Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Check The Label

Beatrice Blount, Beatrice Blount, where have you been?

I've been to market, to buy an assortment of locally grown, organic, grass fed, no hormone, cage free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, no fresh fruits or green peas or carrots or chemicals or dyes or animal byproducts, humane and environmentally conscious bag of stuff.
It is kind of a small bag.

A small, expensive bag.

But I like the bag, and the bag (made from recycled stuff) is here to stay.

Depending on how long you've known me, you might be surprised to hear about the recent changes to the Blount family diet. If you've known me for ten years or less, you will recall that I have a penchant for Cheetos and I haaaaaaaate to cook. Hate.To.Cook.

For those select few who made it through The Great Friend Removal of 2000, you will wonder if I'm headed down 'that path' again. Rest assured that I have no intentions of further developing my food phobia, and I promise not to drop below 100 pounds again. (Snickers to self...ooh, Snickers.)

I think that I'm somewhere in the middle of the health meter for the average American person. I would never, no never, let my kids eat circus peanuts or Cool*Whip. However, their daily vitamin is administered in the form of a gummi penguin. I make them drink water, but I also let them drink Sprite. We don't eat fast food very much, but we also don't have vegetables very much either. I buy healthy grains, but I also buy sugar. I assume that we haven't been very far from average, but I could also be blissfully ignorant. It helps my self-esteem to think that other mothers feed their kids circus peanuts dipped in Cool*Whip for breakfast.


Boy with allergies meets girl with phobias, and the rest is history.

The children inherited his allergies, and they have so far only showed slight promise at the phobia gift. We'll see. For now, I'm the only phobic one.

After about 40 pokes in each of their tiny little backs, we have discovered that the kids can't eat....much.

The kids are allergic to nuts? SUPER! Because NOTHING has NUTS in it!

The kids are allergic to soy? AWESOME! Because 60% of packaged foods have it! Woot!

And so on, so forth, etc. and here I am, elbow deep in books about animal cruelty and websites about chemicals and documentaries about heart disease.

I'm not new to this world, but I haven't visited in quite some time. Last time I crossed the border I went a little nuts (wait...can't do nuts anymore...let's say crazy) and had to be removed against my own will.

So I'm sitting on the tarmac, holding my passport and wondering if I really am going to be able to stay in Healthland for awhile.

What other option do I have?

Anyways, this isn't about how disgusting meat is when produced in the (sadly) "normal" way or how much frigging corn and nasty soy are in our diet. I say nasty soy because not all soy is good for you. And even the good stuff makes me want to yak.

Really, I'm not inclined to complain very much. Just a few days after my kids were told that they are collectively allergic to: peanuts, soy, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, carrots, peas, fresh fruit, chemicals, dogs, cats, horses, birds, oak, grass, maple, mold, ragweed, fake fragrances, flowers, adhesives and that's all I can remember without looking at the paperwork, my friend found out that her sweet little girl can't have milk, eggs, wheat and something else I can't remember. HELLO?!

My friend has been diligently making lasagna without these ingredients. Cakes, snacks, and heaven only knows what else. I'm sure it is amazing. She is amazing and I wish I had inherited her fabumommy genes.
I've still been wandering aimlessly around the grocery stores and farmer's market stalls trying to figure out WHAT to FEED these KIDS. Cereal for dinner is losing the luster it once had. One night, my oldest was delighted to find that she could have a spoonful of honey for desert. My middle child opted out, and I felt horribly guilty when I snuck a (serving size) spoonful of Ben & Jerry's. I can sneak a bite and only worry about my thighs. They can't sneak things at all.

I always ramble a bit before getting to the point. Let's hope that the time is now upon us.

I was passing through the kitchen a few weeks ago and overheard a conversation between Moira and Sabra. Sabra can have some fruits, while Moira can't have any. We knew this before going to the allergist, so she hasn't tried many things in the produce category. Sabra was eating a pear and Moira asked her what it tasted like.

It reminded me of the scene in that angel movie with Meg Ryan...City of Angels I think. It was a perfectly stupid movie aside from the amazing soundtrack. But in the movie, Nicolas Cage (angel) asks Meg (human) what a pear tastes like. And she answers something that ends up being romantic or some such nonsense. But can you tell someone what a pear tastes like? What if that person has never had an apple or a banana or anything to compare it with?

I felt sad at first for Moira, but then when seeing that she was just curious, I let it go. It is what it is, and of all the things that can go wrong with the human body, food allergies are not in the heart wrenching category (unless, of course, they are ignored).

But it is such an odd thought.

When we left the doctor's office a few months ago, I knew that some big life changes were in order. But I've been thinking about things a day at a time. I just have to fix them a 'safe' dinner tonight. And tomorrow I'll need a safe breakfast. When we go to a birthday party, I have to bring their own safe cupcakes. It requires more planning (which I'm soooooo good at) and baking (ditto) and natural food shopping (which I'm wealthy enough for, being married to a pastor/teacher). IS doable.

A few days after this No Nut Revelation, Sabra asked for her favorite candy. M&M chocolate discs of colored love are her happy thoughts that make her fly. Her birthday cake a few years ago was a giant M&M. She loves them. She made an M&M pot at the paint-your-own-overpriced-pottery place. Guess what? M&Ms are made in a facility that also processes peanuts. She can't have them. I gently told her that she couldn't have any. She rolled her eyes and told me that she didn't want the nut kind, just the regular kind. So....I explained again what her allergy meant in terms of dietary exemption.

She wept.

I know, that is kind of funny and cute and sad all at the same time. But she really did just put her head on the floor and wail. She looked up after awhile and said, "forever?" and I (with real tears in my eyes, even though it was only about sub par chocolate) nodded in the vertical affirmation that would cause her to again weep and sob and snort.

When Moira asks about a pear or Sabra sadly looks at the M&M bags, I remember that this is an inconvenient issue for me. For is a forever kind of thing.

One day, Moira will be out of my home and into her own posh European flat. I won't have to worry about if the animal crackers have soy, but she will. Sabra can't eat her favorite childhood candy ever again. Never ever, not even for the sake of nostalgia. By the time she's my age, she probably won't remember what they taste like. How WEIRD is that?!

There are so many lessons I'm learning in the world of Check The Label. It is just food. But it isn't. Sometimes little wake up calls sound like a trumpet blast. Actually, more like a tuba. I like tubas better. person's inconvenience is another person's EpiPen.

I can't give Sabra another M&M, and I have no idea how to explain what a pear tastes like.

Good thing I'm such an awesome cook. Wait...


Meredith said...

When I was Moira's age, I found out I had a SEVERE allergy to latex. As in gloves, balloons, bandaids (which, strangely, I can still use with no problem), etc. I'm now 26. Growing up, birthdays were particularly problematic. Not just friends' parties where parents decorated with latex balloons without thinking, but when we would go out for my own birthday & waiters would try to tie a balloon onto my wheelchair & my parents & I would spend the next hour explaining to EVERY employee who brought one over why I could not have it. I can barely be in the same room with them. Like Sabra, it also comes with a plethora of "things to avoid just to be overly cautious" such as avocado, pear, kiwi, mango, & banana just to name foods. It is very difficult, but truly, with time you will learn to manage & live with it.

ReflectionsByPj said...

Ugh, I feel shallow... consumed with inconvenience and had forgotten the life altering "forever"... thanks for the perspective check.

Beth McDermott said...

there is NOTHING sub par about M&Ms. that is beyond tragic. im being completely serious. its true tho... it WILL become a way of life, once you learn to walk again (or cook, whatever). whats one more mountain, right? its fuel for your marathon training. xo

Anonymous said...

Poor kids! But you know what? They are SO incredibly lucky to have you because you "get" it and you're going to do everything in your power to ensure that they enjoy the hell out of That Which Will Not Kill Them. As for you not being a good cook/baker, I seem to remember some frosted sugar cookies you made (last fall, I think?) that looked DELICIOUS. Don't sell yourself short.