I could blame it on Luigi, the bald Italian sculptor. “Don’t eat so many prawns,” he warned with an ominous, dark-eyed glare as I tucked into the fist-sized pink curls that lay, glistening in butter and garlic, on the serving platter before me. The month was August; we were celebrating a friend’s birthday at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach district. I suppose I could also blame Paul Prudhomme. I had, after all, been whipping up many a crab salad, seafood filé gumbo and crawfish etoufée since my return from New Orleans with the famous chef’s cookbook. This would, however, turn out to be the last in a long series of mouthwatering waltzes with all manner of fruit des mer. Shortly after that shrimp supper, as I shimmied to the beat at a local dance club, I became light headed. When I stumbled outside for air, I could feel my lips inflating like a pair of balloons. My god, this place has fleas, I thought, as a mad itching seized me and the stars pin-wheeled about in the sky. Wrong. I was experiencing my very first encounter with anaphylactic shock. I’d developed an allergy to shellfish.
Nearly 6.9 million Americans are allergic to shellfish, some from childhood, although most, like me, seem to acquire the allergy as adults. According to statistics posted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), these tasty treats from the sea—along with cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, soybeans and wheat—top the list for dietary substances known to induce an extreme response from the immune system and sometimes rather worrisome symptoms. Feel a little itchy after chowing down on the lobster? Hives, as well as dizziness, tingling, swelling, wheezing, congestion, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain are among …
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Excerpt: Read the entire article in the Spring issue of Mia Magazine.