Our daughter, knock wood, is as healthy as a child can be. Some of that is good genes (my wife) and some of it is dumb luck and some of it is due to our spectacular flight from formal religion — there’s no danger our kid will fall into the clutches of a pedophile priest or choirmaster.
Food allergies? We have a sufferer in our house, but her “allergy” is a goofy joke. That is, our child, at 10, is “allergic” to most foods. She is a Lycopene addict — if it’s tomato-based, she’ll eat it. But she’s never had a burger, never cut into a roast chicken, never, since early childhood, let a green vegetable pass her lips.
So you may imagine what it was like to read these words about a child with a real food allergy: “My sweet boy could be gone in a minute. My sweet boy could be gone because he got hungry.”
Food allergies are Serious Stuff, accounting for 30,000 visits to the emergency room each year But it’s worse for Susan Weissman’s young son Eden; he has multiple food allergies. You name it, he can’t have it. And in the beginning of her mission — which is nothing less than saving her kid’s life — doctors are of no particular help. “Many kids outgrow dairy allergies in a year — he’ll grow out of it,” they say. Or: try this. And this. And this.
“Feeding Eden: The Trials and Triumphs of a Food Allergy Family” is the account — by turns harrowing, depressing, inspiring and sometimes, incredibly, outright funny — of Susan Weissman’s odyssey to create something like a normal life for her child. Mostly it’s a thriller with a triumphant ending; she knows what to do, her kid will be fine. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here.]
“Feeding Eden” is really two books in one.
If you have a food allergy or have a kid with one or someone whose child is afflicted, this book is Required Reading. Susan Weissman explored every solution and kept a journal; her reporting and her science are solid.
It’s equally valid as a love story. It begins with necessity: “becoming the parent you never intended to be when life doesn’t give us any other choice.” It moves into psychiatric territory: "When I try to tout my sanity to teachers and friends — ‘Oh, I try not to get too crazy’ — Crazy laughs its ass off in the corner." It becomes changing every little thing about the way you live: “Wiping down kitchen counters — my food safety habits are my life.” It means you call food processing plants to see how many different kinds of products move along their conveyor belts, because the modest spillage from a “bad” one could taint the package of “good” food you buy.
And then it gets much bigger: “Maybe I could make a food that tasted as good as our love.”
There are iPhone apps for allergies now. And legislation that requires more precise labeling on foods. But there are no laws that define the obligation of parents of food-allergic children, no laws that measure when concern becomes obsession and obsession becomes commitment.
Susan Weissman is magnificent — you can read that in every line. Eden is one lucky kid.