Second, I am allergic to the following things:
1) Soy products. This includes not only tofu and edamame (really, edamame is the Japanese word for soybeans, not everyone knows this) but soybean oil in mayonnaise, salad dressing, fried foods in restaurants, anything labeled “vegetable oil” or “vegetable broth” (check canned fish) which is highly likely to be soybean oil, pastry made with soybean oil in the crust, etc. I can manage a tiny bit of soy lecithin as filler if it’s way down on the ingredient list.
2) Hazelnuts. No Nutella. Also, they’re sometimes in baked goods and nut mixes. Chestnuts are just as bad, almonds I’m also becoming allergic to. So none of those nuts. Also, I have a bad reaction to flax seed. If you have a recipe that involves flax seed or flax seed flour, you can replace with chia seed or flour. Works good and I’m not allergic to it.
3) Monosodium glutamate. I have more than the regular “flush” reaction, I have a full-blown allergic reaction that is very bad. I also have mild reactions to disodium phosphate and disodium guanylate. MSG is found not only in Chinese food but in most canned soups, snack food, “flavor packets”, dips, sausage, and seemingly every processed meat south of the Mason-Dixon line. I cannot have even a little of it.
4) Red and blue food dyes. Everything pink, purple, or even some chocolate may have them.
5) Aspartame, bad reaction. I also have a mild reaction to sucrolose and other fake sugars. Nearly everything that is “diet” or “sugar free” or “no sugar added” is suspect until cleared. I can eat stevia, tagatose, monkfruit, and chicory-extract sweetener. (If you really want to make me a dessert, real whipped cream and a handful of berries works well.)
6) I have a very bad reaction to pesticides – I can’t even walk past bags of them in hardware stores. I am allergic to pesticides on thin-skinned fruits and vegetables. Washing them does not help – the stuff is inside them, so I need all salad greens and thin-skinned fruits to be organic. Cooking breaks them down, so cooked non-organic is tolerable. Citrus, melons, and bananas have a thick enough disposable skin to trap them, so I don’t get as bad reactions to non-organic there.
7) I cannot have caffeine or alcohol due to interactions with others of my varying medical issues. For drinks, I usually do seltzer (any flavor), non-caffeinated herbal tea (anything Zinger is wonderful), and lots of water. I am fine with being given bottled water when everyone else has soda or coffee.
8) No hot and spicy – my guts rebel and I will be sorry later. Things like garlic and ginger are fine, but not the hot peppers. Spices and herbs are fine, just not “hot”. Sorry, southern folks.
9)Weirdly enough, zinc oxide gets me. It’s mostly in skin products like suntan lotion, but now they’ve started putting it in coconut water drinks as a whitener. So check coconut products for zinc oxide if you’re actually trying to feed me.
10) Food management: I have lupus, and it’s set off by allergic reactions. It’s also heightened mildly by chemicals in general, so keeping my chemical load low is part of how I manage it. The more organic food I can eat, the better. I can do OK with cooked food that isn’t organic, but I do appreciate at least whole foods – food made entirely of food.
If you’re an event organizer looking at this and thinking, “There’s no way I can manage this,” I totally understand and I will not fault you for not being able to cater to me. If you want to provide my food and can’t handle these requests, you can give me a gift card and a lift to the nearest Whole Foods or other similar store. If I can have access to a kitchen, my partner will cook my meals. If we’re in a hotel room with a fridge and microwave, ditto. (I’m actually happier to be in a cheap Super 8 with those than in a more upscale hotel that doesn’t have those.) If not, we’ll eat cold but correct food and be fine. If I must be at a banquet (because you need me there for the whole thing for some reason, like a keynote speech) and the food can’t be catered to my needs, I can smuggle in a plate of my own food, or I can eat beforehand and not worry about it. I’m painfully aware of what a pain in the ass I am to feed. We can work something out.
11) Oh, and my partner Joshua can eat just about anything, so you don’t have to worry about him. If I’m getting special food he’ll eat what I eat. If you’re an adventurous cook, I am happy to send you a Word file of recipes I use regularly and find safe and useful.
12) General eating-out: If you want to take me to a restaurant, somewhere I can get a chunk of meat and some cooked green vegetables without sauce is the best bet. That’ll do. If you want to make me dinner at your house, a chunk of meat and some cooked above-ground veggies with butter works. If you want to do salad, just get organic salad greens and a dressing that isn’t made with soybean oil.