Allergic Girl 2No matter how many times I go to New York City, each time I land in Manhattan, I am dumbfounded.  Seriously, my jaw opens, I look up and around and am speechless… something like the initial shock seeing the Grand Canyon and I expect from the Empire State building, “the City” as it is so often referred to, does resemble a canyon

These days, so many New Yorkers walk around texting but last week, I arrived to a torrential downpour and the New York streets were filled with umbrellas, puddles and folks ducking under scaffolding (still texting) which seems to be the most prevalent architecture of the City.  I was to meet and have dinner that night with Sloane Miller, social worker/counselor, blogger and author of Allergic Girl. I met Sloane at the Bistro at the Strand Hotel for dinner at her request and besides a delicious and lively dinner, my understanding of the whole subject of food allergies deepened immensely.

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Sloane, a life time resident of the City, has lived with food allergies from birth as both her parents have. She chose the Strand Bistro because she and the chef are friends.  Fact is, the chef has allergies and “gets it.”  There are 4,2oo restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx and Sloane may not know all of them but she knows the best ones to eat at if you are one of the up to 30 million Americans suffering from a food allergy (NY Times 2010).

I grew up in the 50s and allergies, asthma, childhood cancer, reproductive problems and obesity were rare.  Although so many Americans want to deny there is something wrong with our food and food production system, and actually believe our government’s risk assessment strategy actually protects us, a person with food allergies, or parents with children with food allergies (1 of 13 kids under 18 has a food allergy or intolerance)  has to take careful, deliberate precautions to protect themselves or their children.  Since 1993, the number of children with food allergies grew 18% (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Although researchers say it is because we are tracking it closer, others say it is just the tip of the iceberg.

I was seriously pondering all of this when the entrée arrived. It turned out that Sloane had called ahead of time and the chef himself  (a healthy young, handsome man with fabulous tattoos) delivered a most delicious meal specially prepared for Sloane.  Can you find fun in your food allergy condition? You bet! In fact, those who are wanting to cook great food for your family and friends with allergies – it’s an opportunity to adventure into new ingredients and new dishes.

So no, allergies are not fun but they are on the rise, they are manageable and those of us who don’t have allergies need to increase our awareness and sensitivities because more and more of our friends and family will suffer from some kind of allergy or intolerance, especially as we face a broken food system and a polluted environment. And we can help!

Check out Sloane’s blog, Please Don’t Pass the Nuts, and if you are a New Yorker with allergies, there is a wonderful little pocket book and a website called Clean Plate that is a restaurant guide to the establishments most friendly to those with food restrictions or who just want the best, cleanest food available.