I have been allergic to potatoes since I was a little kid, but at first, I only reacted to raw ones. Once they were cooked, they were safe. Over time, the reaction worsened until I could not be in the room with potatoes. Breathing became highly optional. For a while, I carried an epi-pen in case the optional breathing became more urgent than just a little coughing and wheezing. You know the classic allergic reaction to peanuts? Yeah, like that. Anaphylaxis in a big way.
People attributed my potato allergy to psychology rather than immunology, assuming that if I didn’t know the spuds were there, I wouldn’t react. Nice theory, but a couple kids in my class sneaking Pringles out of their lunch bag proved that one wrong as did a couple teachers in a conference who came into a meeting behind me with their bags of potato chips.
Weirdly, though, if I went to a wide-open space where the potato:human ratio favored humans, I might not react so badly. Stress and airborne allergy issues also seemed to play a part. More stress = bigger reaction. Grass and mold allergies going bonkers? Keep the potatoes on the other side of the planet, please.
School cafeterias, with their French fry joy and mashed potato bliss were toxic to even walk into. As a result, for much of my 14-year teaching career, I swapped my cafeteria duty weeks with others on my team. As a result, I had permanent recess duty. Tedious and no fun at all in August and May, never mind those weird days in January when the weather drops to subfreezing, even here in Texas. Still, there are worse fates.
Last week, I had an unexpected potato adventure.
I work at a local retailer in the vision department. My job includes advising people on the purchase of glasses, placing orders, and bending frames back into shape after someone sits on them. There’s a fast food burger joint located at the other end of the store, and naturally, they serve potatoes in a couple forms.
One lady came in and sat down with me to talk about making a pair of glasses to a new prescription. As I was doing data entry, she excused herself, darted down to the burger joint, and came back with lunch. She had a burger in hand and chowed down while we reviewed the options for lens types. Burger completed, she reached back into the bag and pulled out a box of fries. She was sitting within an arm’s length … eating freshly made potato fries … and I could still breathe??
(No, I did not start reacting when I actually saw the fries. Further evidence against the psychology argument.)
The lady finalized her purchase and her lunch and left.
Normally, being within an arm’s length of potatoes would result in coughing, hacking, gasping, wheezing, and swelling around my eyes. This time, no reaction at all.
I have no plans to try eating spuds myself, but perhaps I can hang out with someone while they do. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t plan to push my luck, but maybe seeing potatoes will no longer be cause for panic.