Rethinking Italian: Food allergies changed my cooking

Rethinking Italian: Food allergies changed my cooking

Santa Barbara : CA : USA | Feb 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM PST
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Parents Speak about Their Children's Food Allergies

I am an American Italian woman in my mid-fifties who loves to cook. My father's family are all from Italy. Worse still, my father owned an Italian restaurant, which only added more calories into the mix. That being said, you can well-imagine our meals at home when I was growing up. It went something like this:

Breakfast: Italian eggs (loose scrambled eggs, leftover homemade pasta sauce, crushed garlic, fresh basil, fresh oregano and fennel seed, grated provolone cheese, grated romano cheese, and salt and pepper), sour bread toast, milk or orange juice, fresh fruit. Occasionally we would have cereal, but not that often.

Lunch: Varied somewhere between pasta, pizza or Italian sub sandwiches, with a tall glass of milk (of course it was for our "bones").

Dinner: Don't even get me started... Sirloin or Filet Minion (stuffed with prosciutto, crushed garlic, mushrooms, oregano, provolone cheese, and various seasonings, then rubbed with fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper), pasta (the pasta was our potato), garlic bread, green salad, and fruit for dessert. There were also the lasagna or homemade pizza and ravioli moments, and my father's famous deep fried calzones covered with sauce, and fresh grated romano cheese.

I was very active growing up, in fact, I danced ballet for 22 years, played on a woman's tennis league, swam almost daily during the summer months, and enjoyed snow skiing and hiking on a regular basis. Whatever crazy calories I consumed at home, I burned off because of my active lifestyle.

Once I was married and began a family of my own, I carried on the cooking tradition with my own family. My children's friends always wanted to spend the night at our house, and it's clear why: There was always a huge pot of homemade sauce on the stove, cookies in the oven, and a fully loaded refrigerator and pantry. In short, we ate well...very, very well.

By the time I hit my late thirties, I began to have some health issues. Weight gain (gee, I wonder why), chronic rashes, that would go away for a season and then return with a greater vengeance. Finally in my mid-forties, I developed Wilson's Thyroid Syndrome, which is a quirky thyroid disorder that affects the T-3, and eventually controls your ability to burn food. Hence, to my horror, my weight began to accelerate.

I was never an over-eater per say, but my diet was meat and carb-driven. In addition, I was never a big dessert lover. In fact, growing up we only ate desserts during the holiday's, at special events, or for someone's birthday. Yet, with the combination of thyroid issues, and the rashes (which turned out to be related to food allergies), I began to blow-up like a balloon. I wasn't eating sugar, but my diet was primarily carb-driven, which ultimately turns into sugar.

...and I thought we ate so healthy...

Over the years, this began to worsen, and finally when I was just turning 50, I sought out alternative medical help, because traditional medicine was providing no "real" solutions. I was given new diets, diet drinks (loaded with sugar), hormones, prednisone for the rashes, but only continued in a yo-yo cycle of ill-health and weight gain. My new doctor started with food allergy testing. It was quite a blow to find out that I am allergic to: wheat, rye, corn, sugar cane, chocolate, coffee bean, all dairy (except goat's milk), MSG.(that was no loss), beef and brewer's yeast. Naturally, my response to all of this was, "What the heck is left for me to eat?"

That question began a journey that I am still on. I have had to re-think and re-learn eating, and cooking while being open to change. It's not easy for a woman my age to do, especially with my heritage and my connection to gourmet Italian foods.

However... I am doing it, little-by-little, step by step, and I am learning how to prepare healthy, organic, vegetable-based foods, that taste AMAZING! Who says healthy has to taste bad? Just because it's vegan or vegetarian, doesn't mean you should feel like mooing after sitting down to dinner.

So, here I am...writing and talking about food and sharing my journey. As an Italian food aficionada--who loves and embraces life, I invite you to join me as I share my story:

"Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live!" Quest' la vita il gioire ~ This is the life and the joy. ♥

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It's all about the sauce!
My grandmother's famous "gravy" (pasta sauce)
TheScriptor is based in Santa Barbara, California, United States of America, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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