Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tomatoe Sauce - hold the tomatoe!


As a child I suffered from a variety of ailments - most of which memory and time have erased, while a few reinvent themselves again from time to time. The main example of this presented itself as skin irritations which have randomly reoccurred during the past six years in which I have traveled the US and abroad.

Having left the clean and moisture rich air of the Vancouver rain forest behind for the dry heat and sunshine of California was bound to have an effect. I accepted this. Trading tank tops and shorts for the many layers I was accustomed to would obviously expose my skin to more contaminants than it would have been subjected to in my prior life. I took it in stride, accepted the many prescriptions and ointments prescribed and went about my life. In theory. What I actually did was bitch and moan a rather lot, so that even I got sick of complaints regarding "my body" (but that is besides the point!)

Initially, the issues would flare up following dinner out. Usually a lovely Indian Curry would precede it by a few days - then the urge to scratch my arm would consume me. I banned spicy food from my diet for a few weeks to test the theory that the curry caused my discomfort - and it nearly explained it. Except, once in a while I would give in to the desire for a wonderful korma or Butter Chicken - and no reaction would follow the meal. Odder still - I could cook at home and nothing would happen at all no matter what spice combination I would throw together in the meal. For months there appeared to be no pattern.

Then I began to experiment with removing selected foods from my diet which I recollected being banned from as a child for health reasons. Finally I stumbled upon my Eureka moment. While it is satisfying to know that I can still enjoy my spicy Thai and Indian curries, it is difficult to navigate around the actual cause of my reactions.

Tomatoes loath me, even while I adore them.

During the greatest flare ups I had often been eating fresh tomatoes from the farmers market daily, I would eat curries and pasta and chili and rice every week. Honestly - more likely, in every meal. While I like to pretend that maybe it is the pesticides used on the tomatoes, or something in the soil or during transport that I am allergic to... my own testing cautiously disproves this. Within a week of having deleted ketchup tomatoes and eggplant (another nightshade linked to the causation of dry skin reactions) from my diet I reverted to healthy skin that gets compliments again.

The magic cure, the deletion of something I loved, simple - and yet so complex. One moment I traveled down the road towards psoriasis, eczema and repeated trips to the pharmacy - the next moment, seemingly cured!

With one Caveat. Tomatoes are such a mainstay in American life that it requires constant navigation to avoid them. Breakfast, lunch and dinner - in restaurants, delicious tomatoe based meals call out to me. I look away, walk away, stay away.

I am mildly troubled as I walk past the baskets full of Cherry tomatoes and the rainbow of Heirloom Tomatoes at the Farmers market each week; saddened by the difficulty of locating pasta sauces and pizzas without the banned food in the ingredients list; I am amused by the kindness of my friends as they separate Tomatoes and Eggplant from the other broiled vegetables when I Join them for Barbecues.

Most of all, I am thankful that my allergy is a mild one. If I eat a curry every few weeks - the itch factor remains in check for the most part. A pizza slice here or a few spoons of beans on toast there - these are mere blips on the scratchiness scale, easily lived with even if they are not to be desired.

The true difficulty in possessing a simple allergic reaction such as this one - is that it is so simple it becomes complex because of its simplicity.

Each time I interact with tomatoes I am aware of how recently I last ate them. Too often - too soon - too much and I am back to square one. Faced with total elimination from my diet for weeks until the toxins or acids or whatever it is that cause my misery have depleted themselves enough to be at a safe level for me to eat them again. I can honestly say - I doubt that I will eat a heaping plate of Spaghetti and marinara sauce ever again. This saddens me.

1 comment:

Arrika said...

The links under Home economics on the right are excellent! Great blogs and resources for budget cuttng.. and some free goodies tucked away here and there!