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Showing posts from January, 2012

Tigers In Our Midst: Groupthink, Anxiety and Allergy Communities

When my son was around four, he started developing "mystery" reactions to foods he had eaten all his life. My husband and I were absolutely panicked; in addition to the stress of the reactions, many of the suspect foods were staples in his somewhat-limited diet.

We pursued allergy testing, but the doctors' conclusion was something called "idiopathic anaphylaxis", meaning reactions with no known cause. They told us it might be food, but it also might be exercise...or something environmental...or a combination of things. So, basically, go forth and live your life with the snarling tiger of an out-of-the-blue reaction always focused on your shoulder blades. Pounce!

Understandably, it was at this point I sought out an on-line help community, thinking that someone else must have gone through this. Luckily, some of you had. While no one had been through our particular flavor of crazy, you gave me enough tips and experiences that we finally did identify what was going o…

College with Food Allergies...Maybe?

My son will turn 17 in a few weeks. That means we're entering the "College Chute." Where we live, 90+% of the kids go to college and the school is very directive and disciplined about getting them there, so junior-year college tours are strongly encouraged.

We did our first tour this weekend at Carthage College, a very nice little liberal arts school about an hour south of Milwaukee. The draw of Carthage is its proximity to Lake Michigan, which is...well, if you trip going to class, expect to have to change your wet clothes. It's only about 2500 students so we didn't know what to expect: would its small size make it less or more accommodating of students with special needs?

The good news is that we did find some awareness on campus. Our tour guide indicated she had a friend with gluten allergy and that the head of food services meets with kids with special dietary needs and then provides special food for them throughout the year. The challenge is that it isn't …

individual shepherd's pie

I do fear it's been quite a while and neglecting this little space is something I'd rather not do. So back for the new year my one resolution is to post more, much more, and there is rather a few things that I've been dying to try out. This shepherds pie recipe has been a long awaited one and completely well worth it. Delicious to be exact.

Head on over herefor the recipe (I just added carrots and corn to the dish since I've been trying to get some more veg in).
Wishing you all a happy weekend!

Want To Avoid Allergies? Keep Your Kids Poor and Dirty.

What is it with newspapers and their crazy (one might even say prejudiced) conclusions about food allergies?

The latest study "summary" I read was entitled "The Downside of a Good Education: Food Allergies." The article opens with the following shot over the bow:
"People from well-educated families are almost twice as likely to suffer from some dangerous food allergies as others — possibly because their bodies’ natural defences have been lowered by rigorous hygiene and infection control, suggests a new Canadian study."Really? The article seems to be saying that those with less education are somehow dirtier than the rest of their brethren, and therefore better protected. Can that really be true? And is it really what this study said?

To find out, I looked up the original study, which has a much less incendiary title of "Demographic Predictors of Peanut, Tree Nut, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame Allergy in Canada." What does the article actually say, you…

January at SAGE

January at SAGE....

Since December, the SAGE garden has been peacefully resting. However, one SAGE volunteer has been out there working hard! We've been fortunate to have a dedicated volunteer out at SAGE over the last couple months spreading leaves on the garden beds, weeding that ever-present grass, and even tilling the soil - well, before the heavy rains began! This week, I noticed some ducks enjoying the SAGE pond. Yes, the SAGE pond. These heavy rains have added to the already-saturated soil of the lower part of the garden. This is a typical low spot and tends to be the last to be tilled and planted in during the growing season.

Speaking of the growing season...we are hiring a part-time garden manager! If you have been out to SAGE, love what we do, and have some large-scale gardening/small-scale farming experience and want to join our team, visit our website to learn more about what the job entails.

Things will start "buzzing" (and I hope our garden bees, too!) in Mar…

"Unwittingly." I Do Not Thing That Word Means What You Think That Word Means.

I had a whole other topic for today, but then I ran across this article from JAMA: Treatment Rather Than Avoidance May Be Within Reach for Children With Food Allergies. There's a section in there that really burns my butt:

"A number of hypotheses attempt to explain the rise in food allergies in the United States and other developed countries. One is that parents may have unwittingly [my emphasis] made their children more prone to food allergies by delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods in their babies' diets and following World Health Organization guidelines to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months."

Are. You. F-ing. Kidding Me? Why are the parents the unwitting (which I am choosing to define as "wit-less")  ones? Where's the line that says "oops, sorry, we doctors and scientists may have given you the wrong advice."
Our doctor told us, straight up, avoid peanuts and tree nuts with subsequent children. Having done quite…

Gluten-Free, Aisle 9...wait, WHAT?

We've all heard the stat: 7% of kids in the U.S. now have a food allergy. My calculator doesn't even have enough digits to figure this out, but I think that translates to 21 million children. Since cooking with food allergies is a family affair, it presumably affects their parents and siblings as well, so let's say, conservatively, 50 million people.

You would think 1/6th of the country would give our merchants pause. However, I can assure you it does not.

We've lived in the same small town for almost 13 years now. There is a family-owned grocery store right around the corner. They make their living by specializing in foods you can't get anywhere else and charging through the nose for them. When we moved in, my husband was ecstatic. He assumed our special food needs and this little store were a match made in heaven! Little did we know our kind weren't welcome there.

After several requests for specialized chocolate, I finally stopped in one day to talk to the manag…

Fantasy Dinner Party

There's a special circle of hell reserved for adults with their own food allergies who do not support our children.

One of the worst cases of this in my own life was my son's jr. high principal. By the middle of 7th grade, my husband and I were fed up with all the places food was showing up in the supposedly "mostly food free" school, so we requested a conversation with the principal. Her response: "I know exactly how your son feels because I, too, have an allergy." To what, you ask?


Really. She was equating avoiding kiwi with avoiding milk, soy and peanuts. When we pointed out to her that our son was habitually excluded from school activities because virtually all the foods used contained milk, she shrugged and said the equivalent of "it will toughen him up for 'real life.'"

Which brings me to my fantasy: the end-of-year teacher banquet. Know what's on the menu?
Fruit soupKiwi and peppers sweet and sour chickenSummer lettuce salad (p…

Yucking It Up: Hollywood and Food Allergies

The other day, I happened to catch a preview for the second season of a television show called "Portlandia." It was 30 seconds designed to be hilarious enough to inspire you to watch the series. And what's the go-to 5-second visual gag they knew the entire country could get behind?

You guessed it. Making fun of food allergies.

Hysterical! Always good for a laugh from everyone!

I see this everywhere I turn. Somehow, the possibility that our children could drop dead is the funniest thing people have ever seen. When I point out that dozens of shows use food allergies as the go-to laugh, people look at me blankly. Occasionally someone will say gently "perhaps you're oversensitive, dear."

Really? Would they feel that way if I laughed hysterically about leukemia? Snorted about cystic fibrosis? WHY is is o.k. for Hollywood to consistently portray our children as objects of fun?

The blown up face! Hysterical!…

A Little W(h)ine With Dinner?

Before my kids were born, my husband and I used to plan elaborate dinner parties with multiple courses. The desserts! And the wines! Oh, the wines...

Now the only whining happens before the guests arrive. I have never failed to issue a dinner invitation that isn't followed by "what can I bring?" from the invitee. You all know where I'm going with this. In a normal household, there would be the predictable exchange:

"Oh, you don't need to bring anything. Just yourselves is enough!"

"No, no, I insist!"

"Well, then, if you really must, how 'bout a [insert thing you least like to cook or that you think is least likely to screw up your menu]."

Of course, we don't live in the real world. My conversations always go like this:

"What can I bring?"

"Oh, please don't bring anything. I don't know if you remember this, but our son has multiple food allergies, so  we really prefer to prepare all the food ourselves. Really …

Christmas With Food Allergies and the Ho Ho HOs

Yeah, I know, it's several weeks after Christmas, but I'm still fuming over the comments. You'd think after 16 years of dealing with food allergies I would be used to this, but I'm not.

For you newbies out there who still need a translation you go:

I don't know how you do this!
Translation: I'm not going to do this.It would drive me crazy to have to read every ingredient. 
Translation: what I brought will probably kill your kid because I didn't read every ingredient.Will he ever outgrow any of these food allergies?
Translation: it's a pain in my ass to have to deal with this so I hope this isn't going to be forever!I just read in/on the [insert paper or website] that they have a treatment for food allergies now. 
Translation: This article I happened to glance at confirms that you could do something about them if you wanted to and you must want to keep him "allergic" for some reason. Hypochondriac.So many kids seem to have allergies …

Beans for Bags support the garden!

The SAGE garden is a program of The Corvallis Environmental Center ("CEC"). The CEC has been selected as one of the Corvallis-area organizations to receive Beans for Bags in January, February and March 2012.

Shop at the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op (both locations!) during these three months, using your own bags to tote off your groceries, and you receive a bean for each bag – a 5 cent value – that you can donate to the organization of your choice. Each organization has their own "bean box" to which you can add your bean.

So B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bags)
and support the environment as well as SAGE garden!

Thank you so much.

Call for Coops!

Are you a Corvallis resident who would like to show off your backyard chicken or duck coop? In May, we will sponsor our annual Cooped Up in Corvallis event - a tour of approximately 10 backyard coops in Corvallis.If you are interested in being considered, please contact Jena at or 541-753-9211.

Come join us!

Mitt Romney's Health Care Dilemma

Tonight, Mitt Romney promised his Iowa supporters that as president, his first act would be to pursue the repeal of "Obamacare." Romney's dilemma is plain: The Affordable Care Act  is also modeled after the Massachusetts Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care championed by then Governor Romney. In particular, Romney opposed mandated participation by employers in health insurance, insisting on individual mandates.

Romney's reasoning followed what was then traditional Republican logic: Requiring individuals to take responsibility for their health care eliminated free riding whereby the costs of uncompensated care are absorbed by the insured. Now, to be sure, there is plenty of free riding in American health care, and it goes beyond uncompensated care. For example, large companies use bargaining power to negotiate more favorable rates with insurers, who then pass the loss onto small businesses, the self-insured, and the uninsured. Moreover, …