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Food is our great connector. No matter where you go, you can start a conversation about food and nearly everyone will have something to say about it. I think it’s a fair assumption, judging by Facebook and Instagram (should I be following you? please leave me your handle or drop a note on mine, I’m here.), that we’re food obsessed at the moment. Pretty plates of food online, food trucks, markets, supermarkets, advertising, all with the giant sign that says “eat me.”

Except for when you have a food intolerance. Imagine a party full of all of your exes, every crush you’ve ever had, every person that’s ever liked you who you had to say “not interested” to. Before going, you suspect they might be there, but you’re obligated to go anyway, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach be darned. It’s the bunny hop all night, two steps one way, one step another, trying to avoid the landmines, and choose talking to people with whom you ended amicably, or with whom you have no (pardon the expression) beef.

That’s me with food these days. I want to eat, I have to eat. I really like to eat. But whenever it’s time to eat, unless I’m in my house with my known safe ingredients, it’s a challenge. Even going to the feria is a chorus of “nos” for me right now, No legumes, no tomatoes, no olives, no pickles, no mote (cooked wheat berries), no cheese, no eggplant. No citrus, nothing wilted, no mangoes, no cochayuyo (giant kelp), no hot peppers, no dried fruit, no bell or red peppers.

Peppers. I don’t even really like them. Cooked red ones I can stand the taste of, especially if they are charred (no), skinned and ground up with that fabulous elixir of olive oil and garlic. But this type of preparation is also a no for now, as the charring creates even more histamines in the high-histamine pepper. However, I am at the point in my food-reintroduction where I’m testing out higher histamine foods to see how I do. This month, as agreed with my naturopath, I was going to eat walnuts, mushrooms, spinach, bananas and peppers. I cannot overstate what it is like to purposely take a bite of something you think might make you sick for days. Ditch the party with your exes. It’s like playing a game of concentration, where every time you make a match it’s a symptom. Sudden onset stomach revolt, days of wooziness, sleepless panic in the night time, a feeling of being freezing cold out of nowhere, low blood pressure, itchy hands, itchy feet, itchy scalp, itchy armpits.

But I have to do it because you can’t eat plain white rice for the rest of your life, even with olive oil and garlic. And by doing it, I grow my food repertoire. Newish successful foods include potatoes, dried corn to make arepas, avocados if I don’t eat more than half every other day, and if it’s not too ripe. Celery, cherries, blueberries, honeydew melon (my goodness, the decadence). I have also found a couple of store-bought cracker-type-items that are gluten/soy/dairy/eileen poison-free, and that has been wonderful, and I can eat a handful of store-bought potato chips or corn chips here and there. On a few occasions, I have eaten food other people have prepared for me, including at restaurants, though there was a teary moment at the Olive Garden when I was visiting my mother a month or so ago that I am not particularly proud of.

Food is so fraught. It’s how you feel about it today, and how you felt about it yesterday, and what it does to your body and whether it’s in season, and if it’s pretty, and if the people nearby you like the smell, and what it makes you think of and a whole complicated set of memories, nostalgia and aversions that tell you whether or not something looks good to you or produces some kind of feeling of wanting to hurl just looking at it. I wish I felt more neutral about food in general. A zen-like state where I eat what’s offered and never want anything else.

But I’m not wired that way. And one day, I hope I can walk down the street at the feria with a whole lot more yesses in my quiver, and a whole lot fewer nos. It’s slow going, and some combination of time, careful eating and really pricey supplements and naturopathic care seem to be getting me through what just eating rice and seeing a gastroenterologist (two actually) couldn’t. Slowly I’m opening the doors to different fruits and vegetables (like those chives up there) and I’m able to run and jump (well, as much as I ever was), and go to spinning and lift weights and ride my bike and do my work and remain relatively social, all of which, if I compare to how I was mid-crisis (in June of 2017) is a minor miracle.

The peppers though? That was a disaster. I might circle back sometime after more time has passed, and after testing some other foods. It’s okay, because not every day can be your best one, and in general, I’m better than I was.

If you think you might have histamine intolerance, first of all, you have my sympathy. Second of all, the two people that everybody swears by for advice, guidance, lists, approaches, etc, are Alison Vickery and Yasmina Ykelenstam. I have not talked to them personally, but use some of their tips, lists, advice, etc. to guide my eating, which has been very valuable.