Let me start by saying as respectfully as possible that I think many people with food allergies are, um, not as sick as they make themselves out to be?
I recall an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie tells a server that she's allergic to parsley, when in actuality she just hates the stuff. When her boyfriend asks her why she lied she replies that it's easier to lie than to say she hates it.
Recently, I drove to Orlando to run the Disney Marathon. As I sat down
at the bar of a crowded restaurant in Downtown Disney, I noticed a large
sign near the servers' station -- "ask every guest if they have a food
allergy". Gluten-free products have even made their way to Naples (Italy
-- not Florida). During a recent trip to gouge myself with pasta and
pastries, I saw a sign that touted gluten-free breads at a local shop. There they were among the beautiful loaves of still-warm manna -- a few sad little dried out bricks of something clearly not made of
When I was a little girl I was allergic to nearly
everything -- eggs, tomatoes, wheat, mushrooms, peanuts, citrus, dairy
and chocolate. Halloween was a dreadful affair because my mother used to
sort out all the chocolate goodies from my trick-or-treat stash --
leaving me with jelly beans and taffy. I wasn't allowed to eat peanut
butter or drink milk. I felt like an outcast when I was pulled from
school on Wednesdays to go for another round of allergy shots. I drank
soy milk before soy milk was "in."
Thankfully, I'm no longer
allergic to these foods, but I'm a little skeptical about all these food
allergies. Sure, there are some people with severe and legitimate
allergies -- but when did we stop serving peanuts on airplanes because
the peanut dust might affect someone in another row? And why does every
server ask the allergy question? (If I'm allergic to something -- I won't
order it, thank you.)
I'm not the only one who thinks maybe food allergies might be overdiagnosed. The New York Times cited a research paper from the British Medical Journal,
written by Harvard Medical School professor Nicholas A. Christakis,
who "argues that an "overreaction" to allergy is leading to unnecessary
testing and false positives."
But there's at least one person in the world that's making light of his food allergies. Actor/composer Michael Bihovsky has produced a Les Miserables parody that features the abject lousiness of the food substitutes that the allergy-ridden must consume. The video, which features actors giving powerhouse vocal performances, is both hilarious and amazingly watchable.
In his blog, Bihovsky said inspiration came to him around the holidays when he realized his new allergy would make it impossible to eat most party treats. "I began baking myself some chocolate chip cookies made of neither wheat nor chocolate chips. I was listening to Les Misérables at the time, and as I tend to do, I was singing along, inserting some of my current activities into the lyrics of the song One Day More. When I sang the part about 'This never-ending road to gluten free,' I immediately cancelled my plans for the evening and started writing."
In the video, we see Marius, Jean-Valjean, Cosette, and "Epipen" preparing for a food-allergy party. As the poor bastards lament the lack of taste and substance in their substitutes, we get gems like, "nothing says it's time to party like anaphylactic shock" and "wondering how they milk an oat".
If you like what you see (and it's pretty amazing), you can fund Bihovsky's new musical, Fresh, on Kickstarter.