Peanuts, hazelnuts, carrots, apples, cherries, celery, corn, tomatoes and peas.
No, that’s not my grocery list: That’s my list of allergies. I find this outrageous number of allergies serves as proof that God exists and proof that He’s got a sense of humor. This becomes especially true when considering that these allergies were late onset, which means I know how good all these foods taste and I can never have them again. I have two words for you: Peanut. Butter.
I thought by the time I got to college that I’d come to terms with my allergies, but that was before I met the nun.
The University of Maryland’s allergy program is run by an actual nun–a bona fide convent-going nun. She was very kind to me over email before the fall semester. For some reason I just didn’t realize she was a nun. I really thought her name was “Sister.” We set up a meeting time to discuss my many allergies. We talked about the different stations at the dining hall and all of their allergy alerts.
During this conversation I couldn’t contain my curiosity and finally asked, “Is your first name Sister?” To which she mercifully replied, “No, I’m a nun.” I then accepted my award for most awkward human being ever and we continued discussing how to handle my allergies.
Rather than delivering me from evil as I hoped she would, this nun basically ruined my life.
She began by telling me about all of the great flavors and options at the dairy that UMD is famous for. My mouth watered at the thought of a huge scoop of chocolate ice cream topped with caramel drizzle; but then she told me they were all handled in a facility with exposure to peanuts. I could practically see the cartoon anvil falling on my head. She tried to console me by saying, “Oh, but there’s one flavor you can have. It’s a sorbet.” I felt a little bit better, but it just isn’t the same.
She explained next that most of the foods stations at UMD are “build your own;” as long as you don’t add something you know you’re allergic to, you’re in the clear. I was really excited about that when I visited the wrap station (which is basically all I eat).
Until I was forced to build the most pitiful wrap ever. I kid you not, my wrap only had cheese, lettuce, mayo and chicken. All the other options were vegetables that I really can’t have. It sucked. The wrap sucked more. But what sucked the most was the dining hall staff–people who mean well–who still to this day ask me in voices sweeter than the ice cream I can’t have if “I’m sure I don’t want anything else on it.” As the most awkward person ever, I just give a half smile and say, “No, that’s fine, thank you.”
Little issues like that have propelled the locomotive of my dining hall experience. All semester I survived on chicken wraps and a very tart sorbet–which definitely isn’t the full food triangle.
My true deliverance came when I discovered the 24-hour shops with real food like spaghetti, sandwiches and even some very suspicious sushi. Combine that with delivery food like real sushi, pizza, cookies and Chinese, and I was set for the rest of the semester. I‘m pretty sure in the coming spring semester I’ll be relying more on delivery.
It may be a while before I venture into the dining hall again–but when that day comes, I hope they’ll serve a few more options for people like me.