Adventures in Coastal Living – Clams

The mess I made behind my uncle’s couch was a life-changing event. It wasn’t just a three-year-old getting sick after too much excitement on Easter. The doctors were sure. The youngest Carreras was allergic to bivalves – clams, quahogs, scallops. Anything possessing two shells that clapped together was forbidden.
Seafood was a significant part of the family diet, and there was little my father loved more than day-long ocean fishing trips. Weeks followed as my family tested my tolerance to types of seafood. Shrimp seemed to be OK. Cod, fluke, and flounder passed muster. No one even thought to try lobster or crab. Those were experiments I’d have to make on my own later.
As an adult, some of my “research” grew bolder. Friends in Boston took me out for seafood and drinks the night before I shipped out for the first time. The ship sailed directly into heavy weather, and I spent the midwatch worshipping the throne. I deny that I was seasick. It had been the clams.
Years passed. I developed a passion for Oysters Rockefeller. Perhaps the serving sizes were not large enough to tilt my body into reaction. Then came a physical exam in which I gave a complete medical history, and the story of the scallops came out. My doctor gave me that look: “you know, it’s only a matter of time before you have an anaphylactic reaction.”
Years passed. I religiously avoided anything with two shells that clapped together. My current physician urged me to go to an allergist for my seasonal allergies. During the evaluation, the story of the scallops came out. He rather thoroughly tested me—no allergy to bivalves. I was free to visit the Clambox in Ipswich; I could once again visit the Old Union Oyster House in Boston.
Are you sure? “The acid test is for you to bring your favorite meal and eat it here under controlled conditions.” The thought of eating Oysters Rockefeller in an exam room while he and his nurse waited to give me a shot or intubate was unappealing.
I’ll leave things as they are for now without visits to the Union or the Clambox.

2 Replies to “Adventures in Coastal Living – Clams”

  1. How sad to love something and be terribly allergic to it. Being brought up in landlocked Germany, I was never exposed to fish of any nature. My dad was from Kansas City so he only knew fish caught at the bottom of a mud hole. My first MIL was from Maine but also allergic to shell fish other than shrimp so I chose to claim an allergy to the entire species of ocean dwellers. It’s like telling people you are diabetic while on a diet to avoid sugar. They can forgive your lack of indulgence if you make it medical. But I would never want to risk a real allergic reaction to something. It’s easier to eat something else if you can. No clean up afterward. 😉

    1. Allergic reactions can be like playing Russian roulette; best to avoid even if they are mild. But, that’s the voice of a 73-year-old speaking…when I was thirty it was another matter.

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