Monday, March 17, 2008

All the News That Fits Food Allergies

My son and I were in the newspaper this week. (Click here to read the article.) Nope, we didn’t get caught embezzling money from a multinational conglomerate. Nope, we didn’t win the lottery. Nope, we didn’t take first place in “Dancing with the Stars.”

We made brownies.

Yep, pretty newsworthy stuff.

Back in November, a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune came to our Davis County chapter of UFAN to see what we were all about. She interviewed several people from our chapter, and everyone let loose and told her exactly what it was like to live with food allergies in a food-obsessed society. We told her how we felt, how we dealt, and how we melt. We told her how scary it is to find out your child could die from eating a cookie. We explained how hard it is to convince your extended family that you aren’t making this up. We shared how thrilling it is to find a group of other food-allergic people to commiserate with, draw strength from, and cheer on.

Then she asked if she could come over to my house to photograph me and my son cooking something. “Sure!” I said, then ran home to throw everything in the closet. We were leaving for a vacation the next day, so I had suitcases lying on the floor, snorkel gear in the living room, maps and brochures scattered around the kitchen, and all the calm self-control of a hummingbird on crack.

But by the time she got there, I’d hidden most of the laundry, tossed the random piles of paper into the nearest drawer, and rooted through the pantry for brownie ingredients. Whew!

Sure, my house ALWAYS looks this neat. And sure, you can ALWAYS see my kitchen countertop. And sure, I ALWAYS look like June Cleaver. Want to see me vacuum in high heels and pearls? I do it all the time. And the last thing I do before leaving on vacation is bake a batch of egg-free, milk-free, and nut-free brownies. You betcha.

Journalism is, after all, pure truth on paper. Everyone knows that.

But the reporter didn’t care what my house looked like, of course. She was there because our food allergy support group was worth writing about. It’s worth letting people know that there’s a local resource for people who are learning to cook and eat without the foods that can harm them. It’s worth a little added pre-vacation chaos to show people that living with food allergies doesn’t mean living without joy.

So the reporter snapped photos while my son and I measured, mixed, poured, and giggled. She laughed as my son licked the beaters, because egg-free batter makes licking fun again. She smiled as he told her that being allergic was a “minor inconvenience” in his life.

A few days later, when I asked her how the article was coming, she said it was “writing itself” because the members of our chapter had given her such great information.

It took several months for the article to finally appear, simply because there is such a backlog of human-interest stories for the Davis County Close-Up section of the Tribune. But it finally appeared this week. So there we are, along with two other wonderful members of our chapter, sharing our stories and reaching out to other food-allergic people in Davis County.

And in one of those peculiar strokes of serendipity, the Tooele chapter of UFAN was in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin the week before. (Click here to read the article.)

My son thinks it’s pretty neat that he’s in the paper. He thinks it’s even better that other allergic kids might see the article and come to our support group.

And that’s what it’s all about. Not the brownies. Not the pre-vacation last-minute stress. Not the “glory” of seeing our names in print. Just the knowledge that we’re making another tiny step of progress towards making this world a little more food-allergy friendly.

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