Book Review: Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from An Allergic Life

I am planning to throw myself a birthday party this month. I sent out the Evites. While, I’m waiting for people to respond, I decided that I was going to make a feast for my guests of all my favorite foods regardless of my ability to eat them without feeling like I am going to die. After all, it’s my birthday and I’ll give myself intestinal distress if I want to, right? Well, the universe intervened and the very same day I was planning my toxic menu, this book came across my path.

The aptly titled, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, stopped me dead in my tracks. Sandra Beasley’s food allergies trump mine ten fold. Whereas I can pound a gallon of water and take a Benadryl and a nap, Beasely goes in anaphylactic shock if she consumes only the slightest bit of the things she’s allergic to. Ah, perspective is a wonderful thing.

Beasley’s book  is smart and funny and it really makes you think about food in a new light. I know I have tried to tell you about my struggles with food allergies, but Beasely’s is a battle of daily epic proportions. According to a nutritionist, her food allergies are so severe that it’s was as if she wasn’t meant to survive. Lovely thing to say to a child, huh?

One of the things I thoroughly enjoyed about the memoir aspect of Birthday Girl was that Beasley didn’t develop food allergies as I, and many other people have – she was born with them. The simple childhood joy of being able to pass out cupcakes to your classmates in grade school was out of the question. Having a traditional birthday cake on her birthday was also on the list of things that would never happen. The book is touching in its recollection of such memories. It’s hard enough to be different in school, but to have to eat hazelnuts while you watch your classmates savor their Funfetti cupcakes is just cruel and unusual punishment.

I like the way Beasley intertwines her story with the history and science of food. I really like knowing the origins of my food. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed Eating Animals so much. You know eating chicken nuggets from a fast food place is a bad idea, but knowing why is what seals the deal for me. Some of the things she talks about as per food additives in fast food french fries was not news to me, but the section on soy was eye-opening. Of all my food allergies, soy is the one that gives me the most trouble. The chapter “King Soy and the Body Politic” explains so much!

I have had the conversations with wait staff at restaurants about my allergies. I have tried to explain to friends what it all means in the grand scheme of things. I always felt so lame doing this, but with this book I finally see that I AM NOT ALONE! Beasley’s allergies trump mine, but it’s comforting to know that someone knows exactly how I feel when it comes to food. Still, she and I don’t resent food. We have to be careful with it. We can’t be reckless with our food choices because doing so will cause us bodily harm. I think it’s cool that someone else who has allergies to food still respects it in the way that Beasley does.

Needless to say, I will not be serving toxic food to myself and my non-food allergic guests on my birthday. Instead, I’ll be serving Mexican food and Nina Friendly Vegan Chai Latte Cupcakes. I won’t serve anything that will kill the birthday girl, which is fine by me.


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