Food Allergy 101: Thanksgiving 2018

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What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

Blog #264 — Mr. A., my food allergy, is on his phone when I arrive for our weekly meeting.

“Thanksgiving’s in a week,” he yells into the phone. “Remember to get that message out to all the troops. Food tastes better with allergens!”

I don’t know who he’s talking to, but I roll my eyes as I pull up my seat and sit at the table. He continues shouting into the phone.

“Milk and LOTS of butter make mashed potatoes creamier,” he continues. “Otherwise it’s bland. Bland! And we must tell everyone to add nuts to everything to give it a pizazz. That’s what makes it gourmet. Don’t let little Jonny’s nut allergy ruin Grandma’s Green Bean Almondine.”

He talks a bit more before hanging up and looking my way.

“You sound busy,” I say.

“The holidays are one of busiest times,” he says. “Lots of food. Lots of family. Lots of traditions.”

He pauses and adds: “Lots of chaos!”

He laughs. I don’t.

“Allergens make Thanksgiving better, and we can’t ruin a good meal simply because little Mikey can’t eat dairy,” he continues. “Aunt Mary would be turning in her grave knowing we are making her traditional stuffing with fake butter. And it’s crazy to expect Cousin Bill to change his grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe just so little Chase can sit at the table. Little Chase is 10 and doesn’t have to eat it. He shouldn’t ruin it for everyone else.”

Mr. A. is in rare form. I let him talk a bit more before finally speaking up.

“Thanksgiving is about family,” I say. “There is no dish — no buttery mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie or Green Bean Almondine — that tastes as good as the feeling one gets when everyone in a family is welcomed at the table.”

He gives me a confused look, and that’s OK. He and his troops don’t have to believe it. We do.

 JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.