I knew that it would be painful, like a knife to the heart. You always hear that your first heartbreak will hurt, but nothing can ever truly prepare you for it. The last time I saw him, he was wearing a white shirt. Gazing into his brown eyes, dark freckles covering his toned, bronzed skin, I didn’t want our relationship to end. How I longed for his smell and the pure joy he brought me daily. Each morning, I jumped out of bed, anxious for our rendezvous. I never thought I could love something so much: if only I could have a toasted onion bagel with cream cheese one more time.
Freshman year, I lost my true love: food. In only a few months time, I lost the ability to digest gluten, dairy, eggs, chocolate, and all forms of meat. These foods walked out of my life for no apparent reason. It was not until they were gone that I truly understood their power.
Food affects all aspects of life: physical, emotional, behavioral. Humans are social beings who live their lives in the company of other people, and food brings people together by giving them a shared experience. By eliminating food, I was closing a gateway. I remember sitting at Thanksgiving dinner that year, staring at the glossy lemon bread in front of me; I just couldn’t resist the temptation. “Just a little bit,” I said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I said. Sitting alone on the bathroom floor two hours later, tears streaming down my face, I vowed, “never again.”
When I think about this period in my life, I think about being lonely. Keep in mind that while I was on the bathroom floor, the majority of my family was bonding over the tenderness of turkey meat and the crunchiness of its basted skin. We don't often think about the social dimension of food. At Dodger games, what do people eat? A Dodger dog. Everyone in Dodger Stadium eating a hotdog, regardless of whether they know each other, has something to talk about. Now, imagine the scale of connection you can make with someone over one-eighth of an avocado.
I quickly learned that food nourishes the soul, both emotionally and physically, and I was stripped of the right to be unconditionally nourished and full. In addition to being put on eight different medications, traveling to Children’s Hospital LA weekly, and undergoing four different procedures, I was given the most unrealistic restrictions for the few foods I was allowed to eat.
I sorted through foods one by one. I was on a seemingly impossible mission to find the catalysts of my pain. Like a game of Russian Roulette, each food I put into my mouth could potentially bring me to the floor in pain. If I were adventurous in this lawless game, I paid the price of getting sick, but if I were too cautious, all I ate was tofu: meat’s ugly step brother. Thankfully, as time moved on, so did I. I found foods that not only pleased my stomach, but that I actually enjoyed eating. These discoveries brought not only a new community, but a new hope. I found happiness in the kitchen, finding creative ways to make enjoyable gluten free, meat free, dairy free foods. I invited friends to taste my latest inventions and smiled with satisfaction as they handed back clean plates.
The world of allergies can be a hard and lonely one to navigate alone. I want to be there for people lying on the bathroom floor; I want to hold their hands through the pain. I intend to do that through blogging, sharing experiences, advice, and fun recipes. Yes, food left me for a lanky blonde, but that heartbreak opened my eyes to a community I never knew existed. I refuse to let a toasted onion bagel with cream cheese dictate my future.