Jennifer B: How many food allergies do you have? Would you list some of them?
Stephanie: Maybe 25 to 30? Since many of them are food groups (wheat, corn, soy, milk, beans, nuts) they encompass a much longer list of ingredients. It would take some time if I were to try and count them all! Some of the worst are apples, carrots, and peaches, then they tier down into some other specific fruits and vegetables!
Jennifer B: When were you first diagnosed?Stephanie: When I was 7 I had an anaphylaxis reaction during dessert on Thanksgiving (there were some pecan shavings on my plate). After that I went in and was tested! I lived with a shorter list for a long time, then the summer before I turned 21 I was feeling sick constantly so I went in and was tested again…and the list grew exponentially!
Jennifer B: Do you carry an Epipen or Auvi-Q?Stephanie: I carry an Epipen. It’s a combination of frightening and reassuring to always have it with me. It’s a scary thing when you sit down and think about it and it creates this invisible weight to my purse, but if I ever need it I’m going to be very glad that it’s there.
Jennifer B: What is your training/background?Stephanie: For cooking? It’s been a lot of improv and experimenting in the kitchen. I never really used to cook, but it really became a necessity once I couldn’t depend on just picking something up premade from a store.
Jennifer B: What prompted you to start a cooking show for food allergies?Stephanie: Plain and simple-I wanted to watch one but there wasn’t one to watch. I know and have met so many people who have allergies, and this style of show could really help us all. I can sit and watch cooking shows for hours, but at the end of the day I can’t pick anything up from them because I can’t eat what they can. I was actually watching Next Food Network Star one day while they were pitching their show ideas-do we really need another Southern or Italian themed cooking show?-- and that’s when I decided definitely that this had to happen.
Jennifer B: Which allergies will the show focus on?Stephanie: Every episode will have to include all of my allergies so that I can actually handle and taste the food we’re cooking. We will be asking for viewer requests too though, so people can email in with their specific allergies and ask us to find ways to make the foods they miss.
Jennifer B: What about ingredients? Are they going to be things that are easy to find at any grocery store? Special order?Stephanie: My goal is to make everything as cheap and accessible as possible. I know how expensive allergy-free ingredients can be, and that’s why so often I’ll reach for a bag of potato chips instead of the ingredients to make a meal. Shopping for allergy-free cooking takes time and patience, and our goal will be to eliminate the stress of planning. We’ll use (as often as possible) ingredients that you can find at any supermarket so that shopping can be as fast and easy as if you didn’t have allergies at all.
Jennifer B: How difficult is it to modify recipes for your food allergies?Stephanie: Surprisingly, most recipes are relatively simple to adapt. There are some things that take more experimenting (breads, sauces, and desserts come to mind), but many dishes just call for easy substitutions if you’re willing to put the time in and do a little research and planning beforehand.
Jennifer B: How did you manage your food allergies as a teenager and in college?Stephanie: Not well…high school was easier because at that point I didn’t have the wheat/corn/soy/legume allergies to deal with. College was pretty bad. I had to buy a meal plan because I was living on campus, but there was nothing in the café that I could eat. I ended up eating whatever I wanted (usually pizza or waffles and soft serve) and being very sick all the time. I thought it was a fine tradeoff for the ease of eating, but after years of just being sick all of the time I smartened up!
Jennifer B: When can we expect to see you on TV and where?Stephanie: If the Kickstarter goes well and gets funded, we are going to create a pilot episode to shop around to networks. We’re hoping that it gets picked up and when it does we’ll let you know! In the meantime, (once we’re funded) we’ll be uploading our first season of episodes to YouTube!
Jennifer B: How can people support your show?
Stephanie: At this point, donating to and sharing our Kickstarter project is the best way to ensure that we can produce the show.
The link to the Kickstarter page is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1199234840/scratch-test-kitchen
You can also visit our blog at scratchtestkitchen.tumblr.com or like our facebook page: Scratch Test Kitchen. The blog and facebook page will have updates with recipes, tips, and interesting facts about allergies and specific ingredients.
Jennifer B: Is there any additional information you wish to share?Stephanie: I just want to say how appreciative I am for the allergy community that’s out there. We’ve been dealt a tough lot, but everyone I meet is so enthusiastic, supportive, and encouraging that I can’t help but smile when I think of the opportunities I’ve been given as a part of this community.
Food Allergy Buzz is very excited to help spread the word about Scratch Test Kitchen! Wishing Stephanie and everyone working with her on this venture much success!