I love the season of fall. After the godforsaken sweltering heat of the summer, I love the cool clean air in the morning. The smell of the leaves piled on the ground, Halloween, and my favourite holiday, Thanksgiving. And of course, apples are in season. What could be better than a crisp red apple, fresh from the tree? I love to take a juicy bite...but I guess not. I have oral allergy syndrome, and thus, fresh apples + me are a recipe for hours of coughing and abdominal pain.
What is Oral Allergy Syndrome? To me, the answer to that question is a long one. The short version is this: for years, every time I have eaten certain foods, I have developed a terrible stomachache, coughing, chest pain, and general misery.
It started about 12 years ago with bananas. I remember the day before my wedding, I ate a banana at lunch. About an hour later I could barely move due to an excruciating stomachache. Everyone said to me, "Oh, you're just nervous about tomorrow." Actually, I wasn't nervous in the slightest. I just had a stomachache!
After my son was born, I was trying to be healthy with my diet, in an effort to pass on the good stuff to the baby. I had a salad for lunch almost every day. And without fail, almost every afternoon I suffered severe abdominal pain. The general armchair diagnosis from people around me said it was stress. I was supposedly stressed from the demands of my newborn baby. It was not stress, I wasn't stressed out at all, Jamie was a delightful baby and I was very happy to have him to take care of. After several trips to the doctor and even a laparoscopy (a surgery that took me a week to recover from, and found nothing) I gave up and just suffered. One time I ate an orange, and was convinced a few minutes later that I was having a heart attack. Jamie, the then two-year-old, actually brought me the phone. It was terrible. The pain went away in a little while but I was pretty scared.
Of course, there were the persnickety bunch of people who thought I was just trying to get out of eating my vegetables. Hmm. Somehow I think getting out of eating an entire food group could be expected from someone attending preschool, but not a grown woman who just wants to be healthy and not in pain!
Last summer I went to a new GP who sent me to an allergist. He had the answer in two minutes: Oral Allergy Syndrome. What the hell is that? Here is an edited description courtesy of Wikipedia:
"Oral Allergy Syndrome or OAS is a type of food allergy typified by a cluster of allergic reactions in the mouth in response to eating certain (usually fresh) fruits, vegetables, and nuts that typically develops in adult hay fever sufferers. In adults, up to 60% of all food allergic reactions are due to cross-reactions between foods and inhalative allergens. However, unlike other food allergies, the reaction is limited to the mouth, lips, tongue and throat."
In other words, I am allergic to almost every fruit and vegetable on the planet. Some nuts and fresh herbs too. The doctor also found me interesting because my case is more severe than is typical, the allergic response I experience goes all the way to my stomach as opposed to being limited to the mouth and throat. Lucky me. It makes getting that 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables difficult. The good news is, if the food is cooked I can usually eat it without incident. Some exceptions occur, but usually it is fine. This is because the heat alters the proteins in the food sufficiently that the allergens are not effective.
At first, I was in denial. Really, no raw fruit or vegetables for the rest of my life? Come on. No sweet berries in the summer, no more crisp spinach salads, no more yummy protein smoothies? But it is true, and there is no treatment, other than avoiding the offending food or cooking it to death. This is pretty much okay for vegetables, not so okay for fruit. Having apple pie every day would be great for the fruit, but my waistline would not thank me. And I refuse to microwave a banana, that is just disgusting!
So that's where this blog comes in...I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and have zero qualifications except being a sufferer of this relatively unknown condition. This will be a resource for reasonable recipes that someone can actually do, as opposed to using cookbooks which tend to be for people who have a lot of time on their hands for cooking. My goal is to eventually have a simple recipe for every fruit and vegetable that is readily available in North America. So fresh apple, sorry, I will be cooking the devil out of you. And liking it, whether I like it or not!