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Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter

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Appendix A. Cooking Around Allergies

I LOVE THE CHALLENGE OF COOKING WITH CONSTRAINTS. With allergies, the challenge is to prepare a meal with a certain set of ingredients considered off-limits.

Food allergies are caused by an immune system response to certain types of proteins. In some individuals, the immune system misidentifies certain proteins as harmful and generates a histamine reaction in response to them. Immune reactions can occur within a few minutes to several hours of ingesting the offending food item. Minor reactions include a tingling sensation on the tongue or lips, itchy eyes, runny nose, or skin rashes lasting from a few hours to a day. More extreme reactions include throat constriction, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing. Oh, and death.

If you ever encounter a reaction that involves tongue swelling, throat constriction, or restricted breathing—hallmarks of an anaphylactic reaction—call 911 and get to a hospital immediately, because the swelling can increase to the point where it cuts off the airway. Those who know that they have particularly strong allergies will often carry an Epipen, a small pen-sized medical device that auto-injects epinephrine to control the allergic reaction. (The injection buys 15 to 20 minutes of time to get to a hospital for further care.)

Since an allergy is a response to a particular protein in food, not the food itself, and because some types of proteins denature below the temperature at which the foods containing them are cooked, ...

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