Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Discovering My Culinary Passion

by Emma, age 15. Allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

The best part of birthdays and school parties, for many kids, is the savory and delicious cupcakes, cookies, and cakes that are served at the celebration. However, my food allergy to peanuts and tree nuts made it difficult to enjoy the goodies that were available at the parties.

Year after year my Mom, as well as the teachers, would ask parents to bring in treats that kids with food allergies would be able to enjoy, too, but nothing ever changed. Even today I can still recall the numerous times I would read “May contain traces of peanuts and other tree nuts” in big bold letters at the bottom of the ingredients list on a box of cupcakes. Disappointment, anger, and sadness filled me each time I discovered I could not eat the same food along with my classmates and friends. I would watch enviously with tears in my eyes as treat after treat was devoured right in front me.

Eventually, I realized that I would have to take action in order to completely enjoy a class party. I began to volunteer to bring in cupcakes or cookies for birthdays and other celebrations. My Mom and I would make them at home the night before the celebration. In the beginning, my Mom coached me through each batch of goodies, instructing me how to preheat the oven and how to measure out the oil or water. Cooking in the kitchen with my Mom was entertaining and enjoyable, as well as educational. While cooking, my Mom would test me on my fractions, quizzing me on how many cups of flour I would need if I doubled the recipe or cut it in half.

Pretty soon I became independent and was able to bake by myself. I continued baking cupcakes and cookies, gradually challenging myself to make more difficult desserts. I would show off my cooking in school or at a party. The compliments I received inspired me to bake more and to continue trying new recipes. I fell in love with cooking. It is interesting, challenging, and fun—it is a way for me to get around my food allergy that has been such a burden in the past.

Today, I am a devoted viewer of TheFood Network and am not discouraged when I see my favorite chefs using peanut butter or nuts in their recipes. Instead, I challenge myself to modify the recipes so that I can enjoy the foods without nuts. In some ways, I am almost grateful for my allergy. I would love to eventually host my own show on The Food Network to spread food allergy awareness by cooking and baking recipes without nuts and other food allergens. Maybe that way, at future school parties, no child will ever have to turn down a cupcake again, because parents will have access to more allergen-free recipes.

Without my food allergy, I would never have been so determined to bake or cook, and may not have discovered my culinary passion.

Have a favorite recipe that you would like to share? Email your recipe to teens@foodallergymail.org and maybe you’ll find yourself in an upcoming cookbook, hint, hint.

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