In the spirit of Thanksgiving and being grateful, I sat back and thought about my life and the simple things that made it sooo much better. I guess turning 50 brings on reflection! Life has been grand, full of challenges, painful at moments and bursting with magical moments lined with gratitude. One moment of thankfulness, came in my first food allergy cooking book written by Food Allergy Pioneer and Author, Linda Coss.
Linda wrote two food allergy friendly (dairy free, egg free and nut free) cookbooks, “What’s to Eat?” and “What Else to Eat?” and one realistic book about living with serious life threatening food allergies, “How to Manage Your Child’s Life Threatening Food Allergies”. I’m grateful for Linda and her perseverance to educate herself about life threatening food allergies and to start-up the first food allergy support group in California in 1994. After enjoying her first book, I felt a sense of food allergy community. Alas, I was not alone in my struggles of feeding my son tasty foods. Curious about Linda, I was able to enjoy a lovely phone conversation with her last month. She is intelligent, energetic and amazing. Still important to our food allergy community, even though her son is an adult now, she educated me on college and what is coming ahead! She mentioned that she is somewhat retired from our food allergy community, but clearly she is still supporting us with her cookbooks and willingness to share insight. She is the gal that you want to invite over for tea and chat about everything from food allergies, to raising independent and successful children.
Pioneers like Linda, laid the ground work that we are all enjoying now. Back in the early ’90s, Linda explained that parents had to beg preschools to allow their children to attend, without ever thinking to request a nut free environment. Now, parents ask for accommodations and preschools are more and more aware of food allergies and keeping students safe. Her son’s first reaction was in 1990 and the pediatrician never referred them to an allergist, her family actually had to pay out-of-pocket to take their child to an allergist. Food allergies were basically unheard of at that time! Linda was actually part of the first few hundred members of the then named Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (now FARE) and the group was only six months old when she joined! She has watched the organization grow from a few hundred to thousands worldwide.
Linda Coss “back in the day” with her sons
Her first support group meeting hosted two people and soon grew to 20. They met in restaurants and shared stories of people thinking they were all lunatics! Together, they worked towards solutions, education and discussed food allergy related issues. These meetings were life lines for families managing life threatening food allergies when the rest of society thought they were insane over protective parents. In response for desperate need for food allergy savvy recipes, Linda developed her first cookbook in 2000, “What’s To Eat?”.
Her goal has always been to find solutions. Creating and sharing good tasting quality recipes was key. Eventually, Linda went on to write an additional cookbook, “What Else is to Eat?” as well as a well received “how to live” book titled, “How to Manage Your Child’s Life Threatening Food Allergies”. I appreciate that she used the phrase, life threatening food allergies. One road block I’m consciously working on is to use that phrase instead of food allergies. Often, when I say, “food allergies” people interpret the allergy as being similar to a pollen or cat allergy. Itchy eyes, runny nose and discomfort, not a life threatening situation.
Proud Mom at her food allergic son’s College Graduation
Linda truly cut the path for the rest of us to travel upon and I hope this Thanksgiving she realizes how much we appreciate her hard work and never ending commitment to living a full life with life threatening food allergies while educating and supporting others. I can’t imagine how lonely she must have felt until she created an avenue for other parents in the same situation to connect and create a food allergy support community.
I hope you pause for a moment today and feel the gratitude for someone you don’t personally know, but who you can be grateful for their work, something they invented that improves your life or helps brings joy! Yes, gratitude for those we don’t know, but who have made life better.