Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Yeah, nuts. And rats, and dammit and bloody hell and dammit all to hell. (nice beginning to a Christmas post isn't it? but such is life...chiaroscuro, remember?)

So Sunday we did our annual nut factory thang. We individually scrubbed, cracked, blanched, roasted and ground enough nuts for Panforte, Linzer sables and Baklava. It took us four hours, but that was OK, we watched all the extras on my new HP and the Half Blood Prince DVD (man, did they ever flub the ending!) and laughed and joked, broke two nut crackers and generally had a pleasant time. It is quite literally a labor of love, which always makes a repetitive, time consuming job seem so much less tedious (like most of motherhood!). We do all of this meticulous nut preparation so that our son Liam, who is allergic to peanuts, but not tree nuts can share in these special Christmas treats. Almost all nuts that you can purchase have been cross contaminated with peanuts during processing, therefore in order for us to have "safe" ground walnuts for the Baklava we have to scrub, crack and grind those puppies ourselves. This has been something special we do, just at Christmas, so that our sons can have a taste of foods that are otherwise off limits.

Yesterday, using the fruits of our labors, I made the Panforte (with homemade candied citrus peel too, these are also usually cross contaminated with peanuts), and proudly presented my family with a slice of the finished product after dinner.

It was very good. Rich, sweet, chewy. Yum.

Shortly after consuming his piece, Elliot started complaining of an "itchy tongue", after another few minutes his face had broken out in hives. Yes, he had an allergic reaction. This is our son without nut allergies. Who outgrew an early peanut allergy and is required to eat peanuts on a regular basis to keep his immune system recognizing that they are not a threat. Who was down to only one food allergy to eggs, much to our grateful relief (even though it is a severe allergy, it is so much easier to deal with than his brother's complicated list of multiple anaphylactic allergies).


The reaction was not life threatening, but it was still very scary. He has obviously developed a new allergy to hazelnuts or almonds. I want to cry. I just want to cry.

The chances had looked pretty good for E outgrowing his food allergies. Over half of children with food allergies do. This would have meant him not having to wear his epi belt (containing a syringe of life saving epinephrine) everywhere he goes, not having to be scrupulously careful about every morsel of food that goes in his mouth or even what he touches, being able to get fast food, go to the movies, go to a birthday party without all the preparation and planning normally required...in other words a chance to be more of a regular kid, a chance to drop the constant vigilance surrounding food and have so much less of a burden on his small shoulders (because worrying about dying if you eat the wrong thing is a lot for a kid to carry). Our hopes for L outgrowing anaphylaxis are tiny to non-existent, he is simply that much more allergic, but things were looking good for E...until yesterday...developing a new allergy at 9 years old points in the opposite direction.

Did I mention I want to cry?

10 more sleeps until Christmas...and I am off to very carefully, and rather joylessly bake those Linzer sables and Baklava that I prepped for yesterday, which will be eaten with furtive caution only by the grown ups. (will be making a safe version of the Linzers for E & L with regular eggless sugar cookie dough)


  1. well curse! if it isn't one thing its another! just ban those bad nuts altogether!!

  2. Yes, next year will be 100% nut free. Even the tastiest treats are no fun when you have to eat them hunched over the kitchen sink, scrubbing your hands like a surgeon afterward for fear of harming your children.

  3. Oh E, I have a tear in my eye for your sweet boys. It is not fair. For anyone, any way you look at it.

    Nuts mean Holidays to me, because my family always had nut trees in their yards, mostly pecan and walnut. We had figs too, which were neat. I grew up on bowls of nuts to shell, and particularly like the ones in your picture. I'm sorry you can't share the goodness of nuts with your boys and I'm hoping that their bodies grow more tolerant and stronger as they grow up. It is an awful lot for them to worry about, when they should have no worries. Imagine, though, if they didn't have the amazing, loving, smart, vigilant, wonderful parents that made them? Thank goodness for small blessings, whereever they hide.

    I would like to say that the Panforte you made looks amazing, I would eat it until I was sick.

  4. That Panforte has me salivating!

    So sorry to hear about your sons. Not only is it scary for a mother, they are missing out on so many delicious foods.

  5. Oh my, I really understand how you must feel!
    I'm so grateful to have a child with no allergies to anything at all. It's such a shame that this is nowadays not normality, but exception!

  6. well dammit is right. maybe it will be minor, and isolated, and manageable like his mild peanut allergy. maybe. thats the outcome im rooting for, anyway.

    and dammit. again. and hugs.(i was so excited to see the holiday baking. i remember you making this last year.) keep going E!

  7. @Mel Thanks for the sympathy. I am feeling really bummed on his behalf. Allergies just f**king suck.

    @Angie Thanks. They are really used to missing out, they don't even blink an eye anymore...still it sucks.

    @Lawendula I am so glad your daughter doesn't have any allergies. You are right it has become so common. What is going wrong to make all these kids' immune systems go haywire?!

    @Leel Mild and nut allergy aren't really synonymous. His peanut allergy was potentially life threatening, only manageable because we took extreme precautions every day and we were lucky that he outgrew it. The trouble with allergies is that a mild reaction one time, can be full blown throat-closing anaphylaxis the next, and there is no way of predicting future severity...the only answer = avoidance. The good news is we're used to avoiding allergens and traces of allergens and calling manufacturers and bringing our own cake to the birthday party and educating every person who cares for our sons...we know the drill, so nothing new. The bad news is, well like I said, developing a new allergy indicates that our hopes of him growing out of all his food allergies are probably unfounded. So yea, dammit. Dammit. dammit.
    But thanks for the nice compliments. :)

  8. oh dear, i'm sorry. i know all too well the weight of allergies. i hope he does outgrow them, one and all.

  9. Awe jeeze. I'm so sorry! So sorry for dashed hopes for li'l E. Yeah, bye bye to nuts - all of 'em. F! Everything looks beautiful and yummy acourse. And you go ahead and cry. I'm shaking my fist at the heavens for you. Deb


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