Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl

In Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl, Sandra Beasley writes honestly (and often humorously) about navigating her life with multiple severe allergies.  For Beasley, even a kiss on the cheek from a well-meaning relative who just ate a piece of her birthday cake could bring on anaphylactic shock, so the title of the book, while based on a family joke, is not far off the mark.

This book made me grateful that Sarah’s allergy to gluten has not been severe so far, and that Josh’s allergy to everything (he has a disorder where his blood cells sometimes believe he is allergic to pretty much anything you can think of) is controllable.  I also found it oddly comforting that other families ask detailed questions at restaurants and have to find ways around common foods and products.

One point that really hit home for me was Beasley’s observation that rituals and traditions mark milestones in our lives and affirm our membership in groups.  Often people ask me why I bother with trying to figure out a gluten-free option for Sarah.  Sometimes I don’t – if the whole family can eat rice instead of bread, we have rice.  But we have it together.  I don’t think it’s fair or kind to ask Sarah to miss out on big things in life like a birthday cake or holiday traditions.  I want to make her feel special and like a part of our family.

As a side note for those who asked, I did make a gluten-free red velvet cake for Sarah’s birthday (and Jesus’s – I took it to Josh’s family Christmas celebration) just using my regular red velvet recipe but subbing in a gluten free flour mix and xanthan gum (note: real red velvet cake involves a step where you make a volcano with baking powder and vinegar.  If you skip that step you do not have red velvet cake).  It was not as tall as usual, but it tasted great.  I decorated it to look like a present.

But anyway back to the book.  I think if you have anyone in your family or close friend group that has food allergies, you would appreciate Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl.  And if you don’t, you would probably still find it interesting and perhaps it would help you to be more mindful of people who do have these issues.  I thought it was a well-done memoir, with a mix of coming-of-age and foodie angles, and would recommend it.

 

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl

  1. Glad to hear that the cake turned out well, and your family birthday tradition continues on if a bit shorter. 😉

    The book sounds really interesting to me, but the idea of being the birthday girl and yet unable to eat my own cake is sad! Now I’m intrigued to read the book & find out why she didn’t have a birthday cake (or substitute celebratory food) she could eat.

    I think I’m especially intrigued because I do have a food allergy, albeit one that is easy for me to avoid, and also a couple of food intolerances to varying degrees (nothing life-threatening, just unpleasant).

  2. Have you ever considered the GAPS protocol? It explains many allergies and food intolerances and can heal many of them. There is a book, if you’re interested, but you can learn alot just from the website.

    1. Hi Rachel, I have looked at the GAPS diet a little bit because I used to read a blog by a girl who was a big advocate of it, but I felt it would be pretty expensive and prohibitively time consuming for me right now, especially since we can so easily work around Sarah’s allergy. Have you tried it?

  3. I totally understand. And I aspire to be as productive as you are one day!
    We’re currently trying gaps as I decided I couldn’t not try it. I don’t think it’s the be all, end all, but it has helped with several things already, (asthma, eczema, and acne) but not others (yet) (auditory processing disorder). The main reason I mention it is that many who consider themselves celiac find that they have other issues later and only being gluten free sometimes isn’t enough. But it is very time consuming and limiting as far as convenience.

    1. Did you read a book as a resource or did you find something online? Are you doing the whole making your own bone broth every day thing? I have wondered if there is some sort of modified version I could do that wouldn’t take extra hours in the kitchen. Let me know how it goes for your family!

  4. I do have the book, but I think you can get most of what you need online. Especially if you read blogs and the yahoo groups.

    I do make my own broth (I have two crock pots). I’m not sure we’re doing it as well as people who have colitis or autism would have to do it, but none of us have been all that sensitive to things. The hardest part was getting rid of the rice and potatoes. Those were definitely staples for us. I’m amazed at how well my kids have adapted. And how much they eat now. And, to make up for the lack of a starch, I just fix two vegetables at every meal (except breakfast where I only serve one).

    While there’s a learning curve (getting rid of all grain takes some re-thinking), you get used to it. And you’re probably closer to it than you think because of the gluten thing. One suggestion, don’t change anything else you’re eating, but add in fermented vegetables (which are super easy and cheap to make). (Eat them like you would a condiment.) Or, start taking a good probiotic. I think everyone should be doing that.

    We’ll see how it goes. I don’t think I can ever go back to the way I used to eat completely, but I also don’t see myself never eating grains and starches again.

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