Month: April 2018

Allergy-Friendly Planning

If you couldn’t tell by my last post, I am pretty happy in my current job. This is a first for me, and so this new contentment has led me to put my tea shop plans on a slight hold. I’m still planning and getting inspired, but without a timeline or rush to find a location or do a pop-up.  This week I ventured out to a tea store where they give tea-related classes in Danville, KY. It was such a cute town, very historical, and I took a class on getting creative with your iced teas. I really kind of fell in love with the idea of playing with iced tea flavors, and Danville, so I plan to revisit soon for a full weekend stay!

My husband and I have talked about how we would be able to finance a tea shop, and honestly we have a fairly solid plan in place, but basically need to find the right property we’re looking for. It would also be smart to pay off the majority of our debt first, so that will take some time (3-5 years) as well, so this is my new timeline before I aim to go full-force into running my own business.

I go back and forth on how allergy-friendly my future tea shop will be. I only have a peanut allergy, and I’ve been able to find safe brands of tree nuts for myself that aren’t processed on shared equipment with peanuts, but I know many out there are allergic to tree nuts and would not be able to enjoy my tea shop if I use them or don’t watch for cc (cross-contamination). My gut tells me I need to go fully nut-free, for simplicity of branding and for my customers, even though it is not the easiest route for myself.

I appreciate that our local nut-free bakery (with the exception of coconut), Annie Mays, is also soy-free and gluten-free. I try to limit my soy intake, as I’m vegetarian and a woman, but I don’t need to be gluten-free. It’s nice that they encompass a variety of people with food restrictions, and I’ve seen dairy-free items in there as well. I do want to have gluten-free and vegan options with both being common intolerances, and I hope I’d be able to get some of those from the wonderful Annie Mays! I really need to do an informative interview with them there, but I’ve been nervous to reach out and inquire, since they’re so busy!

When going into writing this post I was going to ask if my future business should be only peanut-free, or fully nut-free, but it seems by writing this out I determined that myself! I would love any feedback you have about opening a sit-down tea shop… what hours you’d like to see, the aesthetic environment you’d like to enjoy tea in, if you’d like coffee/espresso as well, if you would order savory food or be okay with only sweets, what holidays you may want to visit on, who you would come in with, any food restrictions you have, etc.

One other aspect of running your own business that really excites me is you can do whatever you please with it! I’d love for it to have an art gallery incorporated in some way, for it to be environmentally-friendly and sustainable, and to only use cruelty-free products. We have been transitioning to be 100% cruelty-free at our home, and we designed our wedding to be sustainable and make sure everything was biodegradable. Small changes like this can make a big impact, and I love the idea of supporting the environment, animals, and community.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite inspiration photos to dwell on:

Outdoor Dining

Tea Shop

XO Enjoy the Spring weather that has finally arrived!

Zoe

In the Heart of Downtown Louisville

Image result for downtown louisville istock

My current employer of 300+ people is located in a large building in the center of downtown Louisville. We occupy 2 of the 6 floors, but right now are the only ones in the building in a very desirable area. I often remind myself to be thankful because it is an entirely peanut-free company for me. It does comes with some challenges to keep it this way, such as new employees not knowing and possibly forgetting, employees not realizing peanuts or peanut butter are in something they brought in (butterfingers often people don’t realize have peanut butter). But overall, it’s truly inspiring to me that they are willing to accommodate and continue to enforce a peanut-free environment for an employee. I used to lose sleep worried that no one would want to hire me because of the extra accommodating I require, and my company has put that fear to rest. They even pointed out that severe nut allergies are becoming more common, so it’s not unreasonable to require and enforce the building to be peanut-free.

Like I’ve written about before, I was able to have my college experience be able to be basically peanut-free, by going to a smaller university where people were more caring, and it could be more easily enforced in the classrooms. My very first employer in High School was Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, where peanut butter was served on one pancake on the menu but that was it. My allergy was more manageable at the time and I avoided the pancake, but never had a problem- it helped that it wasn’t a popular item people often ordered. My second employer I worked at for many years, and they kept my department and area of the building peanut free, but I would avoid eating in the break room which wasn’t kept safe. At the company, keeping it “peanut-free” just meant they asked people to not eat peanuts around me once, and I reminded people over e-mail every so often and informed any new employees.

It was around this time that I knew I was having airborne reactions. Since then, all my jobs have been able to accommodate in one way or another, but my current job has really impressed me by taking it very seriously. The florist I previously worked at actually did the exact same thing as my job now, making sure the building was peanut-free, although it was just a shop of 2 employees so it was at a much smaller scale. They put up signs, and even went so far as to make sure the person “processing” the flowers and prepping them wasn’t snacking on anything with peanuts to contaminate the ones coming into our store for handling.

I feel it is important for me to let a potential employer know during my job interview that I do have this allergy and ask them if they can accommodate. If they don’t want to, I know it’s not a good fit, and I want to find this out upfront. So far I haven’t had anyone say a hard no, but I have had one job not work out due to it, and I had to leave another job that wasn’t able accommodate after the role changed some. That was a hard time for me. I got discouraged because my career plans got derailed and felt a bit like a rug was pulled out from underneath me. I was concerned my allergy would prevent me from being able to find a job, and I felt like I may need to lower my standards and just take one with an employer that felt they could hire me, rather than taking a job based on my own interests and skillset.

I like to get my needs out in the open, and let them know it is an “invisible disability” explain the seriousness of my food allergy, and that I always have epinephrine on me. After working 2 places in a row where they were happy to enforce a safe environment, I don’t have as much anxiety and nervousness going into a job interview. I no longer feel as fearful to discuss the accommodations, but I haven’t yet let a potential employer  know about my allergy prior to going in for an interview. In the past I often would take a bunch of alavert beforehand, although there were a few times when I still had to take a benadryl afterwards. This is something I’ll likely work on in the future, to tell people what I need beforehand, so they can get rid of any major peanut products preventatively.

It used to give me so much anxiety to bring up my allergy to strangers that I often would be brought to tears, or couldn’t speak about it because I’d get too emotional. I’m relieved that I’ve been able to overcome this and let some of that fear, guilt, and embarrassment go. It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s just a part of my life, and I can do a lot to control it.

For anyone allergic or with an allergic friend or family, don’t feel bad asking for what you want and need. You don’t know until you try! I do try to ask wisely, so that the main things I need can be accommodated and it doesn’t get too complicated with non-essentials. Maybe one day this will change, but my only rule is NO PEANUTS. For example, I don’t need to be included in eating at each food-focused work event, but as long as food products aren’t containing peanut ingredients, I can bring my own snack and be involved. It can make me feel less included, but I just remember that food isn’t everything, and there are a lot of foods I really enjoy that are safe. Half the time my husband will eat snacks that are provided places and let me know I wasn’t missing out anyway.

If anyone ever has questions on how my employer keeps the environment safe, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m always happy to discuss more details about it.

 

-Z-

 

Hoppy Easter Every Bunny

I’m back! I hope everyone has had an egg-stremely good weekend, and an egg-ceptional day getting in some quality family time! Like most holidays, they can be stressful when you have a food allergy. Today was low-key and relaxed- absolutely ideal for me. It didn’t have a huge food focus, which was nice. My husband and I brought safe brunch to my mother-in-law and we had a great morning with my mom joining us. We do hand-wash my plate and fork that I’m using when elsewhere, this time it was at my sister-in-laws home, but besides that, that’s basically it since we brought the veggie quiche and brioche ourselves! We were able to even find safe chocolate brioche!

I am currently watching the Great British Bake Off Easter Masterclass on KET. This show brings me so much happiness and inspiration! I love making my own safe meals based off television shows that walk you through it, it shows me how easy it truly can be for an amateur baker, and is fun to see how mine compare with theirs. This past Christmas I made a GBBO mincemeat and marzipan couronne, and it was surprisingly easy to make every element of it peanut-safe. Even when making mincemeat and marzipan from scratch, it wasn’t all that difficult and turned out really well! Honestly, the most difficult part is converting everything to U.S. measurements.

Another show I highly recommend is Poh & Co on Netflix. Poh Ling Yeow was a contestant on MasterChef Australia (never seen it) and has made quite a name for herself baking and cooking! She does use a lot of peanut ingredients, but I’ve gotten comfortable making recipes that use peanuts or peanut oil and subbing that out for a safe ingredient. Her conversions can be tricky as well, but are simple to replicate once converted. I recently made her super simple recipe for persian nut bars and added the optional rose water, they make me feel like a princess when eating them for breakfast with a side of fruit! They were sticky from the honey, so the parchment paper helps with that! CVS carries safe pistachios, and we use Blue Diamond almonds. Instead of sunflower seeds, I just used a blend of flaxseed and chia seeds we already had in the pantry. They are essentially peanut-safe KIND bars, definitely not safe for tree-nut allergies, but safe for peanut-only allergies.

persian nut bars

I would love to travel to Australia, specifically where she is in Adelaide, in South Australia. There’s an episode of Chef’s Table that features a farm-to-table type of restaurant in Adelaide and it was the first time I had heard of this city in Australia and it sparked my interest in traveling there one day. Australia is very similar to Canada in their food labeling requirements, they’re ahead of the United States in having strict labeling laws and being very aware of what’s in their food!

When watching a cooking show, reading recipes on Pinterest, or getting them out of cook books, I really believe that substituting out peanut products doesn’t ruin a recipe. I used to think it did and wasn’t as adventurous, but I’ve started to venture out and try to find tasty alternatives. My husband makes the BEST Pad Thai, and although I’ve never had the real thing, it’s delicious and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the real thing at all. It can be hard to find certain safe ingredients such as tahini, certain spices or oils, but in my opinion they all can be safely swapped out for something safe and similar! Even if I can’t find something with the exact same taste profile, it’s never been problematic in the end, just find what you can, or even better, just throw a safe ingredient in that you know you already love!

Well, that’s all, yolks! I’m looking forward to posting weekly/bi-weekly again!

Zoe