On Valentine’s Day, it seems obviously appropriate to discuss presents of candies, cakes and chocolates. For some, these treats may require departing from a low carb lifestyle, or send them to the gym for some extra cardio the next day. For those of us with nut allergies or gluten sensitivities (or those out there with dairy, egg or other related allergies), candies, cakes and chocolates often deliver mouthwatering mixed emotions. Oh how we would love to eat it!! But we know we likely cannot eat the delicious treat sitting inches from our naughty right hand that really wants to pick the sweetness up and provide a vehicle to place it delicately on our wanting taste buds. It becomes easier over time, but for me and my sweet tooth, the struggle is always real. And that struggle fails to even mention attempts to protect the emotions of others who have brought a special, carefully picked out treat to a food-allergy sufferer…that will always be difficult to navigate!
From my first blog posting, you may have read about my first food allergy reaction having occurred after consuming a walnut-laced cookie. This may lead you to think that I quickly learned to stay away from such dangers, but sweets have tripped me up more than once. To be included at a wedding reception as everyone samples the cake…to be like the other kids at the birthday party…to be liked by the grandparents of my college roommate who made fudge for me… in the past, I too often ate the treat anyway without wanting to make a big deal about asking for the list of ingredients and how carefully the yummy morsels were made. As my allergies have become more severe after repeated exposures, I now reserve my bad decisions for entirely different areas of my life.
February 12th was my last day working for an amazing biotech company that conjures up medications for horrible neurodegenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and ALS. In my 2.5 years with this company, I would typically bring my own lunch or I would be provided with a small garden salad separate from the food catered during a lunch meeting. For my final lunch, beautifully arranged by one of the top executive assistants, every morsel of food was prepared free of my allergens and restrictions. This included gluten free allergy-friendly cupcakes!! They were delicious cupcakes that all of the guests at the lunch agreed tasted great despite lacking the typical ingredients. Having the chance to eat along with everyone else (even the dessert!!) brought tears to my eyes because I am someone who really likes to be included! It was a parting gift that meant more than they could have known.
Another recent heart-warming story of tasty and safe sweets is full of love and sorrow. My father died a year and a half ago. It has been difficult, especially when those moments arise that are marked with a tradition of which he was a part. When he was alive, my mom would always send me a valentine’s day gift from her and my dad. Since cancer stole him from us, she has continued to send me gifts. They are the perfect gifts. Thirty plus years ago, my dad would bring my mom chocolates in one of the heart-shaped sampler boxes from the local store. She kept these boxes for so many decades and she now sends them to me. For the past two Valentine’s days, I have received these pretty boxes filled with allergy-friendly chocolates – somehow my mom has figured out how to continue sending me valentine’s presents from both her and my dad. It is bittersweet and beautiful…and yummy.