Within the weeks before the fourth Thursday of November rolls around, the typical American mind starts fantasizing about what kind of delicacies that year’s Thanksgiving feast will bring. Some of us want nothing more than to stuff our faces with all of the turkey we can get our hands on, while others crave a plate full of stuffing or dressing. For me, I have always been quite the fan of green bean casseroles. While both of my parents find this dish to be incredibly unappetizing, this glorious side dish has always held a special place in my heart and I have taken it upon myself to prepare this dish every year. However, as I was thinking about my Thanksgiving plans the other afternoon, I came to a harsh realization: I will no longer be able to enjoy this Turkey Day staple.
This past May, I underwent a number of allergy tests after suffering from symptoms of food allergies in the months prior. Though I already knew that I had a nut allergy, something seemed to be a bit off-kilter. Expecting to be allergic to something mainly insignificant to my diet, like red bell peppers or artichokes, I was shocked when the results of my allergy tests came in: wheat, corn, eggs, soy, sesame, peanuts and most tree nuts. While I was relieved that I now knew why I was feeling so ill all the time, including breaks-outs of hives and feeling sick to my stomach, I knew that my diet was now about to change drastically. In order to cut these allergens from my body, I basically stopped eating a lot of American staples, including things like popcorn, pizza and bagels. However, this is my first “holiday season” of having to remain conscious of my allergies, a new challenge within itself. It’s true, it was difficult to skip the hamburger bun on the Fourth of July and to bypass the corn on the cob on Labor Day, but so far the greatest trial is yet in store.
This holiday realization reminds me of the fact that so many individuals, especially children, are now being diagnosed with food allergies or sensitivities in recent years. With Celiac Disease on the rise and peanut-free tables being set in grade schools, I’m led to question whether the typical American holiday dishes will cease to exist in the future. With so many people unable to consume wheat or gluten, will your mother’s corn bread recipe lay dormant in her recipe box? Will your grandmother’s pecan pie become too risky to prepare in the same kitchen that the evening’s bird will be roasting in? Will the spread that we’ve all come to know and love become so greatly altered that it will no longer hold the same Thanksgiving charm?
Yes, it’s true, the spirit of Thanksgiving lies in the recognition of how much you have been blessed with in your life, a value that is often overlooked. However, the bottom line remains the same: It just isn’t Thanksgiving without something satisfying and traditional to eat, allergies or not.
As I focus on this Turkey Day challenge, I find myself looking for a reason as to why so many individuals find themselves suffering from food allergies this day in age. When I was growing up with a nut allergy, I remember how odd it seemed to explain to my little friends that I couldn’t enjoy a piece of their PB and J at lunch. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, looking at a book that explained how to tell your classmates about a food allergy, as if the process would seem a bit more comfortable if coming from a picture book. Years later in college, I still find very few of my friends with the same allergies I have; however, more and more of them are being tested for food intolerances due to developing symptoms. If you peer into an elementary school today, you see a rather different picture than when I was there. An EpiPen supply is standard protocol in the nurse’s office and teachers are requesting treats to be free of nuts, eggs, or other ingredients that members of the class may not be able to eat. While I find these efforts of good nature, I can’t help but question why this is all necessary. Is this newfound food allergy epidemic a biological result? A societal consequence? The product of the foods that we’re eating? I’ve never been one for science, and the human body continues to baffle me, but someone must be able to shed light on this developing problem. If so, please feel free to contact me. All information will be well-received and greatly appreciated.
With pumpkin pies to skip and croissants to deny, I ask that those of you who are lucky enough to enjoy these treats to please take an extra bite for me. For my sake, make it a big one. To those of you preparing Thanksgiving feasts, please be sure to ask your guests if any food items disagree with them. After all, dessert shouldn’t consist of a glass of water and Benadryl.
With humble thanks and a satisfied belly to come,
– Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer