Cucumber and Red Pepper Salad

Cucumber and red pepper salad. Looks delightful, doesn’t it? Crisp, refreshing and simple to make. I should know, I made it. But it made me sick because I forgot that I’m allergic to peppers.

How did I forget this? Well, due to my allergy, I hadn’t eaten peppers for a long time, and because I’d put them out of mind, I had actually forgotten that I can’t eat them. When I saw them in the store, I thought they would be pretty in the salad for our card game and give the photo some ‘pop’. And they were. And they did. But I started to feel funny after the first bite. Bite two and my mouth started to tingle. I looked over everything on my plate: BLT, potato salad, cucumber and red pepper salad. All delicious. Third bite, my lips went numb and my entire body started to itch.

“Oh, damn!” I exclaimed “I’m allergic to my own salad!”  Everyone else at the table just sat there, mouths open in disbelief. How could I make and eat something that I knew I couldn’t have? As I shook out a Benadryl and gulped it down, I hoped that it would be enough to stop the reaction. Unfortunately, it took another half of a pill. I survived, but lost the card game in a drugged haze.

I don’t have any of the common allergies, mine are specific and odd. I just avoid the foods I can’t eat, and I go so long without eating them that sometimes I forget that I can’t have them, or I think that I may have gotten over that particular allergy. Then I try the food, and whoops, it’s back to the banned shelf for that ingredient!

I have real troubles with the Nightshade family, of which peppers are a member. It also includes eggplants and tomatoes. Just try to enjoy a nice ratatouille when you’re allergic to most of the ingredients!

Garlic is a bummer. I love garlic and use it quite often. It seems that I can eat cooked garlic with abandon. But raw garlic must be measured out in grams if it’s go to into a dish for me. A little too much, and the whole-body itching starts up again.

However, there is one food that I know I’m allergic to, but I eat anyway. Dungeness Crabs. I love me my Dungies! They’re served all up and down the West Coast and I’ve eaten my share. Problem is, since you eat them with your hands, both my hands and mouth itch. After dinner I slather my hands with hydrocortisone, and a Benadryl helps with the mouth thing.

Besides being allergic to some foods, there are others that I simply cannot abide and will not eat.

Lima Beans: My mother loved Lima Beans and served them all the time in the winter. I think they’re loathsome and told her so. They’re grainy texture is nauseating to me and I just can’t manage to get them down.

Brussels Sprouts: I know they’ve been all the rage the last few years. Maybe someday someone will cook them in a way that I can eat without gagging. To me, they’re just mini, always overcooked cabbages, all fart and no flavor. I’m sure this hatred began when I went to school in England and ate the school lunches.

Truffles: Weird, huh? As a food lover, I’m “supposed” to love truffles. The pungent, rotting-foot smell alone sends me running. When the waiter circles the table, shaving off a few precious strips onto the risotto, I wave them on and tell them to distribute my share to the other diners.

Chestnuts: Again, it’s largely a textural thing. They’re mealy and horrible. Fortunately, in America, they can usually be avoided. But when I was working in England, I had to deal with the little suckers all the time. The worst was when I had to prepare, roast, and peel over 25 pounds of them for Christmas dinner at the hotel where I worked. I kept taking breaks for fresh air, never mind that it was 20 degrees and sleeting outside.

How about you? Do you have allergies that prevent you from eating foods you’d otherwise enjoy? And what foods do you hate so much you can’t be near them?

What foods make you say: “I’m sorry, I just can’t.” when the dish is offered?

Cucumber and Red Pepper Salad

While I added red peppers this one time, I usually make this salad without them. If you can eat them, they really add to the look and taste of this dish.  It works best of all of the vegetables are sliced thinly so that they absorb the dressing. Use a mandolin or Japanese-style slicer if you have one, or just slice them with a sharp knife.

1 English cucumber (long, seedless style)
1 Red pepper
¼ red onion
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbs rice vinegar (unseasoned)
¼ tsp salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon or melon ball tool. Discard the seeds; you just want the cucumber flesh. Slice the cucumber 1/8” thin and put into a bowl. Slice the red pepper in half, remove the seeds and ribs, and cut into quarters lengthwise. Slice each quarter 1/8” thick and add to cucumber.

Slice the red onion 1/8” thick and put into a separate bowl. Add 6 ice cubes and enough water to cover the onions completely. This removes some of the pungency from the onion so that the flavor doesn’t overwhelm the salad.

Mix the sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add to the cucumber and pepper and stir well. Chill for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Drain the soaked onion slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. Add to the salad, stir and serve.

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