Cultural Differences: Allergy Edition

Back in the U.S., it is not uncommon to hear about people with a dairy allergy, or a sensitivity to gluten, or about how you can’t send peanut butter sandwiches to school because someone in the class might be allergic to nuts. It was reassuring, then, to hear from my midwife her recommendation that breastfeeding mothers eat any and all foods without regard to potential allergies: no need to limit dairy or to avoid gluten, as these allergies are just not that common in Germany.

During a conversation with Herr R about the dietary restrictions of dinner guests, I asked if there were any vegetarians in the group of 12 that we were planning to cook for. His answer? “No, they’re German.”
Hilarious, not only because he was correct (there weren’t any voluntary vegetarians,) but because I was not ridiculous for having asked: one of the guests was allergic to protein! As in, eats only vegetables and fruits, can’t even have normal pasta or dairy because it has too much protein! She said that she was diagnosed when she was a few days old, and it hasn’t stopped her from being a Bundesliga-level rower. Props to her, I say, because protein is high on my lists of favorite foods and she doesn’t know what bacon tastes like! Or ham! Or a gall durned quesadilla!
It got me to thinkin’ about other allergies that made-in-Germany friends have:
-pork (only in Germany, eating pork in other countries is fine)
-apples (multiple people)
-seafood (an aversion, not an allergy)
-chicken (this was a dog, not a person*)

Maybe because it’s new to me, the idea of being allergic to one specific kind of meat, or the idea that an allergy to apples is common, is surprising to the point of unbelievability. My feelings on the matter were reflected in the look on the midwife’s face when she addressed the concern that a baby might be allergic to breastmilk. While her words were saying, ‘don’t be too concerned about that’, her face was saying, ‘I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing… well, yeah, I guess I’m just laughing in your general direction.’

*what do you say to that?! Nothing, that’s what.

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