When I was five years old I devoured my first lobster. The chef was so mesmerized by it that my parents didn’t have to pay the bill. That happened again with mussels in Italy, in Japanese restaurants and more. I always had a massive appetite and ate anything.
My first experience with wanting to eat something but not being able to happened when I was around 13 years old. I was in a hotel with other kids my age and there were snails on the menu so I was challenged to eat it. It was actually pretty good – so I had a few. 30 minutes later I was having an allergy-driven asthma crisis.
I have chronic allergies and they tend to worsen with age. I am allergic to pollen, cats, wool, some medicine, most types of sunscreen, lots of make up brands and much more. So when I was told that I was allergic to dairy and eggs it was annoying – but hardly surprising.
In the beginning I often pretended to forget about it. I would be “good“ for 3 days than have cake, or cheese, or an omelet and have a massive allergy crisis, sometimes lasting for days. I gained lots of weight as I tried processed alternatives, which were not fulfilling at all. Then I would go into binge mode again, knowing I would feel terrible the next day.
I never did well with diets because the “can’t eat this” does not work for my non – type A personality. I am quite the hedonistic (aka: you only live once). And boy, do I love to live and eat! It did take me some months to understand that DAIRY and EGGS just did not made me feel good anymore. Even though they taste delicious, it just wasn’t worth it.
By then I was already a pescatarian, mainly for ethical reasons, and was shifting towards a fully vegetarian life. But when you research vegetarian recipes without dairy or eggs you end up in the plant-based realm.
So here are my lessons from a hard food rediscovery journey:
– If, like me, your transition to a different diet is due to allergies (or factors beyond your control) it might be helpful to do some research. Watch movies, documentaries and red about the dairy industry, the meat industry etc. Information can empower you to CHOOSE a different food lifestyle.
– I personally don’t like the taste of food that imitates things (such as a packaged built in an industry Mac and “cheese”). Instead, focus on what you CAN eat. We live in a world with so MANY different flavours and foods to explore. Use this opportunity to find NEW FAVOURITES. Some of my go-to treats in London include Ottolenghi’s decadent chilli-garlic Broccoli’s, Farmacy‘s desserts and the vegan pizza at Voodoo Rays.
– It helps to get rid off all stuff you can’t eat from your house for a while. Ask your partner/family/roomies to eat it elsewhere until you adapt. Don’t go to a pizza place on the first week of the transition; why would you do that to yourself? The hedonistic in me says: SEEK PLEASURE in all the other foods you CAN have.
– If you like sweet treats always keep Medjool Dates on the fridge – add a nut or some peanut butter on it and you will never crave a Reese’s Cup again.
– In the summer, find a nice Italian gelatto place: they tend to also have the BEST SORBET. When you are splurging on an amazing silky sorbet you don’t feel restricted at all. If you are in Paris you MUST try Berthillon.
– When you find food you LOVE and that you CAN eat your cravings for the stuff you can’t eat eventually subsides.
– For the cheese lovers: I haven’t yet found vegan cheese that is amazing. I try to replace cheese with other things such as hummus, guacamole or tofu spreads. The last time I tried cheese I didn’t like the TASTE. Just as your body adapts to new flavours it forgets others. At some point, the idea of eating that thing immediately reminds you of its evil effects – but it does TAKE TIME. Which brings me to my next tip:
– If you do give in to milky chocolate, cake or anything else just forgive yourself and get on with life.
– Own it: tell your friends in advance about your allergy and offer to bring a dish that you can eat if necessary. When you have a cold no one forces you to drink vodka, right? It is the same thing.
– At restaurants, talk about your allergies and just ask if the chef can, for instance, trade butter for olive oil. Worst case scenario: ask for lots of side dishes!
– And last, but not least, my own personal affirmation . At least I am not allergic to wine!
Happy eating everyone!