Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

When Life Gives You Lemons

by Emma, age 16. Allergic to tree nuts.


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Yes, I know it’s cliché, but it’s true! This overused saying should be applied to every aspect of our lives as we try to make the best of what we have. Food allergies are no different, and I encourage everyone who has been diagnosed with an allergy to do as I have and use food allergies to your advantage.

When I was younger, class parties at school were a drag because I could never eat the food. A table in the classroom would be piled high with brownies, cookies, cupcakes, and other delectable goodies that I would not be able to enjoy because either each treat contained nuts or its label read “Manufactured in a facility that also produces peanuts and tree nuts” in big, bold letters. I would try my best to have fun anyway but it was always disappointing to be the only kid with an empty plate, watching enviously as my friends devoured the savory baked goods.

I finally decided that it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and take whatever means necessary to make class parties more enjoyable. My mom and I started baking at home together, so then I could bring my homemade treats to school for everyone – including me – to eat. This seemed to be the perfect solution! I got to spend time with my mom while learning a new skill.

Pretty soon, I found myself baking not just for class parties, but for friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else who needed a little pick-me-up. The looks on their faces after sampling one of my cookies or brownies gave me such a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I was always encouraged to get back in the kitchen and keep creating. Baking soon transformed into cooking, and before I knew it, I was watching the Food Network religiously and looking for any opportunity to challenge myself, to make a dish and put my own twist on it.

Today, when people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, the answer is simple. I want to be a baker or a chef. Fantasies of going to culinary school and opening my own restaurant or bakery in New York City constantly swirl through my mind. What began as a way to enjoy class parties and accommodate my food allergy has become my dream and my passion.

The days of disappointing class parties are over, and hopefully my story will encourage kids who have experienced similar situations to do whatever they can to enjoy parties with safe treats. As difficult as it is to live with a severe peanut allergy, without it I would have never discovered my passion and love for cooking, baking, and creating. Don’t let your allergy stop you from living life to the fullest. You never know what your allergy will teach you or what it may help you discover about yourself.

The best advice I have for kids with allergies is to go out into the world and make lemonade or, better yet, brownies without nuts!

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