Tag Archives: normal

The Month of Georgia

We’ve now entered the month of Georgia.  Plane tickets have been purchased, hotel has been booked, tours picked out (we’ve settled on a trolley tour, although the Segway tours looked pretty cool too).  The last step is here… calling restaurants and planning food.

I recently went on a more local trip, to Washington, DC.  As travel goes, this was an easy trip.  I brought car food (with wraps made from scratch – including the tortillas), and we were able to cook dinner.  The only meal not made by me was brunch, which is by far my safest (and favorite) meal to eat out.  And even with all that, it was exhausting!  It was a good reminder to me that sometimes we have to be patient with ourselves and remember to measure our success by our own ruler, rather than to compare our situation to that of those around us.  It’s true for food allergies and it’s true for everything else – it’s not always a good idea to compare to “normal!”.

So as I prepare for Georgia and plan my food, I’m keeping in mind that I need to be gentle with myself and my limitations.  I often tell clients in counseling to break down big goals into more manageable ones.  I need to do that too.  I don’t have to be ready to get on a plane tomorrow, or know the ins and outs of every restaurant in the state.  What I do need to do is call a few restaurants whose menus I’ve found to be Johanna-friendly.

I called the first restaurant, and discovered a couple of things: 1. Talking to the chef or sous-chef is the most reassuring and 2. Calling at an off-hour has a greater likelihood of a calm and successful conversation.  I spoke with K, a sous-chef, who answered my questions and told me with Southern charm that she looked forward to my visit.  She informed me that most restaurants in the area are trained for food allergies and cook from scratch.  I found I was more self-conscious about my harsh Northern accent on the phone than about the food allergies! K’s kindness put me at ease, and I hope to meet her when we go to her restaurant at the end of the month.

Maybe this trip can be the first step towards continuing travel adventures in my life, after all!


Lessons in food allergic travel:

-Don’t compare yourself to “normal” eaters

-Be gentle with yourself

-Break down big goals into small tasks

-Call restaurants at off-hours and ask to speak to the chef


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Billboards on the Highway

Day to day, I’ve found that my food allergies have become tolerable.  Not enjoyable, not something I’d choose, but something I have learned to work around and to tolerate.  I cook at home, I deal with the challenges, I have several restaurants I trust, I surround myself with people I trust, and I work to widen my circle of trusted foods and restaurants as I feel comfortable.  This tolerance is thoroughly tested when I travel.


I swing the car door shut with a “clunk,” turn on the ignition and go through the checklist with my co-passenger, A, as we turn from our familiar streets and onto the highway.  Clothes, swimsuits, flip flops, library books, sunscreen… check.  Snacks… check.  Homemade wraps for the nervous, food-allergic driver… check.  We are ready for vacation and a half hour into the drive by the time we’ve finished going over everything.

An hour into the drive, we start hitting billboards.  Now, I have become immune (mostly) to the smells of the restaurants in my neighborhood and the television commercials for the latest greatest food trend.  When the commercials involve jalapenos or other hot peppers (some of my main allergens), I feel relieved that I don’t even have to think about eating there – and make a mental note to avoid that restaurant until the spicy trend has left its doors.  When they involve the juicy burgers and bacon I love, I change the channel, or, thank you DVR, hit the fast forward button.

When I leave the comfort of my bubble, though, I’m hit from all angles with foods I cannot have.  I’m assaulted from the billboards of the highway every five miles, and they always seem to pop up when I’m at my weakest.  I don’t travel all that often, so I am not calloused or prepared when my stomach grumbles and a giant sign with a breakfast sandwich or spicy curly fries appears in the convenient periphery of the highway.

By the time we’ve reached our destination, I’m exhausted and irritable.  “No, I don’t mind you getting a hot sandwich while I eat my homemade wrap” turns into “I just want to be able to EAT NORMALLY.”  My graces and my defenses weakened and my own kitchen far away, I – and anyone near me – begin to suffer the consequences of grouchitis (an unfortunate state of grouchiness).

On the most recent long trip, this billboard-assault was followed by a trip to the local vacation grocery store, where I discovered an old favorite food now contains paprika, a lurking allergen.  Not exactly how I wanted to start off vacation.


With many problems, awareness of the problem itself can be the first step to dealing with the problem.  Let’s hope awareness of the impending grouch may be my key to beginning to handle said grouch…

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