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!


  1. I'm lucky, I guess, that my gluten issues aren't anaphylactic in nature. Because I've had a lot of the same problems in restaurants. We recently moved to a new area, near friends, who recommended their favorite restaurant. So we went to eat, and I politely asked the waiter if they did gluten free food. and he snapped back "No, everything here has gluten in it!". Yikes, OK. Sure enough, even a seemingly "safe" item off the menu made me ill. I know where not to eat anymore.

  2. Don't know if your local, but we ate in a restaurant in Voorhees, NJ called Pasta Pomadora last week that had a d-page menu of gluten-free pasta dishes. My husband watches his gluten intake so he was thrilled! Thanks for reading!