Hi there! I’m Heather, the O’MY! Marketing Manager. Born with a severe dairy allergy, I wanted to share a bit about my O’MY story as we enter Food Allergy Awareness Week.
Growing up with a dairy-allergy
From a very young age, after many trips to the allergist (involving lots of pricking), it was instilled in me that I had to be vigilant when it came to asking questions about and looking at ingredient labels. I got pretty good at knowing what I could and couldn’t eat.
That being said, I became very aware of my food allergy in elementary school because when I attended parties or classroom celebrations, they pretty much always consisted of pizza and some sort of dessert that was dairy-full. These days, lots of children and adults have food allergies, but when I was growing up, I was the only person I knew with a food allergy like mine. It didn’t bother me too much emotionally, although celebrations like that always made me aware of being “different.” My parents made sure I had “chicken wings” as my party food, the obvious substitute being from upstate NY, near Buffalo. As a result, you could say I am a bit of a chicken wing connoisseur now. For dessert, my mom would pack me the only dairy-free ice cream sandwich available at that time, Tofutti.
“I kid you not, I was that person who would order sorbet and ask for 10 heaping spoonfuls of chocolate sprinkles just to try and make it taste like I was enjoying chocolate!”
Looking back, enjoying a “dairy-free” treat always meant having to make a trip to the grocery store or, at the time, the single natural foods store in my city (and it was not close to our home). Bakeries, ice cream shops, and restaurants didn’t have “allergy-friendly” options besides sorbet or italian ice. Let me tell you, I hated those options because I wanted something deliciously creamy, chocolatey and satisfying like what my family and friends would enjoy. I kid you not, I was that person who would order sorbet and ask for 10 heaping spoonfuls of chocolate sprinkles just to try and make it taste like I was enjoying chocolate!
O’MY! Choices for me
Fast forward to post college, I was visiting a friend in Denver and we went to an ice cream shop that had dairy-free chocolate peanut butter ice cream. I wish I still had the photo from that day because my face says it all. For the first time in my life, I had a real treat that worked with my allergy at a normal ice cream shop! As my trip continued, I realized Denver actually had lots of places with options for me, including an amazing donut shop! I was in heaven. Even though it’s more common now with people eating a vegan lifestyle and having more food allergies, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever stop getting excited when I am able to partake and enjoy treats in a restaurant or bakery because that just wasn’t the case growing up.
My love for food
Having my allergy wasn’t always a bad thing. It actually made me more aware of what I was eating which sparked my love for cooking, baking and all things culinary. I spent many hours glued to the Food Network and then begged my parents to get the ingredients for me to recreate what they were making in a yummy, dairy-free version. I guess my parents lucked out too since I would end up making dinner!
Today, people with food allergies have a lot more options, both on the shelves of the grocery store and inside ice cream shops, restaurants, and bakeries. The labels are getting much better too, which is something I so appreciate. Some days I still can’t believe that I get to work for a company that crafts dairy-free gelato! As someone with a lifelong allergy, my dairy-free treat expectations were somewhat low and most of the time I was content just being able to have any treat at all. That’s one reason I love sharing O’MY, because after tasting it for the first time I realized that better was possible, and that having a creamy, satisfying treat without an ingredient list full of junk existed. I didn’t need to settle anymore!
I look forward to hopefully meeting you one day, when we’re back out in grocery stores sampling O’MY!, at Nourished festivals and in community events, so that you can see for yourselves just how delicious allergy-friendly can be!