• Chef Lara

We Are What We Eat

As a food allergic we are focused as much on what we can eat as we are on what we can't eat.

Our lives often are consumed by staying alive and staying well. It's all about what we put in our bodies.  After all, one particle per million could send us into a deadly disaster and/or make us ridiculously sick for a very long time. (Not fun!) This is good reason to feel a little obsessed about food.

I've read 1000's of  stories now on the "hell" of being newly diagnosed with over 8 different allergies- many related to just foods. Some people have been diagnosed with over 32 food allergies.

Where we eat, where we travel, who we date, who we socialize with, how we socialize, where we work, how we work, when we cook, where we cook, where we shop... have all become a focused part of this giant picture we now call life as a food allergic.

The saying, "We are what we eat," hits me today as I think about what I am NOT due to food allergies. In my case I am not a salmon, a ginger, a peanut, a nut at all, a vanilla, a coffee, a banana, a cranberry, a soybean, an orange, lemon or lime or latex or milk.

So what am I?

If you could describe yourself as a food or beverage what would you be?

One of my favorite jobs ever is being a chef/cook.  I love to put together new foods and appeal to appetites. I love finding myself in the food itself. I love putting together new challenging menus. While I was always a food lover, the cooking but didn't hit me until I was much older. In my younger years it was baking, because baking was a family affair. Then something changed within me.

I had been exposed to some of the greatest chefs growing up. My food life was expansive by the time I was 18. I had eaten more foods than most people will ever eat in a lifetime.  I was spoiled but didn't know it.

My family owned a produce business and restaurants were some of our best clients. My first fine dining experiences were often in the back of the kitchen after delivering produce and a long hard, dirty day of work. Some chefs were kind enough to give me a full tasting menus. I never knew how good I had it until I find out that wasn't the "norm."

When food allergies struck me in my early 20's for the first time, I had to step up in my own kitchen. The more food allergies I developed and the more severe they became, the better my chef skills became. I was not going to sacrifice good food and great flavors just because of this new disease. I would overcome.

If I am what I eat.

Today I am beef, mushroom, potato with fresh chopped basil and a few red beets. Tomorrow I may be a tomato, basil eggplant. Sometimes I am just a pork chop- but a good pork chop with a side of fresh applesauce and a little salt and pepper.

Then I am fresh, rich, colorful, packed with flavor individual.

In support groups we talk about not letting our disease beat us. We talk about focusing on what we can eat. We talk about positive affirmations but as I write down how I eat and what I eat, I find a lot of truth to how it mimics my life.

I don't think for longer than even a week, I've lived a vanilla life.

The moral of the story is to love your food. Celebrate what you are putting in your body. Value it because food is the stuff that fuels our body but generally the experience around food (cooking, socializing, serving) is what fuels our soul.

If all you have is a box of Kraft Mac N cheese... spice it up with a little pepper and add a little green garnish. Serve it in a beautiful non-plastic bowl and use real silverware. Sit down at the table. Turn on some music. Light a candle. Pick a flower from a garden and place it on the table. Then with every bite savor that moment in your food. It changes your perspective entirely.

Love yourself enough to feed yourself well. You deserve it.

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