Finding the Perfect Substitute for Things We Love
Sometimes a little ingenuity can help avoid hereditary angioedema symptoms
My counter looked as if I were starring in a cooking show on the Food Network. I’d separated my ingredients into bowls, the oil was slowly heating to a perfect temperature, and my homemade sauce was simmering. Because food prep and cooking are my favorite activities to relax, I was in my element. On the menu, eggplant parmesan.
Before I could execute the perfect cutting technique on a large eggplant, my husband, PJ, strolled into the kitchen.
“Really?” he asked as he watched my knife slice through the purple vegetable. I ignored him as I continued to cut. “Babe!” he said.
I finally put the knife down and looked at him. Before he uttered another word, the familiar tingle in my left hand caused me to rub it on my jeans. That immediately caught my husband’s eye. He shook his head. “Why do you do this?” he asked.
“Because I like them,” I replied.
“You’re allergic to them,” he reminded.
He was right. I have an acute allergy to eggplant, which causes my hands and mouth to itch if I touch or eat it. And while it doesn’t cause anaphylaxis, occasionally the itching would become so unbearable that I would have to take a Benadryl.
Sure enough, later that night, I had to take two of the trusty pink pills to find relief. As the itching subsided, I began thinking how ridiculous it was that I would purposely eat something that would cause such discomfort. Before, I felt it was worth the trouble it caused. But lately, my reactions were starting to outweigh how much I liked the vegetable.
I finally decided to stop eating my eggplants. But what was I going to do? I didn’t just love the taste; I loved the texture and the preparation.
Fortunately, I discovered I could make zucchini the same way I make eggplant. So when I finally got that recipe just right, I was excited. The substitution had saved the day, and I was happy.
When our oldest daughter, lovingly nicknamed Ladybug, was officially diagnosed with hereditary angioedema in 2021, one of her most common symptoms was swelling in her lips and face. Whenever those symptoms occur, anything that touches those areas causes her pain. Even if her symptoms start to subside, it can leave those areas sore because the swelling can be so significant.
But Ladybug would often push past the pain to do “face-related” activities like chewing bubble gum to make bubbles, blowing up balloons, and attempting to blow raspberries. Under normal circumstances, stuff like this wouldn’t give parents a second thought. With her, however, extra stress during a flare would often lead to a double dose of Berinert and, one particular time, a visit to the hospital.
“I want to play the trombone,” she announced after her first day of sixth grade. Her declaration shocked her father and me. I’d secretly hoped she’d want to join the school choir.
“The trombone?” I repeated.
“Yes!” she replied excitedly. “We get to pick our instruments, and I picked the trombone.”
She raced out of the room, leaving me in a panic. “She can’t play the trombone!” I whisper-yelled to PJ. “Do you know what that would do to her during a flare?” My husband remained speechless. At that moment, he didn’t have an answer, either.
We were all too familiar with the trombone. Because our oldest son played it in the band, we were aware of that infamous “red ring” that sits in the middle of a player’s lips after they’ve played for hours. That type of aggravation on Ladybug’s lips and cheeks put the trombone at the top of our “do not play” list.
We didn’t want to tell her she couldn’t be in the band. Ladybug was already struggling to find normalcy in her life, and we didn’t want to crush her spirits by adding something else she couldn’t do.
That night, I spent hours on the internet searching for another instrument. Finally, after several hours, I found it.
“What about the clarinet?” I asked her the following day. Over the next 30 minutes, I spent my best persuasive skills convincing my daughter how great reed instruments were, knowing they would be easier on her face.
Over a year later, Ladybug is pretty good at playing the clarinet.
Just like my new recipe for zucchini parmesan, we were able to find our daughter a substitute that made her happy. The lesson learned? Sometimes, the perfect solution is in the substitution.
Note: Angioedema News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angioedema News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to angioedema.