By: Joella Almeida
Imagine waking up in the morning in your shared apartment, ready for the day and itching for your morning coffee. Imagine you walk over to the kitchen to prepare that coffee. As the water boils, you head to the table, sit down, and recollect your movements, your eyes not fully open. And then BAM! On the newspaper in front of you is a bunch of scantily clad women offering their escort services for the night. Ew! Morning ruined.
Living with Amanda during my first year of university was an eye opening experience. I actually had two roommates with severe allergies and was bewildered what exactly that meant to me and how it would come to impact my life during my years with them and thereafter. By nature, fortunately I am pretty cautious about eating habits around others. Having this predisposition turned out to be quite useful when living with two girls with severe anaphylaxis.
Amanda was introduced to me on day one as having severe allergies to dairy, nuts and legumes. At that point, the freshman diet consisted of the easiest things you could make yourself in the least amount of time. Cereal with milk - the staple of any university student was subsequently number one on my list as well. I have also been a huge fan of mixed nuts - almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnut and pine are among my favorite snack foods. I would often carry a bag of mixed nuts around for instant energy and a quick mess-free snack on the go. My palette was extremely fond of cheese on everything and it was all about that Parmesan in first year! And lastly, Indian cuisine calls for either marinating some meat dishes in yogurt or adding legumes as protein in many recipes. All of the above proved a scary challenge to take up while having no understanding of allergies or how to be considerate about where these allergens land in the kitchen.
Amanda, however, had years of experience explaining her allergies - through high school, excursions, and even to strangers while on vacation. I soon learned that separate cookware was essential to us living together. As were dish washing sponges and where they were stored. Labels were of prime importance as well. I needed to make sure anything that could cause her harm was safely tucked away in my room. We were fortunate to have individual bedrooms.
Coming back to my story, I grew overly cautious with time as we became closer friends and I started to get more concerned that something I ate might severely hurt her. I came up with this method of using the Now paper magazines as table mats whenever I’d eat just about anything. I’d lay them on the island in our kitchen with the center spread open. As I’d finish a meal, I’d throw away the top two or three center spreads. So I’d keep tearing away the newspaper 2–3 pages at a time after every meal. In my head this was an amazing way to throw away any crumbs that fell, any inkling of food that might have splattered, and any chance for Amanda to come into contact with something harmful.
However, any Torontonian knows at the end of the newspaper would be ads for services we’d not casually mention in conversation. I’d often leave the newspaper on the island as my go-to safety tablecloth if you will. Eventually I’d have torn through all the center pages till the very end and I’d never pay attention to what was written on the paper. So it was extremely embarrassing when Amanda had once come over with family to find a newspaper spread with listings for call girls all over our table. You should have seen the look on her aunt's face (best described as disturbed and afraid). Never again would I use that method to be safe. Lysol all the way!
Instances like this though humorous were of course eye opening. There was no need to be extreme like first-year-me, but understanding allergies plays a huge role in our lives. With the news every night talking about how peanut butter is being spread in playgrounds, one wonders if the person responsible really understands the dangers involved. Here at Everyday Allergen Free, we really focus on brightening up the rhetoric around allergies of all kind. Education and understanding is the key to a more considerate lifestyle. And to avoid situations where an embarrassing instance in first year is bookmarked in memory for life (Amanda still thinks it's hilarious). Zing!
Below is a picture of us now, with our good friend Karrie. The hilarious "porn paper' incident well behind us, but constantly brought up at random by Amanda. Like, all the time, just she can't move on.
Make sure you read Amanda's story about food allergies and kissing, an awkward situation no doubt!