Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Incredible, Edible Egg....Not!

I am one of millions of people who have a food allergy. Didn’t always have one, but about 15 years ago, my body decided that it was going to protest every time I ate an egg yolk. It started gradually with minor irritation that grew into a full blown revolt including; severe itching, swollen lips, chest pain and ER visits. Now, I am not complaining because 97% of people with egg allergies are allergic to the whites, which would be a problem. But since I can at least use Egg Beaters and egg whites for recipes and omelets, I consider myself spared from real sacrifice. (But I do miss eating a good deviled egg on occasion).

As with most of my fellow food allergists, life on the road can be a bit of a challenge. You have to self-protect, and assume that no one serving you food cares about your problem – because they don’t. I remember an episode of the old Rosanne sitcom where she was playing a waitress. Another waitress approaches her and says “we are out of decaf coffee”, Rosanne takes the pot of regular coffee and fills up the orange-rimmed decaf pot and replies “now, we’re not.”

Egg white omelets 24/7!!
 I think of that scene every time I am traveling, which is why I never order Egg Beaters in a restaurant. They look (and for the most part taste) just like scrambled eggs. I fear that someone with Rosanne’s mentality is in the kitchen and stick with egg whites where I can see the difference. Self-protect. I am also fortunate to live in an area that is the birthplace of diners! Egg white omelets are on every menu. You would be surprised at how that is so not the case in every state.

A few years back, my husband and I were traveling on a fall weekend and ended up in the mountains of West Virginia. We stopped at a small luncheonette for breakfast, where I was put in my place by a waitress with a less than the famed “southern hospitality” attitude.
“Could I have an egg white omelet please?” I asked the redheaded server who seemed annoyed to have to put out her cigarette to take our order.
“A what?” she asked with a southern drawl so thick it took her forever to say those two words.
“An omelet made with the just the whites of the egg. I’m allergic to the yolks. So….just the whites please, with American cheese.” She stared at me for a minute and then asked “Where y’all from?”
“New Jersey”, I answered with a bit of curiosity.
“Well,” she said, knowing full well that the other 11 locals had started paying attention. “Up here, our whites and our yolks all come in the same container…. it’s called an egg shell”, which brought much laughter from her apparent regulars.

“It’s pretty much the same thing where I come from,” I answered, my eyes fixed on hers. “But, there, our cooks know how to crack the eggs so they can separate the two.” There was a definite hush to the room. Even my husband was letting me have this one.
“Hey, Beyrl,” she bellowed into the kitchen while starring me down, “this lady from New Jersey wants you to separate the egg yolk from the white, slimy part” This actually seemed to peak Beyrl’s interest. “Hey, I saw that done once! I think I can do it. What do you want me to do with the yolk though? ” Knowing that ingesting any part of the yolk could put me in anaphylactic shock, I decided not to test Berle’s culinary skills.
My Southern Breakfast!
“You know what? Never mind. I’ll just have a toasted bagel”
“Toast,” I corrected myself “just some toast and coffee”
She turned to my husband, “do you have issues?”
“No” he replied quietly, “I’ll just have a couple eggs over easy.” Something told him it wasn’t the place to ask for turkey bacon. Sometimes, self-protecting takes a great deal of restraint.

A few years later, we were traveling through Georgia on our way to Florida when the same scenario played out in a Waffle House, a chained breakfast joint, off Interstate 95. With dozens of eggs openly stacked behind the counter, I asked the young waitress if they had egg whites, and she mumbled “No, just eggs”. I eat a lot of toast when we are traveling.

“Up here in the north", restaurant menus are blessedly more sensitive to the needs of those who just can’t eat everything. Recently I have noticed that they are starting to list the ingredients that are in each menu item. How great is that? But even with that being said, the need to self-protect, still exist.

It wasn’t that long ago that I walked into a Chinese takeout restaurant and asked if they could make Egg Foo Yung with just egg whites. “Sure, sure” the young girl who spoke very little English replied. Later that night, the paramedics were laughing so hard, they almost dropped me in the bushes when my husband told them why I was having a reaction. Sometimes I have to protect myself from….me!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hey Marie!! You're one of us now!

Marie Osmond
There are most likely unimaginable perks to being famous. Being human isn’t one of them.  Take into account a recent “incident” that happened to entertainer Marie Osmond….on stage! A few days ago, Marie was doing her Vegas-style show on a cruise ship with her brother Donny, when the unthinkable happened. During the audience participation portion of the show, a question was asked that made both Marie and Donny laugh hard – really hard.

Being a man, for Donny this wasn’t a problem. For 53-year-old, mother of 8, Marie, it was a big problem. She laughed until she wet herself. And not a hide-able spritz, but a gusher that ended up on the stage floor….and on YouTube, and Twitter, and Facebook and Entertainment Tonight! It was visible to all, especially brother Donny, who then fell on the floor with laughter (carefully avoiding the puddle). 

And to her credit, Marie laughed too. Not only did she laugh, as a stage hand ran out with a rag, she took it from him and cleaned up after herself. Kudos to you Marie! You need to make no excuses or apologies. And you must know by now, you are not alone!

This has happened to millions of women (albeit, not on a stage), but still, never at a convenient time. There actually is no convenient time. This has happened to me at a party, in my own kitchen, where a powder room was three feet away. This has happened to me at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where the….um receptacle I was aiming for, was just inches away.

For the sake of Marie Osmond, my new hero, I will explain; Two years ago, a group of us was traveling to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water’s” outside of Pittsburgh. (If you haven’t been there – put it on your “must go” list!) Anyway, after traveling about three hours, we decided to stop, use the bathrooms and get a bite to eat. In our car, two friends and I had been chatting the entire ride and it didn’t stop when we exited the car. We walked through the parking lot, totally engrossed in conversation, and kept moving right into the lobby, aiming toward the restroom without missing a word. After almost three hours on the road and a 20 oz. coffee, I was ready for relief.

As we were talking, we walked into the restroom, right past the men that were washing their hands and each took a stall. As I was preparing for duty, I heard my one friend say “hey, there is a urinal in my stall.” Instantly it registered that we past MEN washing their hands. I looked to the stall on my left and saw a pair of work boots on the floor – facing the wall! “Oh, Jesus”, I heard my other friend mutter. By nature, I am a rule follower, so it never dawned on me to complete my mission before exiting. I was in the wrong restroom and I was leaving – immediately. My companions were right behind me.

When we got back into the lobby, our men were still standing out there shocked that we had preceded them into the men’s room. The minute they saw us rush out, they started laughing. I was smiling and trying to keep it together, but then a man who had been washing in the sink when we went in, came out and looked up at the door way, where it clearly read “Men’s Room”.“Whew,” he said to his friend, “these three broads came in with such confidence that I thought I was in the wrong room”, and I collapsed onto the wall in laughter. That is when I had my Marie moment. Not on a stage, but the lobby of a rest stop on the PA Turnpike.  

This type of incident falls under the “life is not fair” category! Simply by virtue of our gender, our age, and the ability to bear children in our younger years, our bladders defy us when we need their support the most. But maybe, (just maybe), we have the ability to laugh harder and more often than men. At least it seems that way in our group. And if it’s a tradeoff, I’ll take the laughter over dry pants any time. So welcome to my world Marie! You looked in the face of embarrassment, and decided to laugh at it! Proud to have you in the sisterhood!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A big red barn....

If life allowed, I would buy a farmhouse with a big red barn
and on a summer’s evening, I would sit on my porch with
a glass of iced tea and watch the sun set behind it’s rustic structure
as daylight surrendered to darkness. It would center me
……and I would be happy

If life allowed, I would buy a farmhouse with a big red barn
and in autumn, I would sit on my porch with a cup of tea
And watch the trees behind my red barn get swallowed in the hues
of October, and as my aging friend would blend with the amber and russet leaves,
Fall’s tapestry would wash over my soul
……and I would be happy

If life allowed, I would buy a farmhouse with a big red barn
and spend the hours of a winter afternoon sitting on my porch with
a mug of hot chocolate and marvel at how the red explodes off
 the white and crystal branches of the bare trees.
I’d get lost in the design of the stark branches against a grey sky
….and I would be happy

If life allowed, I would buy a farmhouse with a big red barn
And on a warm spring day, I would sit on my porch and smell the apple blossoms
that lined its’ driveway, and then stroll through wisteria cradled arbors
….and I would be happy

If life allowed….


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We're not in Jersey anymore Toto....

 Sitting in my kitchen this morning, safely in New Jersey, I am drinking coffee and watching the news report of the devastation parts of this country endured last Friday. I have done this many times before, but this time it was different. This time, I was right on the edge of witnessing first hand the tragedy that nature can inflict. (I refuse to refer to it as Mother Nature, since nothing with a maternal instinct would inflict such pain.)
Betty and Ro (aka the twitterer and texter)

Let’s go back to last Friday. Each year at this time, my sisters, Betty, Ro, and I, take a road trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, for Betty’s granddaughter’s birthday celebration. Cincinnati is in the southern portion of Ohio, only minutes from Kentucky.  From our homes, it is a 10 hour drive each way. (11 if you take into consideration the age of our bladders) As you can imagine, there is much chatter and laughter along the way. My husband actually came with us one year, but when we got home he said “never again” (I don’t know what his problem is).

 But this year, we did have a fourth travel buddy, her name is Siri. If you own an iPhone, you know her as the voice that answers questions that are spoken into the phone. And sometimes, her answers are actually correct. I own a Droid, so traveling with Siri was new to me.  After about five hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we were heading into the mountains of Wheeling, West Virginia when my nephew, Scott called from the Kentucky school where he is an assistant principal. “Just thought you should know that you might run into some rough weather. They are calling for strong thunderstorms and possible tornadoes here later.”

"We have cows!!"
 At that time, we were surrounded by sunny, clear blue skies. Meaning, we didn’t take it all too seriously. In fact, using the line from the movie “Twister” (and my Droid), I posted on Facebook, “We have cows”. My younger sister Ro, who usually follows my lead, posted a picture of a flying cow. It was all in fun. My sister Betty asked her new BFF Siri, “what is the weather in Cincinnati?” It was still rather early in the day and Siri assured us that it was just “cloudy”.

 So on we went not realizing that we were tempting the weather gods! By the time we stopped for lunch in Cambridge, Ohio it was cloudy with a sprinkling of rain. Ro’s husband, who is an IT manager for a chain of banks, texted her to say that the banks in Kentucky were closing because of the storm threat. “Maybe, I’ll get a picture of an actual cow flying”, she said, and we all laughed and kept heading toward the storm. (Keep in mind, we are from New Jersey, where we often get warnings but very rarely get the storms – hence the nonchalant attitude).

 Along the way, Betty was twittering out our conversations, Ro was texting her husband and I was driving down Interstate 71 listening to Adele, starting to feel a little uneasy about the skies ahead. We pulled off the highway in Reynoldsburg for gas and went into the store for coffee. People were coming in buying ice and filling their gas tanks. “What are you hearing about the weather?” I asked the man behind the counter. “Oh, not to worry ladies,“ he assured us “tornadoes are not expected here for about 25 minutes”. I heard myself yelling “what?” as my sister was responding “well, then I have time for a cigarette.”
Truly Mesmerizing 

 At this point (and I can’t explain why) looking down in the ice cream case in front of us, I realized that it had been years since I last had a Nutty Buddy Ice Cream Cone. And since this didn't seem the time to watch calories, “what the hell” I said, reaching into the case. I was eating the cone while I convincing my sister that it probably wasn’t a good idea to be standing over gas tanks smoking with tornadoes in the area. We got back in the car and continued toward Cincinnati on I 71.

 By now, it was pouring, and lightening was bouncing among the swirling clouds. I told Ro to find a local radio station so we could track the weather. Betty and Siri were not getting along at this point because Betty was asking her about tornadoes and Siri was giving us links to the Wizard of Oz. When a station finally came in clear, music was playing so I figured things can’t be that bad. That secure feeling lasted all of five minutes when the Emergency Broadcast System took over the airwaves. It was the second time in my life that I heard those annoying beeps followed by a message I should actually be listening to, and not hear “this is a test”. (The first time is when I was visiting Betty’s daughter in Florida – I’m beginning to see a pattern here).

 “If you are traveling on Interstate 71, please exit as soon as possible as tornadoes are imminent”. The announcer then mentioned mile markers, but I had no idea where we were in terms of markers, I only knew that the storm was directly ahead of us. “I am going to tweet this out and see what comes back”, said Betty. What came back was something like “get off the highway”. We were only a couple miles from our exit, so after a “discussion” the twitterer , the texter and the driver decided to keep going. The best we could figure, the storms were mostly in Kentucky and not Cincinnati.

“Stop arguing with Siri, and call Scott”, I told my sister. “See what is happening where he is”. Even with the EBS telling us to get off the highway... even with a black swirling sky and crackling lightening... even with pounding rain and heavy wind... Betty was not about to let a little storm alter her plans”, “I’m sure it’s fine. They just don’t have tornadoes in Cincinnati” She called Scott who told her that tornado sirens were going off and his family was in the basement…..and we kept going.

 We finally got to our exit and started heading south which put the storm slightly to our right, but the rain and wind continue. While driving, I was keeping an eye on the sky which, admittedly, was mesmerizing. Ahead, I saw a flashing red sign. As we got closer, I could read “Honk if you love Jesus” breaking through the dark clouds. Things being what they were, I figured it was a good time to lay one big blast on the horn.

Well, we made it, thankfully. By the time we arrived at my nephews, the storm had aimed its nasty head over Kentucky and Indianapolis where many lives and much property were lost. Knowing the fear I felt just watching this thing forming overhead, I can’t even image how those poor people felt as the tunnel clouds came directly at them. I love New Jersey.

The weekend was great, with the exception being that the relationship between Betty and Siri had reduced to name calling (on Betty's side). As we were packing the car to leave, I was just thankful that without those awful storms, the ride home would be void of stress. That's when Ro looked up and said "hey, I think it is starting to snow". And it did...most of the way home!