It seems these days if we are not suffering from our own food allergies, then we most certainly know someone who is. For many reasons, most unknown, food allergies have become a health issue that has permeated the lives of adults as well as children. The challenge becomes how to eat safely in a way that is both nutritious and delicious. Shirley Plant is a true expert on food allergies and has just written a new cookbook called Finally..Food I Can Eat. Shirley wrote her book not only from her expertise in the health arena but also from her own personal challenges with food allergies. She graciously allowed me to ask her a few important questions on this very timely subject:
HC: Can you tell everyone about your own history with food allergies?
SP: I always had mysterious stomach issues as a child. My mother used to call it a nervous stomach. By the time I was seventeen I was very sick and I never really got better. I finally was tested for food allergies and found I was allergic to about twenty foods, along with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Wow, what a shock!
HC: What do you see as the biggest challenge regarding food allergies?
SP:I think the biggest challenge is getting your head around your own food allergies and realizing that it is not the end of the world. Once you concentrate on what you can eat, your whole perspective changes.
HC: How have you worked around the challenge of your own food allergies?
SP: Creating my cookbook was how I worked around my food allergies. Twenty five years ago it was pretty slim pickings, especially in Canada where I am from. There are so many more options now for people with alleriges but I am finding these days that a lot of pre-packaged allergy free food is really not very healthy. I am lucky that I like to cook and so getting back into the kitchen and making meals from scatch is the best way I deal with my allergies.
HC: What do you see as a reason for the increased awareness around food allergies?
SP: I really think it might have something to do with pesticides and GMO’s. Think of 100 years ago when there were not the degree of pesticides we use today and we had grass fed animals, not grain fed. Certainly awareness has grown because so many people have an allergy or an intolerance.
HC: What motivated you to write your book Finally..Food I Can Eat?
SP: My motivation for writing my book in the beginning was purely selfish. I wanted tasty, healthy recipes for myself. I kept thinking, though, that there must be other people out there like me. How were they coping and, more importantly, what were they eating? I decided to dig deeper, talking with doctors and allergists, and figured out there was a real need for not only healthy, easy allergy free recipes but a comprehensive explanation of food substitutes, rotation diets, proper food combining and a clear definition of food allergies versus food intolerances. I wanted people to have a comprehensive guide and cookbook, especially if you have multiple food allergies. I have included an Allergy Index Chart at the back of my book so people would know which recipe is free of dairy, wheat, yeast, eggs, corn, sugar, soy, gluten, nuts, nightshades or a combination of these foods. I wanted people to have an easier time than I did when I found out about my allergies and felt so lost and hungry all the time.
HC:Who would this book be most useful for?
SP: Finally..Food I Can Eat is written for people with multiple food allergies, but what I am quickly learning is that people who don’t have allergies love it too. They say the recipes are simple yet healthy and appeal to everyone. So I guess it is geared for anyone who is looking for healthy, tasty reciipes!