A couple of months ago, in the waiting area of Sirius Radio, I met a lovely woman named Elizabeth Gordon. Like me, Elizabeth was waiting to go on air bright and early with the wonderful "Morning Living Show" hosts Betsy and Brian. While I was there for my monthly yoga/mindfulness slot (7:30 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month on the Martha Stewart Channel), she was there to speak about food allergies and her latest allergy-free comfort food cookbook. Our brief encounter was so pleasant, that we decided to stay in touch.
Fortunately, I don’t have any food allergies that I’m aware of. I do, however, have a number of close friends whose lives have been heavily impacted by their own allergies or those of their children. (You might have read my friend and longtime Martha Stewart TV producer Lenore Welby’s widely shared blog about her daughter’s severe food allergies in the Martha Stewart family room last year.) It’s through people like Elizabeth and Lenore that I’ve not only learned about the serious challenges, and even stigmas, allergies can present for adults and children, but also how love, creativity, and conscious shopping can counter these difficulties.
Elizabeth was diagnosed being allergic to wheat, eggs, and string beans shortly after giving birth to her first daughter eight years ago. While the exact cause is unknown, the allergies might have resulted from a hormonal shift during pregnancy. The main visible symptom was the development of an unpleasant rash that refused to go away. Insistent to continue nursing her baby, Elizabeth visited many doctors to no avail. Finally, a friend suggested that she go to an allergist. After a full series of skin tests, the results came in, and adapting her diet proved invaluable.
There’s something I didn’t mention about Elizabeth. She’s an avid baker and maintained a lifelong dream of pursuing it professionally. In 2003, shortly before her diagnosis, she left her former career as a social worker (I was inspired to learn she worked at the Renfrew Center with those afflicted by eating disorders) and a related Ph.D. program at Fordham University to pursue the culinary arts. As you can imagine, learning you’re allergic to wheat and eggs under these circumstances presents a whole different set of issues. She definitely transformed adversity into opportunity, however, and began experimenting with wheat, egg, and dairy-free baking. She manifests her vision into reality and has since authored the popular Allergy-Free Desserts cookbook. Additionally, she maintains a blog, My Allergy-Free Life.
In January, she released her second book, The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook, which features a wide array of family classics, from Southern fair to pigs in a blanket to pizza, nachos, and beautiful salads. A native of Ohio, Elizabeth wanted to share allergy-free recipes of the food she loved most. As a mother of two, she also wanted to create dishes that are good on the dinner table and will be enjoyed by those without allergies.
As Elizabeth told me, “When first diagnosed with a food allergy, people often find themselves on their way home sadly listing all the things they cannot eat. I hope my books help celebrate all the things people with major food allergies can still eat.” In many ways, this mission of sharing and being a spokeswoman about the serious reality of food allergies has become the next form of Elizabeth’s social work.
Please feel free to comment here with any questions or thoughts regarding food allergies. You can also reach Elizabeth through her website.