Share Your Story: Anthony Winston III
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was coming out of the subway tunnel in downtown Los Angeles and I had multiple missed calls and voicemails from my wife … “CALL ME BACK, OLIVIA IS BEING TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL IN AN AMBULANCE!” It took almost four hours to get to my family using public transportation from L.A. back to Murrieta during non-peak time. This was the day we found out she was allergic to dairy.
My wife was pregnant with our second child and hadn’t been able to produce enough milk for our infant, Olivia. The next option was formula for a few months until she could have nothing but solid food. After spending a few nights in the hospital, we learned that she was allergic to milk. After the hospital stay, we did a skin allergy test. To our surprise, Olivia’s back lit up like a Christmas tree! She showed severe allergies to eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, and nuts! After our second child, Charlotte, was born, we had the same skin test performed on her. Charlotte had even more allergies than Olivia!
Although we ate pretty healthy, we had to make some big adjustments in how we approached food. Over time, cooking without any of the top eight food allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish) became fairly easy. The challenge came when we left the house. If we don’t have packed food, it can be challenging finding something for the girls. Whether we’re at a family gathering or a restaurant, we must obsessively inquire about what’s in the food. We recently went to the Dominican Republic and due to the language barrier, it took an hour to get the girls oatmeal without any milk! Google translator was definitely our friend that day.
Luckily, we have very supportive friends and family. In the beginning, people would invite us over for a cookout and wouldn’t have anything for the girls, leaving us to whip something up like a food competition on The Food Network. Now our friends and family will either cook the entire meal without any of their allergens or they’ll cook something entirely different for them.
My wife is very resourceful and resilient and refuses to let our girls miss out on the same food experiences as their peers. We have figured out how to make variations of most food without the top eight allergens. With three years of experience cooking this way, we decided to share our journey with other families by starting “Top 8 Free with O and C.” We share our story and recipes, and review allergen-friendly brands on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. It’s tough raising children, so we want to make life a little bit easier for families with food allergies.