I’m allergic to chocolate.  Some of the ‘experts’ would define it as an intolerance, not an allergy, but the fact is, chocolate makes me very, very sick.  It wasn’t always that way, which is part of the reason this may fall into the category of ‘intolerance.’  At the very least, it may have been a desensitized allergy, since I used to eat a lot of chocolate.  I have a few different allergies, which is probably why I was sick a lot as a child.

Briefly, I’m also allergic to cats, which they sense at once and come racing over to encourage a lot of itching and sneezing.  I have a severe–life threatening–allergy to any kind of pork, ham, or bacon–even things cooked in bacon grease will set it off.  Fortunately, carbonated beverages stop it in its tracks, and as a flute/saxophone player, I have conscious control over my airways.  (Being a musician may save your life!)  Ask almost any person allergic to something, and you’ll find a group of allergies, not just one.

Back to the chocolate.  When I got old enough to start looking after my own health, I decided to find out why I was sick so often.  It took a while to track down what was making me ill.  I did the elimination process, where you eliminate a specific food for a time, then reintroduce it.  One tiny piece of chocolate after months of not having any triggered a profuse nosebleed, and a headache that made the migraines look tame.  Any chocolate I’ve had since then has been accidental.  (I didn’t know there was chocolate or cocoa in the ingredients.)  I have yet to find anything but time that releases me from the discomfort caused by chocolate.

The food industry is making it difficult to snack.  Almost everything now has chocolate or cocoa in some form.  (The same seems to be true of the pork industry–years ago, it was safe to have a cheeseburger almost everywhere, but I now I can’t risk it where ham or bacon is cooked on the same grill.  That covers just about every restaurant and fast food place I know.)  Even a flavor that ‘shouldn’t’ have chocolate, like ‘French Vanilla,’ often does.  Call me paranoid, but to me that seems like cheating.  I end up reading a lot of lables.

As a Canadian, I find two North American attitudes in general.  The first is to treat a person with allergies as a nuisance.  I’ve mostly encountered this in Canada.  I have never encountered it in the United States, possibly because Americans are more inclined to sue if their loved ones end up in the hospital or the morgue.

The second is to make whatever accomodations a business can.  (I was once told the allergens would be ‘cooked out’ by the time the food was served.  THAT IS NOT TRUE!!!  Don’t fall for it.  That’s deception, not accomodation.)  At least one restaurant in the US gets full marks for scraping and cleaning the grill before making my pancakes.

It’s understandable that not every restaurant will be able to make concessions to your allergy.  They have to run a profitable business.  You, on the other hand, need to stay alive.  Take your business to places that can help you eat safely.  My favorite coffee spot started to make a ‘white’ eclaire after I told them I was allergic to chocolate.  Then they had to start making more, because a lot of people prefer an option other than chocolate.  Some days I’m lucky even to get one.  I think they end up with fewer ‘leftovers’ since both versions are popular.

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her Stage32.com account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

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