Welcome to Cuizoo! We are celebrating ten years of hanging around the web, talking about food, food allergies, and family. I’m Kristin and this has been a labor of love born out of my daughter’s food allergy diagnosis. When she was a year old, we found out she was severely allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, and all nuts. Our pediatrician handed us an Epi-Pen and sent us on our way. I was stunned. There was no family history of food allergies. I breastfed her exclusively for her first year of life. I understood nutrition and science and watched what I ate and drank carefully. It was now time for table food and there was nothing in the grocery store I could feed her. I cried a lot in those early days worried about her safety, but also thinking that she might never be able to experience an ice cream cone or have birthday cake with her friends.
I started making pasta from scratch with rice flour. And hunting down brands of chocolate without dairy. And breading my own chicken nuggets and making macaroni and cheese with soy products. This wasn’t easy. Food allergies are common to hear about now, but this was 17 years ago and there were no websites or safe products or even allergy warnings on food. Every interaction with a teacher or a school or a friend’s parent was a teaching experience about what food allergies were, what her symptoms would be, what she couldn’t eat, and how to stab her in the thigh with an Epi-Pen (fun playdate talk, huh?). Every new school year put me on the edge of a nervous breakdown trying to keep her safe with new caregivers.
And it was difficult for me because I’ve always loved food and the community of food. When I travel, I pick the restaurants before the hotel. I plan my holiday meals a month in advance. For her to be excluded from any food ritual because of her allergies was not acceptable to me. I was determined to give her every food experience that everyone else enjoyed. If there was a birthday treat at school, I would go to my freezer stash of safe cupcakes and drop one off at school so she was never excluded. If it were Thanksgiving, there would be two versions of mashed potatoes and two versions of pumpkin pie. If she wanted a sandwich, I needed to find and experiment with a recipe and make the bread from scratch. I couldn’t walk down the aisle of Whole Foods or (now even) the local grocery store and see shelves full of allergy-friendly food.
My labor of love became a full time gig when the pressure of doing all of this with a job became too much. Daycares and schools kept endangering her. On nearly a weekly basis, I would get called out of meetings because she was having a serious reaction. Sometimes it was mixing up her food. Sometimes it was as simple as spilled milk at the preschool snack table. Sometimes it was a mystery. There were so many reactions and each one increased the cortisol pumping through my body. I could never relax when she was under someone else’s watch. I couldn’t do my job well and I couldn’t be the mom she needed me to be. So I quit my job and started writing and cooking. I documented and published my recipes and created a community of parents who needed food allergy support for their own kids. The web has changed a lot since the early days, but I have tried to keep the space going to continue to talk about many things related to food and parenting. Ten years later, we are still here.
Thankfully, my now 17 year old has grown out of many of her allergies. And with what’s remaining, I can easily drive one minute away and buy things like Sunbutter and safe granola and allergy-friendly chocolate chips. It’s been a long road and it gives me perspective to think back on it. Things aren’t perfect, but we have come so far. Schools are now aware and teachers are trained. Advocacy groups do heavy lifting for the community. Allergy warning labels exist. We have teal pumpkins at Halloween. There are products of all kind to support almost any type of common allergy. Desensitization treatments are helping. Probiotic therapy is helping. We could cure this for my daughter and so many others.
My little girl is now an awesome teenager who is driving and talking about where to go to college. I have an equally awesome 12 year old son, who never had one allergy issue. Both of my kids have inherited my love of food and have never met a piece of sushi or sashimi they don’t like. Our other sushi lover is my wonderful husband, Cole, who happens to be my high school sweetheart and currently performs a super easy Chicago to Boston commute for work. We round out our family chaos with two dogs, Sulley and Boo, who are the lucky recipients of homemade, dog-friendly birthday cupcakes. And yes, there is currently a stash in my freezer.