“Someone Call 911!”
Written by Sonia Hunt of Noie Productions for the AllergyKids Foundation August 26, 2010
I can’t really recall the first or second time. I was too young to remember. Probably didn’t understand what was going on. But the third and fourth are vivid in my head. Public places; all eyes on you. You’re having a grand time one minute, enjoying every morsel that touches your lips and then a slight tingling from your toes stretches up towards your brain and increasingly becomes intense. That feeling as you slowly start to gasp for air, as if you lost your regulator 60’ down and now are trying to get to the surface being chased by a great white. Red panic ensues on your face and on others. Fading in the distance are sounds of confusion and yelling. ‘Someone call 911!’ ‘Does she have her Epipen?’
Aaah, food allergies. If you’re lucky enough someone injects you with your EpiPen, scoops you up in their arms and rushes you to the ER where next thing you know you’re being poked and prodded by a hot doc. Wishful thinking. If you’re not lucky, well, it could be fatal.
I am the only one in my immediate family with allergies to certain foods so severe that I could die. I am the kid with asthma. I am the kid who can’t eat peanuts. Baskin Robbins move over, because I have 31 flavors of food allergy. I am a face of the new generation.
Somehow my allergy list continues to grow, as I get older. Three years ago my allergist told me that I was the most allergic patient he had that year. I think I deserve a plaque on his wall in the shape of a peanut or something. New ones appear and old ones remain. And the force effect that some have on my body, actually rocks my world. But you’d never know it if you looked at me. I am probably one of the healthiest people you will meet. An athlete with resting heart rate of 46, who trys everything, watches her portions and eats in moderation. I train hard and run races. I bike, hike, dive, swim, surf, kiteboard, snowboard…what else is there? Oh, did I mention I’m shooting a Food+Life/Style show where I eat for a living? Something is wrong with this picture.
How these came about I don’t know. Why these are getting worse, I have some ideas. How do I control them? One day and meal at a time. Even with precautions we live in a world where unhealthy and processed food is a fad, organic and farm-to-table is still not affordable for the masses and wait staff still don’t know the ingredients in your lunch. The science behind the testing and medications are clear and sometimes a thumb in the air. I could totally stop eating but my mother already complains that I’m too skinny.
As a kid with food allergies, life is tough. You’ve gotta fend for yourself when you’re not with a parent and trust that what someone is telling you is in that dish, actually is correct. It’s hard being kid in society today, let alone ‘that’ kid who is the reason why your friends can’t bring PB&J to school or have peanuts on the airplane. Food allergies are a like a big sundae of social pressures, self esteem issues topped with a poor eating habits as the cherry on top.
I learned how to cook at a young age mainly because it’s a part of my culture and partly to ‘fend’ if I ever needed to. My mom cooked with fresh ingredients from the markets and read labels for her problem middle child. I’ve spent my entire life traveling the world, cooking and eating and enjoying every bit of it. I read, learn and experiment with food, and I ask questions. But mainly I do not let my allergies run my life. My mantra is that “if I’m going out, it better have been a damn good meal” and maybe in the arms of Johnny Iuzzini. Oh Johnny. To me, my food is my lifestyle and having a healthy body, mind and spirit is so much more than what we eat. It’s a state of being.
So after many trips to the ER, dealing with places that don’t take proper precautions and a culinary world full of celebrity, I decided to stir things up a bit, started a production company and shot a pilot Food+Life/Style web series. After a successful career in Digital Media Technology, this venture is my journey. To share my love of the culinary arts and the stories that brings them and their people together. There are so many wonderful people out there doing incredible things in the culinary arts that absolutely take the health and well being of their patrons very seriously, down to each and every ingredient and allergy. I want to tell their stories, thru my eyes and their food.
I’m hoping to drive a new way to interact with the information and to interest, amuse, inform, question and maybe even change your perspective on the food we eat and how we eat it. Although we didn’t shoot a show based on food allergies, I find that more and more people connect to me because they have a similar story. And for those kids out there that feel ‘different’ because of their allergies, just stick with me kid, and together we’ll be all right.
Hoping that one day there is enough awareness to make real and definitive change, like changes in our manufacturing processes or an even peanut vaccine? A girl can only dream.
Sonia Hunt is the Founder+CEO of Noie Productions, an independent media production company spawning organic, innovative & chic culinary media. Watch the trailer to her new Food+Life/Style series at http://soniahunt.com