Over the past couple of months I’ve been doing another dietary test where I eliminate all potential allergens from what I eat and then slowly reintroduce them to see if I can pinpoint problematic foods. I decided to go through this again in September after feeling miserable for several weeks.
After nearly a month of relatively clean eating, however, I was still experiencing the itchy rashes that I’d hoped would go away after eating only meat and vegetables (I avoided fruit for a time too to cut my sugar intake as much as possible. Sugar can exacerbate allergy symptoms.).
Then, two things happened:
1) I forgot to buy celery one week at the farmer’s market.
2) I tried unpasteurized cider. Because fresh-pressed cider is just too tempting in the fall. At an orchard. On a hot day.
Here’s how the celery factors in. I’ve been making green smoothies almost every morning, using a variety of ingredients, but the core ones are kale, cucumber, parsley and celery, with some source of natural sweetness mixed in (up until recently, just local honey). I even started adding hemp protein powder to make a more substantial snack.
But then I accidentally left a bunch of celery behind at the market one day. I forged ahead that week and simply omitted celery from my smoothies. The following Saturday, I picked up a bunch of celery at the market and added it back in the next morning.
Boom. Skin reaction.
I didn’t want it to be true though. Certain friends and family members of mine will probably disown me after learning of this new allergy (read on to find out why). I hadn’t meant to test celery — maybe it was something else that spurred the reaction? I decided to do a more scientific trial. I studiously paid more attention to everything I was eating and especially whether the items contained celery. Today I reintroduced a food with celery in it. Itchiness set in within minutes. Crap.
Come to find out, almost everything has celery in it. And it comes in many forms — whole celery, celery juice, celery seed and celery salt. Also? Fennel and anise are related to celery. Turns out whatever doesn’t have celery in it probably has fennel or anise instead.
That’s not really true, but fennel and anise are very useful herbs/ingredients and I’d hate to have to omit them too.
But back to plain ol’ celery. Nearly all stocks have celery in them. Okay, I can face having to make my own. Actually, I was pleased to find at least one brand doesn’t have celery in its aseptic container of chicken stock. I found that out this evening while purging my cabinets of everything else that has celery in it. The local food pantry’s about to receive a lot of chicken and veggie broth/stock.
Many natural sausages and bacon (gulp) are treated with celery juice instead of sodium nitrite as a preservative. Actually, sodium nitrite is naturally occurring in celery juice, which is why they add it in. Luckily, the local farm from whence most of my meat comes doesn’t use celery juice. Okay, bacon supply is still in tact.
Here’s where I’ll take the biggest hit though. Guess what popular seasoning blend (especially here on the Shore) has celery (salt) as its main ingredient?
I put Old Bay on everything. Crabs (duh), any seafood really, potatoes, tuna salad (wait, that’s more seafood), I even used to put it on eggs before I realized I was allergic to eggs. Anyhow, the list goes on. I fear I may not be able to get steamed crabs at a restaurant again. I’ll have to steam them myself.
One friend pointed out that many restaurants make their own seasoning blends for crabs and there’s a chance they don’t all use celery salt. Fingers crossed, but I’m bracing myself for the worst in the meantime. I do plan to contrive a recipe for my own version of Old Bay without celery salt.
So that’s the bad news. The worst news, actually, that I’ve had in this whole allergy discovery process.
But let’s not end this post on a bad note. Remember that cider? That unpasteurized goodness I tried at a local orchard? Well, all that amounts to is mushed up fresh apples, right?
Right. And up until now, for the past 20 years, I haven’t been able to eat fresh apples, or pears, or peaches, or plums, or… you get the idea. Turns out there’s a protein in fresh tree-borne fruit that many people, especially those with tree allergies, are allergic to. The only consolation was that the protein cooks off.
But I really wanted to try that cider! So I had a few sips. And then the best thing happened.
Absolutely nothing happened! My lips didn’t go numb. My gums didn’t start to ache. The back of my throat didn’t itch.
I had bought several apples with which to cook (I could eat those tree-borne fruits once they were cooked, after all). I took a bite out of one. Nothing but pure bliss happened.
You can’t imagine how good a fresh apple tastes after not being able to eat one for 20 years.
Since then, I’ve been eating about 3 apples a day to make up for lost time. The cider goes into my smoothies.
It’s almost consolation for losing Old Bay (at least for the time being). After all, if my fresh fruit allergy could go away, maybe I’ll be able to enjoy Old Bay again.