If you could choose how you die, would you choose death by tomato? You see, tomatoes are everywhere, so the threat is everywhere. They are in salads, hamburgers, pasta sauces, soups, and sandwiches. They are hard to avoid. For someone like me, with a severe tomato allergy, this vegetable (or fruit) is something like the plague. And for all you food allergy sufferers out there, I’m sure you know how I feel. A death by tomato is not pretty.
It’s more challenging to eat healthy.
When I try to eat healthy by ordering a salad, I find most types of salad have tomato in them. A garden salad, for example, has those deadly red bombs – I mean vegetables – in them. I could order a caesar salad, but that has a lot of cheese, which isn’t the best idea if you’re keeping your calories down. Same with soup. Most soups are tomato based, so my non-tomato-based soup choices are limited.
Most hamburgers and sandwiches have a slice of tomato in them, so either I try to eat it, or perform surgery and remove the threat. It is more difficult, if not impossible, to remove the threat from a slice of pizza unless I resort to the child-like skill of lifting up the topping and scraping off the sauce. If I want pasta or mussels with broth? I have a choice of tomato or cream. For example, a tomato-based pasta sauce with vegetables or peppers, or the fattening alfredo, three cheese, or mushroom in cream sauce.
If tomato weren’t widely available enough, someone decided to make vegetable juices, and clamato juices so that you can find tomatoes in your juice aisle and at the bar. It’s possible to get a tomato buzz with a Caesar cocktail and a double shot.
Even your food options include tomato to make your food taste better! Ketchup for your fries. Ketchup for your hot dogs, omelettes, hash browns. Just slather that deadly stuff on everything.
You might ask, if tomatoes are everywhere, then how do you avoid them? The answer follows.
Living with food allergies is challenging but doable.
Sometimes I succumb to the temptations of food containing tomatoes and pay the price. I enjoy pizza and hamburger. But seriously, pizza without tomato sauce is not pizza. And lasagna without the tomato sauce is not lasagna.
So I’ve learned to live with allergies. I eat the tomato, I break out in hives and eczema. My skin turns red and ugly. I become an avid user of bandaids. My skin looks terrible so I wear clothes that keep me covered up and give people the impression I lack self confidence because I wear long-sleeved, ankle-length baggy clothes. Truth is, I need to hide the scars as well as keep my clothes airy and breathable so my skin isn’t irritated or exposed to unclean surfaces. I avoid activities that aggravate my allergies, such as hot yoga, because the heat makes my skin itchy. I carry antihistamines with me at all times and got a prescription for an epi pen because on really bad days, my eyes swell shut, and on super bad days, I can feel my throat closing.
I am grateful that my allergies don’t kill me instantly. I know that there are allergy sufferers out there who will end up in hospital from coming in contact with a piece of fruit. I also heard about a guy who had a kiwii allergy. His lips became swollen after kissing his girlfriend although he hadn’t touched kiwii. But his girlfriend had eaten kiwii for lunch.
Sometimes I wish I were allergic to chocolate. It’s not part of the essential food groups for keeping you healthy. Having a medical reason for avoiding it would be a bonus. But for some reason, tomatoes were chosen as my nemesis.
What can tomatoes teach you about life?
First, I’ve learned that tomatoes are a popular item in our food. We really like tomatoes as an ingredient. Whole tomatoes, sliced tomatoes, crushed into paste tomatoes, and tomato juice.
Second, I’ve learned that something that is harmless and healthful to one person can be deadly to another. I have met someone who is allergic to chocolate, and I would say chocolate is found in many food items as well. On the bright side, my friend loves tomatoes, so at a barbecue, she gets my share of the tomatoes in the veggie platter.
Third, life is about adaptation. I might not be able to do hot yoga but I can always try yoga at room temperature. My skin might not be pretty, but I look for beauty elsewhere.
Do you know any allergy sufferers/ survivors? How do they cope?