Food Allergy Scare in the Test Kitchen

For the most part, I’ve been able to cook without issue in the Test Kitchen with my food allergies: legumes, including peanuts, soy, as well as a few other raw nuts. I’ve been able to cook with ingredients to which I’m allergic, touch them, and even taste them in small doses, until today.

I usually set up my station on the baking bench, which is prime real estate in the Test Kitchen. The bench gives me plenty of room to spread out and stay organized. The past couple of weeks, however, I’ve been setting up my station next to one of the stoves because I’ve been doing a lot of stove top cooking. Occasionally, another intern or test cook will hop onto one of the burners next to me.

As I was mising one of my recipes, another intern set up shop one burner over for deep frying in a Dutch oven. I felt a tingle in my throat after the oil came to temp and didn’t think much of it. I figured it was just the haze being generated from the hot oil (which was too hot) when the food hit it. I checked to make sure the hood was on, and continued with my work. Ten minutes later, the tingle was getting worse, and I knew something was up — my throat was getting scratchy and my breathing labored. I asked the intern what kind of oil she was using, and felt the blood drain out of my face when she said, “Peanut.”

I was nervous, but not in a full blown panic attack just yet — I was still able to take full breaths, but it was a struggle. I quietly excused myself and sat outside for a few minutes. Without much of a change, I knew I needed to get some Benadryl into my system fast, or I’d be going home early, possibly in an ambulence. The meds kicked in about 20 minutes later and, although I was a zombie from the allergy pill, I was thankfully alive and breathing.

I never thought I would need the Epi-pen my food allergist gave to me, but I’m definitely going to carry one with me from this day forward. Funny thing; I can have a bite of peanut butter, eat a few peanuts or legumes, and not have that kind of reaction. I guess it’s different when you’re breathing it directly into your lungs.

I suppose this means I’ll never have a career at an establishment that uses peanut oil in the fryers. Sorry Paula Deen.