From Limited Options to Endless Possibilities
"I’m sharing my story in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week to encourage kids like me to use their passions to create a better place for people with allergies."
Guest post by Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Jacqueline Landy
I developed an allergy to peanuts when I was 6 years old. All of the sudden, I lost the ability to eat whatever I wanted, something I had once taken for granted. It was hard to find snacks that I liked, and the labels always had to be checked. Trying to find baked goods was even more difficult, and I could no longer enjoy the treats at my favorite cupcake shop. At restaurants, I had to ask about all the ingredients that they used in their kitchen. And I always carried around an EpiPen, a constant reminder that I was different and my food options were limited.
One day, when I was 7 years old, I helped my grandma bake cookies. I liked the simplicity of making the recipe. We used flour, eggs, sugar and so much more, but I quickly realized none of the ingredients were things that I was allergic to. Just a few days beforehand, I’d gone into a bakery and couldn’t buy a cookie because they weren’t sure about the ingredients. In my own kitchen, I had the power to determine what ingredients went into my baked goods. A thought occurred to me: What if I could make my own baked goods that were even better than the ones I once wanted from bakeries? For the first time, food didn’t have to be equated with limited options. Food now meant endless possibilities.
I have been baking for nearly a decade, and I haven’t slowed down. At first, I started by finding nut-free recipes online and by using cookbooks. I devoured shows on The Food Network – anything from Chopped to Kids Baking Championship – and I learned about combining different ingredients and flavors, as well as food presentation. Over time, I started to develop my own recipes through trial and error and lots of experimentation, but I ultimately succeeded. Family and friends, both with allergies and without, began to ask me for cakes and other baked goods for birthdays or family gatherings, and I couldn’t believe that they wanted my creations over the treats I once wanted from bakeries. What made me most happy was to be able to give baked goods to other kids with allergies, just like me.
I’ve noticed that there have been a lot more options and accommodations for people with allergies over the past ten years. Now, when I walk around New York City I see nut-free bakeries and allergy-friendly restaurants. This has made eating out a lot easier. When I bake, I’ve noticed how much clearer the labels are and have discovered lots of allergy-friendly companies.
I’m inspired by how much FARE has played a role in spreading food allergy awareness. They have contributed to food allergy research and have made great resources available on their website. In order to take part in FARE’s efforts, I’m sharing my story in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week to encourage kids like me to use their passions to create a better place for people with allergies.