I never thought I’d have to write this post.
First of all, let me put your concerns at rest. Danny is alive. Lucy is thriving. We all have our health, a home, work we love, and no one is in any real danger. So really, my life is blessed.
This is what I keep telling myself when I get these tiny waves of mourning lapping at my mind.
You see, about three weeks ago, I was told I shouldn’t be eating eggs anymore. Ever.
Danny says that when I came inside the house, after talking with my doctor about my test results on the phone, he knew something was up. “Eggs,” I said. “Eggs?! Eggs.”
Then I stopped talking for awhile.
* * *
For the last couple of years, something has felt off. Since I was pregnant with Lu, and especially after that traumatic first year with her, my body just felt.…off. Nothing major. Nothing like an emergency. More like driving a car you love with a batch of bad gas in it: little starts and stops, a few shudders. For the first time since I gave up gluten, I started getting headaches again. Low level headaches, mind you. Not migraines. Still, by the afternoon, there was a vague ache in the middle of my forehead. Low energy at times. But come on — I have a toddler who seemed to devote an entire year of her life to avoiding a full night’s sleep. (If they gave away medals for that one, she would have won the gold one.) And a bunch of intestinal upsets. Bloat — is any word less appetizing on a food blog? (Well, of course. But I’m not naming them. But those too.)
Something was just off.
Most of this lifted, especially the intestinal stuff, when I stopped using xanthan and guar gum. If I had been 20% off, 80% of that went away as soon as I switched from the gums to chia or psyllium. Done, right?
Not quite. One of the gifts of living gluten-free with celiac is that I have learned deeply to trust my body. Lu began sleeping through the night, solidly, and yet I still felt pretty tired. The headaches had not disappeared. I felt a little foggy, particularly after breakfast into the late morning. There was still that stupid bloat.
So I asked my doctor to run all the tests and check-ups that could give us some clues. Everything came back healthy. Healthy as a horse. Except my inflammation test was a little elevated. There was this food intolerance/allergy test I could take…
The blood test measures the IgG and IgE responses to 100 different foods. She warned me it was only about 70% accurate, since these things are so difficult to tell. “We’ll just pay attention to anything that jumps off the page, okay?” This reassured me, somehow. And I knew I needed the test. I could tell it was another food. One of the grains? Please don’t let it be quinoa. Or corn. Or man, not rice. Maybe dairy? But I had eliminated that for two weeks and felt nothing different. Probably one of those, right.
“Eggs,” she told me, before I could even finish the sentence asking her about the results. “Off the chart. Eggs.”
* * *
I love eggs. I love the slow ooze of a poached egg on spinach. I love the frizzled brown edges of a fried egg. I love soft scrambled eggs with goat cheese. I love French toast. I love egg drop soup, stratas, and frittatas. I love homemade mayonnaise. I love omelets with crab and burrata. I love a prosciutto-asparagus tortilla. I love quiches with a buttery crust. I love baked eggs with Taleggio. I love egg salad sandwiches. I love deviled eggs with basil aioli and a sprinkle of smoked paprika on top.
Deviled eggs? I’m supposed to give up deviled eggs?
Wait, ice cream. I forgot ice cream.
No ice cream.
Wait, are there eggs in fudge? Damn.
* * *
I didn’t want to believe it at first. I told my doctor I would go two weeks without any eggs and then test it. Maybe I wouldn’t feel anything?
However, that first week without eggs? I felt a sudden superhuman energy, a clarity I hadn’t felt in years. Even though we were in the final stretch of preparing for our cookbook photo shoot, I had enough energy to cook, write, clean the kitchen, play with Lucy for hours, and re-arrange the entire house. I took walks in long strides, joyfully. My body started shifting and dropping weight. The bloat. The bloat started to disappear.
Suddenly, I didn’t mind a life without eggs.
The night of our first day of the shoot, Danny and Lu and I went out to dinner at Delancey. Brandon made me great food, gluten-free, that had nothing to do with pizza. (He always treats me well.) As a treat, he brought out a little platter of roasted padron peppers and bacon aioli (that’s aioli with bacon grease instead of oil). I was so focused on the kindness, my exhaustion, my excitement at the company of our friends and bacon aioli that I forgot. Aioli. Eggs. I ate four peppers, slathered with a small spoonful of the aioli.
Within 10 minutes, I had a vicious headache. This was no dull ache. It was bad. Worse, my throat suddenly felt smaller. I found myself gasping for air, just a bit. It’s like I couldn’t reach the bottom of my lungs. I started to wheeze, then cough. I felt like I had instant pneumonia.
Danny looked at me. I looked at him.
* * *
Since then, I have sort of tested eggs several times. We made these teff chocolate chunk-hazelnut cookies for the cookbook (you’ll love these) and I ate one. It didn’t seem to affect me, other than a little gas and bloat the next day. At Gramercy Tavern, I had the zucchini custard they sent out as an amuse bouche, then finished with the peanut butter semifreddo. I felt okay. No gasping for breath. Just a little tired the next day, a little not-quite-myself. But at Lilli and Loo, I ate some of the shrimp with lobster sauce that had large chunks of cooked egg swimming in the sauce. By the time we stood on the subway platform, I was gasping for breath again.
* * *
So here’s the deal. I’m writing this post not knowing what is going to happen next.
Will I be able to tolerate eggs in baked goods, occasionally? Several friends who have issues with eggs tell me they can stand them in baked goods, since the chemical structure of the eggs changes slightly in the baking. Or should I embrace chia/flax/Greek yogurt/bananas/applesauce and all the other solutions that people have suggested in this now-ironic post I wrote? (And my goodness, thank you for all those suggestions then, as well as any you have now.) Do I swear off eggs for the rest of my life? Or do I have a poached egg — oh, Danny makes a great poached egg — once a month with a side of Benadryl?
I don’t know.
Here I am again, in the I don’t know place.
I do know that I have been having pretty darned-clear reactions. I need to pay attention to those.
Is it possible that I could go six months without eggs and then reintroduce them? And then I’d suddenly be fine?
Could I have some more magical thinking?
Oh, by the way, almonds. I’m supposed to stay away from almonds too.
But that? That’s easy. I used to eat them by the handful for my late-morning snack when I could feel my energy lag. There was a time here when we were using almond flour quite a bit. However, I stopped using almond flour because it’s so darned expensive that I didn’t feel fair recommending it here. Also, there were so many with nut allergies who asked for a good substitution that I decided to bake without it. Now? Whatever with almonds. I haven’t eaten any since and I don’t care. I love walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts. Almonds are easy.
But eggs? Damn it, eggs are hard.
When I had to give up gluten, I honestly didn’t find it hard. I had been so sick, so wasted of energy, and worried I was dying that giving up gluten was a gift. Aside from a few emotional moments when I couldn’t share food with Danny or friends, or frustration at being in airports and not finding anything to eat, I have never missed gluten. Honestly.
(Since the life I am living, and the words I am writing this moment, come out of that necessity, how could I regret it?)
Will I feel the same about eggs someday? I don’t know.
I do know that I feel much, much deeper upset at giving up eggs than gluten. Not only because I love them so devotedly, but also because it makes life so much more complicated. Can you imagine going to a restaurant for breakfast and saying, “Hi, I can’t eat gluten or eggs. Can you feed me anything?”
Last week, in Brooklyn, I ordered the vegan tofu special with a side of bacon. I think they were really confused.
And I know myself well enough to know that this is the first stage, when I’m staggering. Give me a couple of months of playing and experimenting, and feeling better and better, and I’ll feel grateful for this someday. I know that.
Thank you, vegans, for paving the way. Thank you to Island Springs, which makes organic tofu here on our island, fresh every day. Thank you to those of you who have given me suggestions and encouragement on this already.
This will make me even more creative, eventually.
Right now, though? I could really go for an egg-salad sandwich.