you sure there are no eggs in that?” Her response was “well maybe just a little.” I was then rushed to the hospital. Fast forward and everything was fine. The next challenge in my life came with my in-laws. Again, they never knew anyone who had food allergies. I never got sick However, frequently I would end up at the grocery store during the actual meal trying to find something I could eat. The point here is that I get it, holidays can be hard. I am here to tell you though that they do not need to be.
Everyone gets to eat!
I am a big advocate of making sure that everyone has something to eat. I pride myself on making dishes that can accommodate those that are gluten free, dairy free, pork free, or sugar free or vegans, or…. Of course, all the dishes that I make need to accommodate to my dietary restrictions as well. The dishes cannot have any eggs, nuts, shellfish, mushrooms, pork, soy, sesame or garlic in them. I am not one of those that can cook something even though I am allergic to it. The reason is because most of my allergens I cannot even touch. For instance, you would never find a pecan pie at my house because I am allergic to nuts. There are even some of my allergens that are airborne to me, eggs and shellfish. So, I cannot touch, ingest or smell some of my most sensitive food allergens.
With all these restrictions, you would think we ate a bucket of ice or a bag of air for the holidays. Not true! There is always something for everyone at my house. I am a big fan of experimenting in the kitchen. I believe in the art of substitution. For instance, if something needs to be dairy free, then I will substitute olive oil for butter. The trick to substitution is that those without food allergies cannot tell the difference.
My goal, whenever I entertain, is to make sure everyone can eat. And that everyone feels safe. No one is going to the hospital or grocery store on my watch!
Tips on surviving the holidays
Here are some tips for having something for everyone during the holiday meal –
- Ask your guests before their arrival of any dietary restrictions. If they have restrictions, invite them to bring their own dish as well. Let them know you will have a dish for them, but many feel safe if they can also bring their own.
- Make your dishes with as few ingredients as
This week we have a guest blogger, Michelle, who discusses hurricanes and allergies. Hurricane Florence has just passed. Many are still recuperating and trying to get their lives back in order. Were you prepared? Did you have your flashlights, extra water and milk? What about with regards to your food allergies? Did you have food allergy friendly meals ready? Were you prepared with regards to those? Handling power outages with food allergies is a whole different game. Michelle offers us some great tips. Make sure you are ready! – Tarah
HURRICANES ALLERGY STYLE
As a born and raised Florida girl, I’ve seen my fair share of hurricanes. However, since becoming enlightened about my food allergies I had only been through one hurricane before moving to Durham, North Carolina for grad school. This time I was on my own, without the comfort of my parents four refrigerators, three freezer, and gas stove top to ensure I would always have something safe to eat. Florence was my time to shine and prove I had this whole allergy thing down.
As I stood in the grocery store with frantic shoppers buzzing by me, the realization hit me like the rushing lady’s cart taking a wide turn down aisle 13 to grab the last package of bottled water. I had no idea how to feed myself if I lost power in my apartment with its little electric stove top.
With no time to hesitate, I quickly scanned the aisles for anything and everything I could potentially consume. Thankfully we were just grazed by the storm and never lost power. However, this experience made me realize how unprepared I truly was at a time when one cannot afford to be. They say hindsight is 20/20, so now I am learning from my mistakes so we all can be ready the moment the weather man mentions our area in a storm’s path.
ALLERGY HURRICANE GUIDE
Any proper hurricane guide should contain a necessary needs list. I will be breaking my list down into four sections: Nonperishable Goods, Pre-prepared Foods, Staying Safe in Shared Locations, and Medical Kit Musts. Be sure to tailor any suggestions to fit your own dietary and medical needs.
Stick with brands and flavors you know (but remember to always recheck labels).
What does the FARE nomination mean to this Allergic Traveler? Well to begin with, what is the FARE nomination? It is best described in their own words; FARE’s mission statement is “to make the world safe for people with food allergies.” To be nominated for an award you need to fall into the following category, “you are an individual or an entity who works to make that vision a reality, and who support F
ARE in its mission to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies.” Before getting into the details of the award, let me tell you first how I came to know and appreciate FARE.
My Intro to FARE
Having food allergies my entire life, you would have thought that I would have known them for many years. Alas this was not the case. I only became familiar with FARE after I launched Allergic Traveler in 2011. Knowing in my heart how important Allergic Traveler’s mission is (to enable those with food allergies to have the courage to travel and eat out), I knew I wanted to partner up with the organization making the biggest difference in the food allergy community.
I joined forces with FARE and sponsored many of their Walks across the country. To meet young children from Atlanta to New York, raising funds to bring more awareness to the food a
llergy community was truly humbling. During the very first Walk Allergic Traveler attended, I could not help but think, I wish I had this peer network when I was a child with food allergies. Back then, my sister and I were the only kids at school or in the neighborhood with food allergies. Not once have I ever regretted having food allergies. I actually look at it as a gift. If it were not for my food allergies, I would have never met so many remarkable people, parents, kids and companies with such a passi
on to make my eating experience a little safe. Imagine! Truly I am spoiled to have so many advocates in my corner.
Who is FARE
FARE is one of the many remarkable organizations advocating for those of us with food allergies. They provide services, grants, education, camps, clinics, walks, research and so much more. I applaud them for all they do. Food allergies are by no means “main stream” but FARE is making it their purpose to continually push forward in the advancement of awareness of food allergies. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to make a donation. Your funds go toward making that little kid with food allergies feel extra special!
About the Award
The FARE award is for businesses, schools, individuals, companies, allergists, and teenagers were all nominated from across the country for their continuous dedication to our plea. Please join me in congratulating all the nominees for their endless efforts. I do not know where we would be without them. I want to personally thank Fare for making this kid feel extra special. The award ceremony will be held in Washington DC on Nov 3. Safe travels to all and congratulations on all your hard work.
This is the tale of a friend of mine watching my back while in survival mode in Vegas for 72 hours. Why am I calling this survival mode? Well to travel such a long distance in such a short time with food allergies, requires some planning in order to survive!
When a friend calls you up and asks you to go to Las Vegas for 72 hours, you naturally say yes, right? I did of course, but maybe I should have said “how about 96 hours instead?” Don’t get me wrong, this Allergic Traveler is very grateful for the opportunity. I am also thankful to have a friend who gets me. She knew I would not say no. But this was a little insane, even for me. Keep in mind that we were coming from the east coast.
Logistics of the trip
We left on a Sunday night out of Raleigh and returned on the red eye on Wednesday. This meant I had three dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches to prepare for. Naturally there was no food on the plane, so this meant eating at the airport on the way out. We went to a restaurant called California Pizza Kitchen. They prepared a beautiful quinoa salad without the nuts for me.
Bombshell number one
While we were eating, my friend Ashley, asks me if I brought my Epi-pen. Naturally I said “Yes!” She then wanted to know where I kept it. Whenever someone does this, it always stops me dead in my tracks for two reasons (wrong choice of words, but you get the point!). The first reason being is that it reminds me that my life is in her hands. And the second reason is because she cares enough to ask. Ashley truly does have my back. Clearly, she is a keeper. If her questions did not stump me, then the next statement/action pretty much had me choking back tears.
Bombshell number two
Ashley said to me, that she watched a youtube video on how to administer an Epi-pen before going on this trip. I was touched and shocked by this! I have no idea if any of my other friends have ever done this, but I promise you If they have, they have never told me. Watching this type of video is not something that people do on a regular basis. It is kind of like taking a CPR class. Once you’ve done it, you think you’ve got it. However, a refresher CPR course could never hurt. Just as is the case with a how-to video on using an Epi-pen. Staying current is key! I applaud Ashley for her due diligence when traveling with me, but even more so, I thank her and love her for keeping me safe. The food allergy battle is something that needs support and a strong entourage from those within and outside the community.
Back to survival mode
Once we got through dinner at the airport, we boarded the plane. There was no food, so we just spent the flight talking. We should have slept! People often ask me how I fly with my long list of allergies? The answer is simple… I don’t touch anything! When you don’t eat on the plane, you have no reason to touch the tray table. The only thing I touch is when I must fasten and unfasten my seat belt. Granted it is not comfortable, but it is fine. It’s just a five-hour flight.
We arrived in Las Vegas around one in the morning our time. Ashley and I headed to the hotel and off to bed. The next morning, Ashley went to have breakfast in the lobby. I ate in the room. She returned with black coffee for me to help get me through the next few hours. We were attending a trade show. I knew from experience that I would not find any allergy friendly snacks along the way. By lunch time, I had a prepackaged salad with no dressing. When I got hungry during the day, I ate one of my many allergy friendly snacks. Did I mention I always pack safe food for me?
For dinner we went to India Palace. I love Indian cuisine. Even with my long list of food allergies (eggs, nuts, mushrooms, shellfish, chicken, pork, soy, sesame, etc.), I can usually find something safe to eat at these restaurants. The food was good, although it was a little spicy for my liking. I have a very sensitive palette when it comes to spicy food much to my husband’s dismay.
The next day, I repeated the same routine as day one, although instead of having Indian food for dinner, we headed back to the airport. Once at the airport, I had another prepackaged salad. We arrived back in Raleigh around five AM. Ashley and I went straight to Starbucks for some much-needed fuel. We then headed back to our respective homes. I spent the next 24 hours unpacking, resting, repacking and preparing my meals for my next upcoming trip which would be on that Friday to Richmond, VA.
I will share the tales of my trip to Richmond in my next blog post. Thanks for reading! So, am I insane? Would you have gone to Las Vegas in 72 hours?
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Recently I have witnessed a lot invested into the “fruits of our food allergy labor.” What I mean by this is how much is being devoted to the food allergy community. Research shows, according to Market Research Future, the global food allergy market is expected to grow at an approximate CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.6% until 2023.* The investment is occurring two fold – naturally funds are being invested but so is love, passion, energy, dedication and LONG hours! Often times the food allergy consumers have no idea about what is occurring behind the scenes. The food allergy eaters are simply excited or relieved to find something safe for them. To be able to get their hands on readily available snacks, without having to bake or create them is priceless. In a day and age where we are all over scheduled and short on time, convenience goes a long way.
But what goes on with these food allergy manufacturers?
I just finished attending and presenting at the Gluten Free and Allergy Free Wellness Event in Raleigh. This Allergic Traveler had the pleasure of meeting some great people looking for guidance on their allergy travels. Many were newly diagnosed and were fearful of how to travel on this journey. I was part of the selected few vendors able to “show them the way.” During my presentation, I shared tips on how to travel with food allergies. Other vendors were sharing their gluten free, dairy free or egg free creations. What many do not realize is what goes into offering safe snacks or into traveling with food allergies. The first thing I can tell you for sure that goes into both, is trial and error. Whether it be the baker who is making a gluten free cake for the twelfth time or someone like me who is traveling through an airport starving because I can’t find anything to eat. We are both investing hours into bringing you safe snacks and safe travel solutions.