Thursday, September 24, 2020

How raisins changed my life. Well not quite, but they definitely played a part.

 

Raisins. Raisins plural because there’s never just one. Why raisins? What about raisins. It’s the disappointment of raisins.


Raisins hanging out where they don’t belong. Growing up I hated raisins. I loved to hate them. Grimaced and guffawed at tarts and cakes and breads that were riddled with the wiggly little legless flies.

Raisins had a way of showing up to disillusion and upset childhood’s precious balance. Like when Grandma would arrive for a visit in her blue Mustang with a batch of her famous chocolate chip cookies. Yay Grandma! But this time she ‘didn’t have any chocolate chips in the house’. Wait, what?! Oh yeah, raisins. There they were, staring out from inside the now inedible golden doughy discs, taunting me.


Don’t even get me started on chocolate covered raisins. The wolves in peanuts’ clothing!!! 

 

Raisins were meant to be left in the dusty the corners of the baking cupboard. They were supposed to be squished into those little red boxes with the Red Riding Hood maiden in other kids’ lunch boxes, never to be traded in the cafeteria. Ham and cheese, peanut butter, sure! But boxes of raisins definitely not. They were left to shrivel even further and dumped in the bin.

The worst was Halloween when that random ‘healthy house’ on the block, where the yoga teacher mother would give a word of friendly advice about processed sugars and food dyes as she emerged with those evil little boxes of raisins above your raised eyebrows and tucked them into your trick or treating bag. You’d leave that house groaning and determined to hit extra houses to make up for the raisins.


 

Raisins were hidden in strange salads my mother would find in magazines and emulate to our horror at suppertime. They would find their way onto gingerbread men, posing as buttons! And even ice cream. Rum and raisin. No!!!!!! Crimes against food.

There was really no sacred place from the wrath of raisins. I spent my childhood with trust issues and always looking over my shoulder.

But the pinnacle; the ultimate treachery came on an unsuspecting Saturday morning in fall. The leaves were changing colour which meant school was back in session and we were fragile. My mother headed off to do the weekly shopping and when she returned, I was summoned outside to help with the bags.

She’d made a stop at the Farmer’s Market! I knew that meant something baked. Something yummy. I could smell it as we made our way inside.

I quickly unpacked, in search of the treat of the day. I gingerly picked it out of the brown paper bag. It was a pie! I was nervous of pie back in those days as my mother was known to buy strawberry rhubarb and other abominations of cooked fruit and bitter mush.

She came up behind me. “Ah, you’ve found the pie! They were just out of the oven! Do we have vanilla ice cream?” She asked.

“Yes! What kind of pie is it?” Me, all ear to ear grin…

She in the meantime had gotten out some plates and was cutting through the golden crust.

I watched in slow motion as the crust gave way to what looked like black cockroaches swimming in black crude sludge. WHAAAAAAAAT is that?!

“RAISIN PIE!”


I might have passed out.

 

Years later, at around 45, my raisin switch flipped. Maybe it was earlier. I can’t pinpoint the day where raisins moved from gastronomic enemy number one, to edible. Eventually they were tolerable. Then nice. Now they feature on my grocery lists.

They don’t have time to get dusty as I use them. I bake, I sprinkle in my strange salads; ultimately I buy more! They’ve opened up a whole new world of food. ‘Who’d-a-thunk’…

I’ve realised raisins are symbolic. They are like life.

Everything in life is our perspective. Negativity toward experiences, people, things, leads to division, intolerance, small mindedness. I hated raisins but they were the same then as now. No monster I’d imagined. Just dried grapes. They are the sisters of wine! I mean that’s enough to forgive them any sins…

Nothing changed except me. And it’s me who benefitted the most from my change of heart. I make my own raisin chutney now! Which just proves we can all work past the confines of our minds. We can push way past our comfort zone into the multitude of pleasures that life has to offer. Hating just limits you. Renders you insular and myopic. Makes you miss out. Denies you joy!

Some of my other childhood hates were camping, crafting, baking… they were supposedly boring or hard or stupid, or whatever words I could conjure to avoid jumping into something new. Now I love all of those things. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences because I let them into my life. I opened up and embraced and was embraced back! I’ve grown in so many ways. Even physically from all the baking… but I digress. 

There was a time when I couldn't imagine what sailing was. Having never been on a boat. As an adult. Now I find myself 8 years into life aboard. Just like that. I jumped in. It's not all sunsets and cocktails either. There's pumping your own waste out manually, navigating storms in the dark when you just want to be cuddled up safely in bed. There is no safety net. Just us. But we stepped up. And have been rewarded every day for it. 


Gardening and sewing are still raisins to me. But at least now I can recognise that it’s because I haven’t opened up to try. It’s my own fear of failure that has created the word hate when it comes to these things. Luckily for me, the gardening one will have to wait. Life on the ocean keeps that possibility at bay!

What’s disappointing is not the humble raisin. It’s our trepidation at the jump. Experts have labelled these food aversions. But that just legitimizes that which we fear. Eat the oatmeal raisin cookie. Love it for what it is. Bite that Turkish delight. Heck, seek out Durian and really challenge yourself. Kimchi, rocky mountain oysters, scrapple, black pudding, brussel sprouts. Whatever you think you hate. Approach it in a new way.

Then step out into the world and do the same. You won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Boaters in the balance: paradise between storm season and a deadly virus

 It’s the aftermath. All is calm. The skies are dull and muted and the trees sway with a soft lilting that betray nothing of their hectic weekend. The cicadas are back and screaming as they do.

Post Isaias in the Berry Islands is very uneventful. It’s Emancipation Day under lockdown.

Today, though there are no parties or flags flying around the little town, there is much to celebrate. We are all free from the ‘could have beens’ and ‘would have seens’ of Isaias.

For us, this marks our first hurricane experienced and survived. There was all the hype and the preparations and the waiting game we played; the two days where everything was put away, secured, our lines were tied and we were as-ready-as-we-could-be and we had literally nothing to do but watch that huge red spinning blob heading toward us, courtesy of the weather media. Friends far and wide sent messages of hope and prayers and worry and concern.


Meanwhile we took advantage of the trappings of the marina life. Long showers. Laundry. Then the tropical storm had strengthened and had been upgraded to a hurricane. We added more lines. The boats started to look like a spaghetti junction.

The next morning Isaias had strengthened further and was expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane in the Berry islands. Our eyes widened. We received text messages that warned we better find shelter onshore. 

 

Since we are hurricane virgins and were a bit slow, we learned that everyone else had anticipated this and all the local accommodation was booked. And so, we resigned ourselves to face this on our boats.

The marina staff came by and said we could expect the surge to come up 8 feet from low tide and cover the jetties. Our eyes widened some more.

But the night came and went with some gusty winds and a lot of rain. We spent the night with our eyes closed. Phew. That was definitely a hurricane-lite!

 

###############################################

 

We have survived hurricane Isaias here in the protected marina and now it’s time to venture out. We are a couple of the only private sail boats left in the Bahamas, as hurricane season is now in full swing. Others have headed up the US coast or way down the Caribbean island chain to Grenada.

Here, the sea is dotted with huge floating hunks of metal. Ships. Cruise ships. They are empty but for a skeleton crew who lurk somewhere deep inside. The colourful slides and pools on deck are silent. Dead.

We are anchored off Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas. The government has allowed these monstrosities to anchor here and wait. Wait for Corona virus to end? For the tourism industry to resume? Each day it’s looking less likely. A massive industry, one that employs thousands of Bahamians and feeds thousands of families here, is in big trouble. It is everything the Coronavirus loves. Lots of people in close proximity. And so it’s all on hold.

Bahamas has set a new total lockdown. We need to get away. Back to our reality during the earlier lockdowns where we frolicked in the remote Ragged Islands.

We spend the first night in a surreal spot. We drop anchor between two islands. We soon find out we are not allowed ashore anywhere here, not even in the water off the beaches. Because these are not normal beaches. These have been dredged and carried and placed in exactly these spots by the Norwegian Cruise Line Company who bought and renamed the islands years ago. There are winding slides and rides and a 40 ft high balloon with the company logo – all the garish colours and plastic eyesores of Disney are here, surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean and a few modest islands of Bahamians. It’s a tad revolting. It’s creepy. It’s definitely surreal.

 

And now, since there are no tourists to lay out on the sun loungers or sip the rum punches through colourful straws, the place lies dormant. A random digger moves about, a security vehicle patrols – for what?! Against what? We find out we are on the list of threats. Venture out in the dinghy to cool off and we are literally chased away by a security guard. “You are too close! This is a private island!” “Can we just swim here, near the beach?” “NO! You are too close!”. We get it. Time to move on.

And so we have found another little piece of unspoiled paradise to explore and play in. We stocked up as best we could from the mailboat back at the edge of the little town of Bullocks Harbour and now we can survive quite well for weeks out here. Providing all the storms flying off the coast of Africa swing away!



 

So day to day, we read of the world’s atrocities, the covid numbers climbing everywhere, especially the Bahamas, and when we just can’t face any more of the bad news we unplug and set out in the dinghies. Blue holes to swim in, turtle ponds to marvel at, rocky hikes and beaches to explore. While the weather holds, we are holding on to paradise.

 


 

 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Egg-sactly WhatsApp? Pondering the pitfalls of remote shopping in paradise


The problem with ordering groceries over WhatsApp from a remote island is that you can’t walk through the aisles and be tempted by things you don’t need.
The problem is that you have to order a week in advance, as you need to allow time for the order to be processed and the remote shopper to do her thing, then you have to be available on your phone on some random time and day in between the order and the delivery, to approve the check out and see the printed out bill on your phone screen.
The problem is that you have to wait for an undetermined number of days for the delivery boat to make his way back down to your remote island, weather and his mood and boat repairs all notwithstanding.
The problem is that you have to up anchor and move your floating home to another island to go and retrieve your goods. And when you see the mailboat is docked in the harbour you make the silly mistake of thinking he might be ready to offload all the boxes within an hour or two or three…
The trouble is that the whole process takes up about two or three days of your life.
Or so I thought.
The real trouble is this:

Lost in translation. As I had each order cycle before, I ordered 12 regular eggs (for baking etc.) and 12 organic eggs (for frying etc. as JW has an allergy to the regular ones).
When JW returned with our goodies from the dock there seemed to be too many boxes. And then he broke one open and there were the eggs. Endless eggs. 24 dozen eggs. An entire 3 foot by 3 foot box full of fragile yolky cargo.
“Nooooooooooo! Oh my God. What the hell?!?!” I shouted and squealed as he passed me each box, and all the other boats wondered what on earth had been delivered to Shiloh. 
The problem with ordering groceries over WhatsApp from a remote island is that by the time you receive the items, they are a week old and to return something would add another week or so before it made it’s way back to the store.
But the real trouble is that English is a tricky language. 12 means a dozen when it comes to eggs, surely? Apparently in the Bahamas, over WhatsApp texting, to our designated shopper, not.
After much ado about the language and the misunderstanding and my absolute horror at discovering we had unwittingly purchased USD$100 of eggs that we would never be able to eat, a solution was found.
The store agreed to take back what we didn’t want, couldn’t use, as long as they arrived back in ‘a good condition’. Our credit card would be refunded at that point.
So off the boxes went, in the dinghy, back to the mailboat, repacked and left in the hands of the crew. Please make sure these find their way back to Nassau, safely, unbroken, fresh, safe.
It’s been nearly a week. I have no idea the fate of the many dozens.
We are about to leave the last of the Internet signal from Duncan Town as we make our way through the Ragged and Jumentos Islands. It might be weeks before we find out how they fared.
Hurricane season began a few days ago and there has been a mass exodus of boats.
We had a couple sentimental ‘last sundowners, last supper’ at the Hog Cay yacht club as the last stragglers leave. 



 
Some put their sails up and head off to the west, days of passage ahead. We’ve moved to a new anchorage eight miles north. The next one will be three more miles. And then maybe a 10 mile journey to the next. We will continue to explore the beaches, finding shells and sea glass, we will swim in the blue waters by day, and sip sundowners in the evenings. 

It’s going to take us a while. And if the weather cooperates, that’s exactly how we like it.
There will be no more mailboat orders from Duncan Town this year. The next time we buy eggs there will be no room for colossal misinterpretation. We will be entering a real physical store, with masks and social distancing and all the trappings of the Covid-19 reality of 2020. 

I’m a bit nervous about that.  We are months behind the rest of the world in coming to terms with the crazy new reality. I think I might prefer 288 eggs delivered in error and omelettes forever.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Mailboats, masks, beaches and bonfires: Ragged Isolation


We are becoming professionals at this. Masked, dinghy bound, box toting professionals.


 It all begins with grocery wish-list emails to a supermarket in far off Nassau. Maybe they’ll have avocados?! Cherry tomatoes? We dare to dream… WhatsApp photo messages of food items follow with accompanying text “Is this what you want?” and “We only have this brand” etc…  Days later, our relative peace is interrupted. There is a palpable frenzy amongst the small tribe of boaters in the anchorages… the mailboat is on his way!

Then the chain of events unfolds in starts and spurts. Rumours, actual second hand info on VHF radio, WhatsApp messages with a few local ‘contacts’, sometimes I get a voice message from the Captain himself! Then I’m really at the epicenter of life here!

And then, either on the expected day, or perhaps a day before or two days or a week later, someone spots the huge blue metal ship that makes it’s way down to this remote island chain from Nassau weekly, or nearly weekly, or whenever he’s not encumbered by storms or faulty engine parts.




When he does arrive, the boats lift anchor, leaving our favourite beach front spots and make their way around to Gun Point, the one port in the Ragged Islands, on the only inhabited island, where the 30 or so fishermen who live here eagerly await their provisions, fuel, alcohol, propane and other goodies along with us boaters.


This is our 10th week in the Ragged Islands and about the 6th week living under Bahamas Emergency orders. Some boaters in the world found themselves adrift when Covid-19 spread and countries began closing borders. Some were asked to leave their host countries. We have been so lucky.

The Bahamas has literally shut down and their number one industry, tourism has understandably come to a grinding halt. The annual cruiser population, those of us that have not fled to America, make up the small remaining foreign population. We have been told that we must adhere strictly to the lockdown and that there will be no medical services for foreigners ashore, under any circumstances. This was a tough one for many. Those of us who stayed are taking that risk. 




The pay off for us, down in the most remote part of this island chain, is a day to day life literally unencumbered by Coronavirus. The beaches here line many uninhabited islands. There are rough trails cut through and across many of them. The reefs are still teeming with coral and pretty fish, the blue blue water is still warm and inviting. There are shells and sea glass to hunt and collect, and fish to catch for supper! Each night brings a breathtaking sunset...



The tribe has organised parties here for birthdays and anniversaries and is now even looking to ‘secure’ some of the local wild roaming goats for a beach curry day.





We all have desalinating water makers, we hand wash clothes (and towels and sheets! Ugggh), and gather power from the sun via solar panels and small portable generators.

It’s quite easy to ‘shelter in place’ now that we have developed from nothing, a system that meets all our daily needs. The only exposure we have beyond the finite group of us boaters is the weekly mailboat encounter. Hence the masks and box washing…

We have been given visa extensions online. There is no need to leave our paradise.

Except for the elephant in the distance.

Hurricane season is now imminent. The calm, sunny, peaceful weather days are now spotted with rain and crazy wind systems and the inevitable thunder and lightning storms. They foreshadow how vulnerable we really are out here, hiding behind islands that are so small you need to zoom in on a map or chart.



In the big scheme of things, we could be in trouble. We will need to leave soon, to start heading north or south. We had hoped to make it down to Grenada this year. It sits just below the hurricane belt and it’s a great place to stay onboard for the year.

But getting there involves a lot of stops down the Leeward and Windward islands. The joy is in the journey! We wouldn’t want to sail past the British Virgin Islands without stopping for a few weeks to see Dev, our son, the capable Moorings captain. We wouldn’t want to sail past Guadeloupe with it’s fresh baguettes and chocolate crossaints and wine and cheese! I mean really?!

But the virus has forced most of these countries to close their borders. And if and when they open, it will most likely be too late to head that direction with the prevailing trade winds kicking up…

So as we sit under the thatch roof of the Hog Cay Yacht Club, cold beer in hand, sand between the toes, we contemplate our insecure future. 


As a full time live-aboard sailor, life is by nature unplanned and insecure. And weather has always been our master. It has ruled our movements every season. This year however, with Coronavirus in the mix, we are up against something new. We don’t like our freedoms curtailed. But when there are no flights, countries are closed, the virus is spreading hard and fast in the states, we are left with a very small set of options.

But for now, for today, the mailboat has arrived. Fridge is full. Beer is cold. Beach is calling…

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Ragged elements


Somewhere in a large body of water, there are a jagged, randomly lying set of tiny, ragged islands. Little rocks peeking up into the world, ants on the surface of vast oceans. 


Little ragged islands whose beaches are the receptacle of the human race’s discarded things. Bright yellow bottles, Jordan flip flops, the severed heads of dolls. 

These little islands are oblivious to TikTok and Trump and pandemics. There are no restaurants, no radio stations, no roads, no people but for a handful of die-hard fishermen and Jolly who runs the Ponderosa on Ragged Island.
And then there are the cruisers. A motley mix of boats from Scotland, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Germany, USA. It doesn’t matter where they come from. Whether their boat is big or small, old or new.
Down here in the Ragged Islands is a world unto itself. There is no source of water nor fuel. There is nowhere to pop in for eggs or milk. No convenience of any kind.
There is just you, your crew and your boat. What you brought is what you have. There are sunsets and beach hikes and salvaging washed up treasures.

Mostly, there is just nature in it’s omnipotence. Sure, they’ve built a small straw hut on one beach and called it a yacht club. We all love the irony. Sure, the loose group meets at 4pm there every day for ‘sundowners’. For a sense of camaraderie. For a semblance of community.

It’s our small fraction of humanity’s way of keeping the elephant at bay. The harsh reality that all society’s layers are peeled away. Nothing can protect us from the rawness of nature. We are literally at it’s mercy.
The wind howls. There are no buildings to take shelter. The waves mount and roll and rise. The next batch of random plastic is thrown violently onto the beaches. The little boats can only scramble between the ragged islands to find shelter. And as the wind clocks, so do the little boats…
Somewhere in the world, people are emptying supermarket shelves of hand sanitizer and toilet paper and breathing through masks in a panic.
We are looking at the waves and the wind direction and trying to decide whether we should face the 8 mile trip from this one anchorage back to the other. We’ve lost our protection here and the boat is creaking and groaning as the waves hit. Wind sings through our rigging. It’s over 30 knots. And we need to move. The sooner the better.
Our little armada gets engines going and with trepidation, head out from the warmth of our saloon cocoon to face the weather.
An hour later we have come out around a huge shallow bank and we can see the protected anchorage ahead. Only 3 miles. But we must turn directly into the wind that is peaking at 35 knots. The waves have grown and they fly up at us. Salt water assaults the boat, our faces, our sanity. We have slowed to 2 knots against the onslaught of weather. At this rate it will take an hour to reach that safe(ish) place ahead, where friends in other boats sit cuddled up with cups of coffee in their respective cocoons.
But then the banging starts. Smash, bang. Splash. Our bright green stand up board, tied to the trampoline on the front of the boat has come loose on one end and has joined forces with the enemy. Between the wind, the waves and the board, Shiloh and crew are losing this one.
John dons a flimsy jacket and tries to head to the deck to secure the board. Wave after wave slams him. There’s not much to hold on to up there and I’m on the helm, face full of wind, screaming ‘Be careful!’. I’m so sure he’s going to fly off. And then I see that the board has loosened our unfinished trampoline that now hangs flapping into the water. If John loses grip and slips, there’s nothing up there to hold him.
Internally I’m swearing at Posiedon and then begging for this all to calm down or be over, but alas no luck. John makes his way back to me. A wet rat, dripping. He shouts against the wind “We’ll have to cut it loose. It’s smashing the hull and I can’t secure it in these conditions”.
He heads forward again – rising and falling and sliding, hair blown sideways and matted to his face. I hold my breath. “Turn around!” he shouts.
I turn the boat 180 degrees and after the wobbly side waves, we fall into a much smoother wave surfing. I take the engines out of gear yet we’ve picked up speed now. We are flying along at 6 knots in the wrong direction! We are losing the tough ground we made by the second.
John crawls out to the front and lies precariously out over the anchor chain. He saws and saws and finally the rope splits. The green board slides below and I watch as it comes out between the hulls, bobbing along on the waves below.
John is back in the cockpit and we look at each other, then down at the sea, which has taken a little piece of us.
A shrug and then back to the grind. I swing the boat back and we start again. Up down, smash splash…
An hour and a half later we slide into the lee of the island and find our place among the other sheltering boats.
And we live to see another 4 o clock happy hour at the yacht club.

As the crowd toasts and shares their stories of the day, my mind wanders. Maybe our bright green board, lost but not forgotten, has washed up on a beach in Cuba. Salvaged and loved once more.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A mouthful of marbles


We were sitting amongst the throngs of tourists with beach bodies only produced in America. Tacky souvenier shops, restaurants of every description touting their deep fried wares on the sidewalks.

But we were with locals here on Lauderdale-by-the-sea beach so we definitely picked the right one.


It was one of these fusion/not so fusion places where the sushi chef is relegated to a corner on the other side of the patio and the waiters drop of his menu as an afterthought.
Our host and I decided to share some sushi rolls as a starter. I should have known then. But no, I was in the festive spirit.
When the waiter explained something about the separate kitchen for sushi, my friend volunteered to go order the rolls directly. Maybe I should have been a bit worried. But no, by then I was people watching, blabbing, laughing too loudly, sipping my well rum and Diet Coke.
 At some undetermined time later, plates of food arrived on our table. One of the dishes was our fancy looking sushi roll. I tucked in. Just like that. Without a thought. For my health, my decisions, the ramifications. It was good. Wasabi burn. Head rush. Woo hoo! Then wait… a strange texture. But just for a second. And then I suited up the next piece with a sopping of wasabi laden soya sauce. I was halfway through that piece when the texture hit me.
My stomach bottomed out. That was shrimp! The whole tourist world spun around me in nauseating circles. The faces and voices around me blurred behind my sheer rising panic.


With my eyes betraying my terror, I asked
“Peggy, what was in that sushi roll?!”
“I don’t know. It was a recommendation of the chef.”
“BUT WE CHOSE A SPECIFIC ONE!”
She read my redness and realised I was not just a picky eater.
“Could there be shrimps?!”
“Yes, I guess. I’ll go check.” She ran off.
Conversation at our table had come to a stand-still. Everyone was now looking at me. Was I going to explode into a thousand pieces?
“What do I do? I’m allergic!”
“Go to the washroom and vomit!”
For a split second I figured that was a ridiculous suggestion. All my previous reactions came flooding through my head. Maybe I was just being a 21st century princess?! Maybe an antihistamine would do me just fine and just maybe I shouldn’t be creating this highly disruptive event on our previously pleasant evening out with friends at the beach…
But within seconds I fled for the loo hearing the discussion at the table behind me – something about an Epi Pen, antihistamines, clinics nearby, types of allergies etc etc…
Four years earlier I had found myself on a cold November evening in the Captain’s Lounge in St Augustine where our boat was hauled up onto land. I was itching and scratching as we sat in front of the TV. I was convinced there was literally ants in my pants. A quick trip to the ladies that time revealed a case of hivey-welt-things that proceeded to cover my whole body. In my ears, under my arms, in every crevice.
Marita brought me an antihistamine while we tried to determine the cause. I had never had an allergy to anything in my life besides exercise. But I remembered I’d scoffed a plate of peel-n-eat shrimps earlier on special. Something I hadn’t ingested in ages. Hmmm…
6 months later, anchored in an idyllic anchorage in the Bahamas I was once again covered in itchy welts. This time it followed an indulgence in fresh caught lobster tail in lemon butter. Oh No! An unofficially confirmed seafood allergy!
But I LOVE seafood, AND I live on a boat in the tropics! Oh Sod and is law…
One antihistamine didn’t cut it that time and I needed a few more to ease the symptoms.
I knew I’d have to become a bubble kid around seafood from now on. But then calamari is not a shellfish right? And it’s covered in batter with garlic aioli! Who could be allergic to that?!
Well, me, it turns out. Found out the hard way after a ladies tapas night where the calamari landed in front of me. Spent that evening gasping with acid reflux, breathing problems, hives, shaking… diarrhea… it was not a pretty sight.  But it cemented my knowledge, that despite my reluctance to accept, I WAS allergic to seafood.
Forward to Lauderdale. Bent over a toilet, retching and apologizing to each unsuspecting lady that entered…
“Not bulimic folks! Food allergy… didn’t realise…” followed by more retching.
Soon there was a crowd at the door. John was there with a waitress and my sister’s expired Epi Pen that I carry around with me in case something like this happens. But I just couldn’t. I believed if I got all that poison out of me I would be ok.
Marita and Peggy arrived back from the pharmacy with Extra Strength antihistamines as well. It was an impromptu allergy party. I popped out of the stall, and with my eyes bloodshot and watery, I tried to maintain an atmosphere of relative calm.
“I’m ok guys. I’ll be fine.” I swallowed two strong tabs and headed back to the table.
I was embarrassed. In seeking fame, no one wants to be the center of attention for intentional barfing at a restaurant. The questions came at me – all way too much information types, but there I was. The evening had been derailed at this stage, so I went for it. Explained all the previous incidents and then this one.
“I’m going to pass out soon after those Benadryls!”
So we tried to get back to other topics. Ordered other food and drinks. I tried to sit quietly. But then someone would look over at me.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yeah, for sure!”
Until I wasn’t. My tongue spontaneously inflated and hardened. It was like a pressurized tire in the middle of my mouth. My eyes became saucers again and before I knew it, faces were huddled round my open mouth, observing the phenomenon.
The stringy thing under my tongue was a large marble that the rock hard tongue sat on. I breathed carefully. I realized I couldn’t speak. It felt funnily enough like I had a mouthful of marbles. But still, that Epi Pen in my purse didn’t tempt me.
Stabbing my leg through my jeans?! Really? Seems so extreme… The others fussed and doted. Paid the bill and we were in the car. Should we go to the clinic? NO.
“Let-th wait and thee how I feew” (marble talk). “Let-th juth-t doh home”
And we did. But inside I was terrified my tongue would kill me. I Googled allergy stories and read about all the deaths…. Bloody shrimp!
Finally I fell ath-leep, but woke all through the night having difficulty breathing. By morning my tongue had only half deflated and the stringy thingy (which I've since discovered, is called a frenulum), was still a round hard marble.
It took half a day to recede completely.
So now I know I actually have a food allergy. And apparently you have to take these things seriously.I'll never look at a set of chopsticks the same... :(


I've learned a hell of a lot more about this topic than I ever wanted to know. I could be allergic to the iodine in shellfish... somehow I am still able to eat clams, mussels, scallops but I get more wary of trying any seafood after this last fiasco! Luckily I can eat all the regular fish I want. Salmon, tuna, mahi, snapper etc etc etc... Chances are this spontaneous allergy will never go away though :(
And since reactions tend to get worse with each exposure, I will have to look the other way when our cruiser friends appear at the back of our boat with their spears and trophy lobsters proudly in hand, mumbling about the garlic butter they will have to melt... 

I will now have to be a real princess at restaurants, only ordering for myself and asking all those annoying questions about what might be in a particular dish, and what it might have come in contact with…
Or I could just stay home. Hmmm…
I guess I’ll have to live with being annoying!