Weekend cooking: Allergies r us

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Wee reader had his annual (weird to call something annual when he’s not yet two) allergy skin test on Friday. This time we checked for eggs, wheat, tree nuts and peanuts. His first skin test, on his first birthday last year (good scheduling on my part there), was for a variety of things including wheat. A blood test when he was about 9 months had shown the high likelihood of a peanut and egg allergy already and they didn’t want to do a skin test in case of a bad reaction.

And so happily watching a Thomas the train DVD (the clinic is well stocked) and clutching his Duplo car, he got his back scratched up well and good with all the different samples. Then a 15 minute wait began. The welts appeared pretty quick and it was painful to watch. Not because it hurt – although it did itch a little – but because I had been hoping for some sort of good news. I know that many children outgrow egg allergies and wheat allergies so I was hoping for either one to be a non-reaction. Nope. Not this year.

The good news though is that his wheat allergy reaction is the same as last year’s and his allergist gave us the go-ahead to gradually try some wheat products, like bread. Of course keeping a constant eye on the ingredients as many wheat products, like breads, are made in places where there are nuts. I was happy for any sort of good news!

And we discussed the possibility of bringing him in for a baked egg product food challenge (many egg allergy sufferers can consume baked egg products) when he’s older and hopefully having outgrown his wheat allergy. So who knows, there might be some hope for the future. The nut allergy though is hard to outgrow, from what I understand, so it is something we will have to continue to be careful about!

Don’t worry, it’s not all allergies news this blog post.

I’ve been making more forays into the Bread Bible. I first tried the basic soft sandwich bread and then a couple of weeks ago baked the raisin bread, which is quite similar to the sandwich bread recipe.

This time,  I gave the beer bread recipe a try. It was the first bread I’ve made with wholemeal flour (although it uses just a small amount compared to the bread flour in the recipe) and I must say that it gave a nice texture to the beer bread. I’ve tried two other beer bread recipes previously and those turned out to be more cake-y than I liked. So this was a nice change as it was a firm sliceable bread and had a good flavour too (didn’t taste of beer in case you’re wondering!).

As I’m making my way through the Bread Bible, I’m appreciating all the comments and tips that Rose Levy Beranbaum has added. I’ve gotten far better at shaping a loaf (thanks to her step-by-step instructions and illustrations) but, as you can see, I have to work on my slashing! Perhaps my knife isn’t sharp enough. Maybe a razor blade….

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I also made some muffins in an attempt to use up some frozen peach and mango slices! The King Arthur Flour basic muffins recipe was quick and easy and didn’t require a mixer. And it’s pretty adaptable too – next time I might try this with bananas and/or chocolate chips.

Do you have a favourite muffin recipe?

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Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

“For those with allergies like mine, each day requires vigilance in terms of what we do, the company we keep, and where we sit in relation to that bowl of mixed nuts. One person’s comfort food is another person’s enemy. One person’s lifesaver is another’s poison.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, wee reader and I met yet another doctor, an allergist. She had a whole list of questions, a large stack of printed information to take home, prescribed a new ointment, set up a new bath routine, and a whole lot of other things that left my head spinning. Essentially, we have been battling eczema for quite a few months now (considering that he is only 10 months, a few months is a lifetime!), and his paediatrician suggested a blood test for allergies. Turns out he is allergic to egg whites, wheat and peanuts. That surprised us all, as both my husband and I aren’t allergic to any food, neither are our immediate families.

As you know, I am a reader. So one thing I knew I had to do was check out some reading material on food allergies. In a bid to learn more, but in a more personal way, as understood by someone who has lived with allergies all her life. And this one by Sandra Beasley looked ideal.

Because Beasley is allergic to: dairy (including goat’s milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard. Also: mold, dust, grass and tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool. Her allergies are so bad that she couldn’t use the phone after her college roommate talked on it while eating a slice of pizza. As an infant, she couldn’t keep any kind of milk down – formula, goat’s milk, soy milk. Her parents raised her on juice and water! And at that time, there was far less awareness of allergies. Even her grandfather, a doctor, didn’t believe her dairy allergy, until she grabbed some cream cheese and swiped it onto her cheek and hives formed shortly after.

Beasley discusses the history of allergies, which is a longer history than I imagined. The term was coined by Austrian doctor Clemens von Pirquet in 1906. The RAST (radioallergosorbent test), which wee reader had to do in December, was trademarked in 1974. The skin prick test (which we have scheduled for later this month) has been around for decades as well. Interestingly – at least for this allergies-ignorant parent – the RAST generates a lot of  false positives. For Beasley, it claimed she was allergic to both rice and pineapple, both foods she has safely consumed before.

One thing that really surprised me about this book was the various aspects of food allergies that are discussed, such as peanut bans on flights (Beasley is not allergic to peanuts), even some information on vegetarianism and veganism (her sister becomes vegetarian). I guess I was expecting something like a blog-turned-book. And I haven’t really got a very good opinion on those.

Beasley is an award-winning poet who used to feel that prose was the “dark side”. In an interview with She Writes, Beasley says: “The key to writing the book, I realized, was to admit that I didn’t have all the answers going in, and to make the act of questioning part of the book’s conscious narrative.” And that is what makes this story interesting. She discusses using (or in their case, the lack of use) of the EpiPen (a lot of Benadryl is consumed instead), even talks about wedding traditions and how weddings for her are hazardous (people having consumed cake and all that kissing and hugging), and dining out is a leap of faith.

 “Getting ready to go out on a dinner date, I always line and shadow my eyelids knowing that by the end of the night they could be swollen and heavy with fluid. I coat my lips in Chapstick, not knowing if I’ll end up with a kiss or mouth-to-mouth from a fifty-three-year-old paramedic with halitosis.”

We’ve been so careful about what we feed wee reader, especially since he’s still exploring different tastes and textures. I would so love to be able to let him try foods off my plate when we are out, but when we do dine out, it’s usually at Asian restaurants and with their use of peanuts and eggs and wheat (which is in most soy sauces) and the risk of cross-contamination as well as the difficulty of explaining what we need, it’s easier to just bring our own baby food along. I just hope that he will outgrow these allergies, or perhaps that the blood test threw up some false positives (but we’ll never know for sure until we do some supervised food challenges when he’s older). I know a lot of people out there live with food allergies (and Beasley has so many more allergies than wee reader), but, as I mentioned earlier, to me and my family, it’s a new thing. The only relative with food allergies is my cousin who was born and lives in Perth, Australia!

If not for finding about wee reader’s allergies, I would not have picked up this book. But it is such a great non-fiction read – well-written, personal, informative, that I would recommend it to everyone, whether you have food allergies or not.

Oh I also love this post she wrote about public libraries on Poems Out Loud, especially this part:

 In libraries we recognize the judgment of touch; the best books are usually in the shabbiest shape. Every dog-eared corner marks a moment worth returning to. Every splotch of soy sauce is a medal of honor. Every creased binding proves hours spent using one hand to Xerox, or iron, or whatever the day required, while clutching in the other hand a story that could not be put down. When I first began browsing my way through the science fiction stacks, I didn’t choose books that looked like pristine runway models. I chose the grizzled field veterans. That’s how I came to Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Arthur C. Clarke.


This is my fourth read for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge