The Traveling Allergen: Seattle, Day 1

Eating out with allergies is always an adventure. Eating out when you’re allergic to the entire world is like a trip to Mordor without a Samwise to keep me from being eaten by dangerous spiders, and in general, keep me alive.

With my fear of restaurants and cuisine, I’m a bit worried about my two week solo-adventure to Seattle.

Today is my first day in the city. I arrived in the city this morning, promptly at 9:36 local time, and immediately got lost in the airport. After wandering the airport for about 45 minutes, I found my way to the light rail into Downtown Seattle. Public transport is a beautiful thing people. For $2.25 I made my way into Downtown Seattle on a spectacularly clean tram.

Once I exited on Westlake Center, I made my way up from the underground and walked around a bit. I again found myself lost in the city , which is by far the best way to tour any new area. After I got off the tram, I made my way up from the underground and walked around a bit. I found a Starbucks (no surprise), and sat down in the middle of Westlake Center (a giant outdoor mall/business center/general large commercial area) with a cup of iced coffee and some delicious homemade brownies free of gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and peanuts that my wonderful mother made for my trip.

Here I am enjoying people watching in the beautiful 75 degree sunny weather, smack dab in the middle of downtown Seattle:

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While regaining energy from a caffeine and chocolate buzz, I attempted to learn how to read a bus map. Let me tell you…I am not talented at reading maps, and being a Colorado girl, I have no sense of direction when you take away my mountains.

However, I did come across a nice socialist activist (no joke, his tshirt said “Socialism Now!”) who informed me that Mount Rainier is always on the south side of Seattle, and also told me what bus to get on, I found my way to Seattle’s very own Chinatown.

Verdict? Chinatown in awesome.

Now, you may be wondering “Why is Allison in Chinatown on her first day?”
Well, I’m staying in a super awesome youth hostel located in the middle of Chinatown. The best part about this is it’s right next door to a comic book shop, and right around the corner is the wonderful Hing Hay Park, where I discovered an abundance of giant games.

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This giant chess board was accompanied by an adorable little old Chinese man performing in this amazing square that was surrounded with beautiful murals of artwork.

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I relaxed around here for a while, watching people play chess and shuffleboard while children fed the over zealous pigeons who are obviously fattened up on fried rice and pastries.

Later, I wandered around the corner to an awesome little espresso and tea shop called Gossip, where I had the most delicious peach tea of my life.

And what I’ve learned about Chinatown is that everyone is so genuinely nice and helpful. When I finally found myself in need of real nourishment, not brownies and caffeine, I wandered around town until I came across a small food court that encompassed about ten different local Asian cuisine restaurants, ranging from Chinese, Thai, Japanese, English (this was random, but the creme puffs seemed to be pretty popular with the locals), and Hawaiian.

Personally, I tried Aloha Plates, a fantastic hole-in-the-wall Hawaiian restaurant. Let me tell you…these ladies were so incredibly kind and understanding of my allergies.

After being bitterly disappointed that their famous Kahlua Pork dish was not soy free and dairy free, she took down my allergies and helped me to figure out what dishes were available for me. She determined that their lemon chicken with jasmine rice would be a suitable option for me.

So, I sat down and watched them prepare my meal, and I was stunned by their kindness. Three people operate in the tiny kitchen of Aloha Plates. It’s a meager four burner stove, an oven, four cooking pans, and refrigerator that make up this kitchen. But what they lack in amenities, they make up for in heart.

Understanding that I have multiple allergies, the cook changed all of their equipment. They brought out a new cutting board, new knives, new pans, and all new equipment for me. I was delightfully surprised with this wonderful dish:

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Lemon Chicken with Jasmine Rice, served with (as my waitress/cook was really excited to tell me) a personally crafted sauce of Sesame Oil, Salt, Pepper, and Lemon that was a delightful addition to my meal.

And it was fantastic.

So for my first day in Seattle, wandering the streets of Chinatown, and attempting new cuisine were all a massive success. Being lost in the city, finding my way through public transport and general human kindness, and discovering tasty delights has been the perfect start to a two week solo journey through the Pacific Northwest!

When Life Gives You Allergies, Bake a Soufflé…

Alright, though I haven’t tried it, I imagine making an egg-less, flour-less, and dairy-less soufflé would actually be incredibly difficult, and quite possibly no longer qualifying as a soufflé in anyone’s mind.

So, I guess the next best thing would be to pour yourself a stiff drink and occasionally complain to your friends and family about the trials and tribulations of suffering from chronic allergies.

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Sometimes it’s cathartic to complain about the lemons that life hands you. While I don’t suggest you make a daily habit of venting your frustrations (because honestly, at some point your friends, family, and coworkers will stop caring all together), it can be a good emotional release to get out your frustration.

Me, personally? I complain to my mom about my allergies on a daily basis. Now, the only reason my mom still loves me and listens to these rants, is because the woman is a veritable saint.

Also, peeps, she’s the one who taught me how to cook, and how to create my own recipes, so let’s give that lady a round of applause.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with trying to find a way to be optimistic in the face of so many allergies. I had dealt with being gluten free for over five years before I was diagnosed with my new chronic allergies of dairy, egg, soy, peanut (all legumes on earth, 😦 bye bye hummus), kiwi, and honestly who knows what else. Even finding out these allergies, my body seems to have never recovered.

Every week it’s a new allergy. Since January, I’ve been living in an antihistamine haze, and let me tell you, that’s not nearly as much fun as it should be. Constant sleepiness and itching are not suggested ways to move through life.

But here I am, disproving Darwin on a daily basis. What’s a girl to do when all she wants to do is drink coffee and consume pastries, but she can’t?

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If only I could find somewhere to eat my emotions in tasty muffins. Sadly, if I want muffins, I have to make those babies myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking and cooking in general, but sometimes, I just wish I could run to Starbucks, grab me a caramel macchiato, and a delicious cheese danish, and eat my feelings.

Unfortunately, if I tempted this venture, the poor barista would be sticking me with an epi pen and telling his coworkers the next day how he shot Allison, the Lobster Queen with a shot of epinephrin in between blending frappucinos.

I envy you people and your delicious coffee and pastries.

And if you’re wondering why I’ve dubbed myself lobster royalty without being properly crowned by the lobster pope, it’s because I believe it’s a well earned title. Sadly, I have been hiding under hoodies for the winter season, but spring shall soon be upon us in Colorado, you know…in July, when we maybe stop snowing at random intervals. My allergies turn me into a lobster.

That’s right people: a lobster. Well…I don’t have feelers, and I’m not a bottom feeder, but let me tell you, I look like a perfectly boiled lobster, skin wise at least.

It’s great. If you drenched me in butter (adding to the lobster glow), you could basically serve me up with a steak and pass me off as a slightly larger than average lobster off the coast of Maine.

I know Hannibal Lecter would approve.

I really just want to eat food. I was a horrible foodie before, always trying restaurants, trying new foods, new recipes, new drinks. With one allergy test result from the Mayo Clinic, all that was taken away.

No more restaurant extravaganzas. No more adventurous recipes. No more…food.

Eating out has become a legitimate fear, a social anxiety, and an embarrassment.

It’s been an adjustment to go from eating out every weekend, to trying new restaurants with my brother, going out with friends. I make up excuses now.

Sorry, I have to work.
I’m just not hungry.
Nothing sounds good, I think I’ll just stay in tonight.

I honestly fear eating out in a restaurant. When you eat out with allergies, particularly chronic allergies, you put your life in your waiter and chef’s hands.

I’ve worked in customer service, and I know how tempting it can be to seek revenge on a customer who is particularly difficult, or even just the customer who broke the camel’s back after a long line of crappy customers.

But when you have chronic allergies that can threaten your life, you legitimately depend on your waiter and chef to take a vested interest, care and concern in accommodating you, and to provide you with accurate information.

If any of this fails, eating out can be disastrous, as I have learned.

But eating out with allergies doesn’t only boil down to the fear of getting very sick. It also boils down to the embarrassment of being THAT customer.

Trust me waiters, I know that you have gone back into the kitchen at times with the reaction of “You would NOT believe what someone is asking now…” or some sort of variation thereof.

So let me introduce you to The Apologetic Allergen.

My opening with a server usually starts with “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to be THAT customer tonight… I called ahead, but I really do need you and the chef or manager to confirm that your kitchen can accomadate w,x,y,z allergies…” Trust me when I say that people with chronic allergies don’t BUG AND PESTER out of a desire to be horribly annoying, but out of a desire not to end up with another medical bill.

So please, I beg of you to any server’s who read this, please treat your Apologetic Allergen with respect, understanding, and a vested interest in providing them as safe of an eating out experience as possible. When you do, you’ll find yourself a DEDICATED repeat customer, and someone who will go out of your way to mention to your manager your helpfulness.

Kindness to the Apologetic Allergen pays off people.

At this point in time, my life can pretty much be summed up as follows:

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It’s funny, but true. Allergies have made me lose control of my life. The only way to combat losing control? Wake up at 4 am and bake. And eat. And bake some more.

While life may not be full of soufflés full of everything wonderful in the world, at least with some insomnia induced chemistry experiments I can create some delicious baked goods.

So, until next time, I bid you adieu my fellow allergy sufferers (or not) and thank you for tuning into the momentary bitterness of a 20-Something Allergic to Life.

This blog post is: full of sarcasm, sour lemons, free of tasty foods, and free of allergens.