One of the last things you want as a teenager is to stand out. When you have food allergies, however, this problem is amplified. The stares and the questions get old real fast. When there is food involved, especially ones with my allergens (peanuts and tree nuts), I sometimes panic.
Say there’s a batch of cookies made. Warm, delicious chocolate chip cookies - how harmful could they really be? Everyone starts to take one. And I mean, why wouldn’t they? Especially when my best friend made them, and all she wants is for her baking efforts to feel validated. So, I go to reach one. After all, it's just a cookie.
Or, so I thought...
First of all, there are a thousand things that could go wrong with this cookie. The flour could be almond flour - I’m allergic to almonds. The white chocolate chips could be macadamia nuts. Those orange-brownish chips (ones that I hope are caramel chips) could actually be peanut butter chips. Even if it's a best-case scenario, and they are normal chocolate chips, there’s no proof that they aren’t cross- contaminated or made in a facility with nuts.
So no, it isn’t “just a cookie.”
Through my teenage years, I’ve learned that nothing is what it seems when it comes to food. You always have to check. As embarrassing as it might feel to ask all the time, it’s something you get used to doing. Even when your friends think you are absolutely crazy for asking the chef if the spaghetti and sauce has any nuts in it, you learn how to explain kindly that it may have pine nuts or pesto, something you are allergic to.
Maybe I do stand out, and maybe people think I am a high-strung teen obsessing over a particular diet. But that’s what having food allergies causes me to do. I have to be “high-strung,” and I have to be adamant about my diet, because my “diet” can kill me.
If there is one thing that I want to leave all you teens with, it is to be careful, and to look out for yourself. And, if it makes you feel any better for the attention you’ll get when you ask for an ingredient label, just know that you’d attract a lot more attention from people if you go into anaphylactic shock - so don’t be hesitant to ask about the ingredients.