Food Network Needs an Allergen Friendly Show

I am at home in Jersey today because I was in need of an energetic pick-me-up. I planned to upload a recipe for Jewish Apple Cake today, but my recipe failed. I bought a couple of new apples at Wolff’s Apple House in Media and I was so excited about baking with them. The apple I used, Summer Rambo, was amazing, but the recipe was a failure.

I took this failure really hard.  I know it sounds trivial, but it’s true.  It’s very hard to bake sweet treats when you have as many food allergies as I do. That and the fact that I was baking in my towering inferno of a kitchen really bummed me out.

As I am sitting here in my mom’s air-conditioned apartment on her couch in front of her TV (all three things I don’t have at my apartment), I am watching Food Network and The Cooking Channel. I love cooking shows, but it’s very frustrating because I have to sit and think about how to make these recipes Nina Friendly. The majority of what they cook with, I can not eat. The shows are no less enjoyable, but it’s a frustrating because people like myself with allergies and dietary restrictions are not included in any of these shows.

I really think Food Network and The Cooking Channel need an allergy friendly cooking show. It’s not cool that so many chefs, and people in general, think veganism is an abomination. It’s not right that so many chefs have no idea how to make a gluten-free meal. On Top Chef Masters Season 1, Michael Chiarello had no idea there was such a thing as quinoa pasta. Then again, neither did Zooey Deschanel for whom they were cooking. Here is a clip from that episode. Note the disdain on the faces of the top chefs. All except Rick Bayless, of course. I like to think Mr. Bayless is kind and gentle and incapable of being nasty about people’s dietary restrictions.

Furthermore, vegetarians are not freaks of nature. What top chefs and people in the food industry fail to realize is that vegans, vegetarians, people with children on the autism spectrum, or with food allergies have an intimate knowledge of their food that is unparalleled. We can and do not blindly shovel things in our mouths without reading labels and researching the ingredients. The fallout is simply too great for us not to. In short, we’re all fat kids.

I admit, I am not perfect, and sometimes I take a Benadryl and eat things anyway. It’s not something I am proud of and I am making better decisions every day. However, there are a lot of people who can’t just take an antihistamine and eat cake. People with Celiac Disease can and do get very sick when they accidentally (or purposefully) ingest gluten.  There are some people who, for health reasons, can not ingest sugar because their bodies can not handle it. Where is the cooking show for the diabetic? Where is the cooking show for the people with Celiac? Where is the cooking show for people who are allergic to corn? There isn’t one and that’s not right.

I am not bitter or angry about the fact that I have food allergies. I spent 25 years of my life thinking having a stomach ache every day was normal. When I was diagnosed with my food allergies, I finally had an answer that lead to a plan to feel better and heal my body from the inside out. It’s been difficult, but I have this blog and a network of supporters who encourage me and support my culinary endeavors.

If anything, my diagnosis has made me love food even more.  My relationship with food is stronger now that I know what I need to avoid to feel better. I am not alone in this and I think there needs to be a bigger outlet for people to literally see that despite our dietary restrictions, our culinary options are immeasurable.

Yes, it takes longer and it involves a lot of fresh ingredients, but isn’t that what cooking is all about? We need to slow down and go back to slow foods and eating together. It wouldn’t kill us to make dinner from scratch and sit down and eat together without all of our electronic distractions. I bet doing so would extend our life spans and improve our quality of life.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hakima says:

    Awww Nina! You poor baby… what are you allergic to so I can figure out something sweet just for you. Its sad that not enough bakers don’t cater to people with allergies. They only thing I don’t cater to is peanut allergies because I can’t gaurentee that the supplies I get are nut free plus I use peanut butter in my kitchen but aside from that I do vegan and gluten free for my customers. I think I need to increase that line of products though.

    1. cooktivism says:

      Hakima! I am allergic to potatoes, milk, corn, soy, yeast, eggs, (sometimes) gluten. Almonds have been giving me a problem lately as well. I can’t really eat chocolate either because of the soy lecithin that is commonly used as an emulsifier. Baking powder is also a no-go because it’s made with cornstarch. Same with confectioners’ sugar. My mom just asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted. I didn’t know what to tell her. 😦

  2. Hakima says:

    Wow! That’s a hard one even for me.. I’m going to have to research this one.

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