We Indians love drama! India is a country where serious terms are thrown in just for the heck of it. Feeling low is termed “depression” and intense dislike for certain items is termed “allergy”. Food allergies are practically unheard of, and that is an unfortunate reality.
Dealing with a lack of awareness
I have been struggling with an allergy to nuts for a while now. As a complete foodie, it has been an upward battle. Come festival time, and the hazard is increased further. It is often frustrating that people do not take them seriously. “Oh, allergies are so ‘in’ these days”. “Are you allergic to this? Come on, have a bite, you might actually like it”. A “bite” that might result in an anaphylactic shock, and can prove fatal. Food allergies are rare no doubt. But they are not caused by eating way too much processed food. Or not getting enough Vitamin D. The white blood cells are just a bit too overprotective.
So how does one survive nut allergy in a country like India where a celebration means a generous dose of nuts and dry fruits? And where no occasion is complete without mithai?
To begin with, I am quite ruthless when it comes to refusing food served if the host is unsure of the contents. Some do take offense. But more often than not, informing in advance ensures I have a choice of nut free food.
I find dining out much easier. Most restaurants are accommodating. I am labeled the “nut wali lady (the nut lady)” by most take-ins. Jokes apart, most restaurants are accommodating and a conversation with the chef is a big help. Among other restaurants, I regularly dine in at Barbeque Nation where the staff ensures that the food served is completely nut free.
Finding the safe zones
Festival time is mithai time. I did some digging around and found a few I can actually eat. Jalebis, Rasgullas, and Haldiram’s Gulab Jamuns (bless you, Haldiram’s). It is not really that bad, is it?
It is high time there is an awareness about food allergies when it comes to packaged foods. They might not be particularly healthy, but one is allowed an occasional cheat food, right? The Indian food industry has finally woken up to the fact that people might be allergic to the ingredients used. But there is still a long way to go.
When I was diagnosed with the allergy, I decided to not let it define me. I wasn’t the one to be cooped up in the house. It takes a few lifestyle changes. And being very, very adamant. But I am getting there, living life to the fullest (with an antihistamine in my bag… just in case).
Image credit: Michael Flippo – Dreamstime.com