On the Allergy Flipside – A whole new world of flavours
When I was 17, I developed an anaphylactic allergy to Monosodium Glutomate (flavour enhancer 621… or the dreaded ‘MSG’). It happened gradually over time, but I was misdiagnosed with asthma. That is, until I nearly died when my throat just closed up one night after eating a meal at home. It was a very scary experience and one that changed my life for the best part of 2 decades. But it wasn’t the last time that it happened, with various emergency visits over the years, some caused by a simple ‘cross-contamination’ of a spoon or fry pan.
The allergy was quite restricting on my life, in more ways than most people realised. Only those very close to me know how much stress could be caused by one ‘non-Lara-friendly’ snack being opened at a party or gathering. Or the embarrassment caused by having to pull wrappers out of a bin at a friend’s place to read all the ingredients of whatever they had cooked. And travel? Well travel was virtually out of the question, or a big risk. I did end up travelling a little after I got fed-up, but I chose my destinations based off whether I’d be able to read every ingredient in English and be within 10 minutes of the nearest hospital, and it was always on my mind.
Growing up, my favourite food had always been Chinese! I was brought up with chinese cuisine playing an important part of my life. And while other kids were making ‘pies’ in the sandpit, I was making ‘noodles’. It’s in my DNA for sure!!!
So imagine my excitement when I found out about a new treatment for anaphylactic allergies! At first, I was skeptical and honestly, too scared to try it. But eventually, when travel became something that I wanted to do more, I decided to take the risk.
AND IT WORKED!!!
Being allergy free has created so much freedom in other areas of my life. It’s quite astounding the impact it was having that not even I realised. I had basically become fearful of eating anything that I didn’t prepare myself. Particularly at restaurants. I never read a menu while I had my allergy because there was basically no point. I would scan the starters and sides sections for the plainest thing I could find and just order that (like a salad with no dressing or chips with no salt). I can’t tell you how many weddings I attended where I just ate the bread rolls.
So, all of a sudden, the world of food was open to me… and it was VERY overwhelming! There was so much choice and not enough time to read the full menu, let along choose something. After a while, I figured out a good tactic… ask the waiter/waitress what their favourite dish on the menu is and go with that. So now, not only am I eating my favourite things again, but I’m also trying food I’ve never tried before. And it is totally awesome!
I even have a new favourite – Dumplings! OMG THEY ARE SOOOO GOOD!
I had actually never tried dumplings before my allergy started, so the world of dumplings is still new to me. I’m slowly working my way around Melbourne discovering all the dumpling wonders. But there’s more than just dumplings, and I’m having so many food adventures whilst I’m exploring the world of travel and in my home town.
So I will be starting a special category on my blog for my foodie adventures. This helps me to recognize and celebrate how awesome it is to experience new flavours, to share my discoveries with others, and hopefully to help people realise that eating yummy food is a privilege that we should not take for granted.