How adjusting to life with multiple food allergies makes you think twice about what you’re eating.
Okay, let me come clean right off the bat. I’m not really a Vegan. I eat meat. I eat some dairy. I eat eggs once in a while too. So what’s up with the vegan recipes on my blog, you ask? Well, much of the cooking and baking done in my house is vegan. Let me explain.
We discovered that our second son F had a peanut allergy when he was about 18 months old. It wasn’t so bad. We did lots of reading, eliminated all nuts from our home and started carrying around EpiPens. We managed just fine. When F was four we discovered (through skin tests, blood tests and a food challenge at The Hospital for Sick Children) that he had outgrown his allergy. The day we found out I stopped on the way home and bought more than $50 worth of nuts including peanut butter, almond butter and chocolate covered almonds. Never mind that we just about made ourselves sick with nuts over the next couple of days.
When our third son S was about four months old we were at a restaurant. Sitting in my lap, he picked up my spoon and started playing with it. A few minutes later his face was red, covered with small white hives and one of his eyes was swollen. Having had a child with a peanut allergy I knew how potentially dangerous this could be. I was pretty scared. I still had an EpiPen in my bag but thankfully didn’t have to use it. After about twenty minutes S’s face was back to normal. Off to the allergist to find out what the culprit was.
S is now 3. We have learned, from the first skin test and others since that he is allergic to all dairy (cow, sheep and goat), eggs, bananas and tree nuts (specifically walnuts and pecans). It was easy when he was a baby; he was exclusively breastfed for most of his first year and continued breastfeeding until just before his second birthday (he self-weaned; if it had been up to me he would have nursed longer, especially considering his allergies). As he got older he started wanting to eat off our plates, and we got to the point where we had to drastically change the way we were cooking and eating. Giving up nuts is one thing. Bananas, no big deal. But giving up dairy and eggs is a completely different story.
Dairy and eggs are in so many things. Dairy and eggs are in everything it seems! Breads, crackers, cookies, hot dogs, hamburgers, anything breaded, most baked goods and more; a very high percentage of prepared foods contain diary and/or eggs. There is also dairy in the vast majority of margarines; one has to find a “lactose free” margarine (PC makes one) or a vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance). Soy cheese? You wouldn’t think so but yes, there is dairy in many soy cheeses too (it is disguised as casein). You have to look for vegan soy cheese.
Baking is another story all together. Dairy and eggs are staples in most kitchens. Not having them around takes some getting used to. But it’s amazing how we can change our ways. People are impressed that I can bake without dairy and eggs. AND they are even more impressed to find out that it actually tastes good! Some of my family’s favourites are chocolate cake, orange cake, pancakes, cookies, coffee cake, beer bread and pumpkin bread.
Dairy? I’m over it. No, I haven’t eliminated it from my own diet completely (I just can’t seem to give up cheese), but I don’t think it’s the be-all-end-all it’s made out to be. I don’t feel like I need dairy around; I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Somehow dairy just doesn’t sit well with me anymore (perhaps more on this another time). Even if S grows out of his allergies we’ll never go back to the way we were before. We do quite well without it.
I’ve never been a huge fan of eggs and now that we don’t use them for baking it’s pretty easy to do without them as well. As for meat; I admit it. I like it. But a combination of wanting to be more frugal and eat healthier has made me reconsider the amount of meat we eat. I’m always experimenting with new things and lately we’ve had more tofu, edamame, chick peas and other legumes on the dinner table at night. They go over very well.
So there you have it, my not-so-short answer to why I’m kinda, sorta a Vegan…but not really. I’m always on the lookout for new vegan recipes so if you have one to share let me know.