Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the crisp weather, breaking out my cashmere sweaters and how the pretty leaves make my traffic-filled commute a little easier on the eyes.
But most of all, I love apple picking. There's something about picking the apples right off the trees, shining them up on your shirt and taking a big, crunchy bite.
I think I started going apple picking after college (my apologies, Mom, if you took me as a young child and I don’t remember). My roommates and I would go every year and pick out our pumpkins, take hay rides and gorge ourselves on cider donuts (um, there is NOTHING more delicious that a warm cider donut at an apple orchard. You can’t get more New England than that).
We’d return with bags and bags of apples and I’d make pies and apple crisp, but mostly the bags would sit on the kitchen floor until we all went home for Thanksgiving, then we’d throw them out.
One Fall – about six or seven years ago – I broke out in crazy hives. They were on my face, my arms and my back. They soon developed into huge welts (maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was scratching them like crazy. Hey, they were itchy. Don’t judge me.).
My super-smart biology-major roommate said to me, “I think you’re having an allergic reaction to something." Gee, ya think? "You should see an allergist before it gets any worse.” (Who says twenty-somethings are completely clueless and can’t fend for themselves?)
So two days later I’m sitting in the doctor’s office explaining my symptoms. He’s on the younger side, and completely bored with me.
“Well, I have these hives,” and I show him my back. Of course the hives have settled down, probably due to the overdose of Benadryl. “And my throat and the insides of ears are itchy.”
The doctor stares at me. I stare back. Hey, I’m paying you, buddy. Fix me.
He clears his throat. “Have you eaten anything out of the ordinary in the last few days?”
“Well, there was that live bat's head, but that was Sunday, and it’s definitely out of my system,” I give him the ‘if you know what I mean’ look.
((Blank stare from the medical professional))
“Oh, and I went apple picking, so I guess I ate lots of apples.”
Dr. Boredom perks up. “Apples, you say? Itchy ears and throat? I’ll be right back.” He zooms out of the room. I hope he was this excited on his honeymoon.
He comes back with another doctor. He nods eagerly at me. “Tell him what you just told me. Go ahead!”
“Um, well...I ate lots of apples...and, uh...and my ears are, like, sort of itchy....” Yes, I DID go to college. And yes, I was a communications major, I swear.
Dr. Boredom raises his eyebrows at his colleague. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
I’m thinking someone better tell me what the f is wrong with me.
“You have Oral Allergy Syndrome!” they exclaim in unison.
Great. Basically I have a weird allergy that sounds like an X-rated movie.
Oral Allergy Syndrome – or OAS, as the people with MD after their names call it – is a reaction between proteins in fresh fruits and pollens. Basically, I have an allergy to birch (like the tree) or ragweed, and it acts up when I eat certain things.
So, here’s what gives me hives and itchy inner ears: almonds, apples, apricots, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peach, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, walnuts.
The funny thing is, those foods only cause a reaction when eaten raw. I can eat them cooked (something happens with the heat that breaks down the enzymes or something), so I don’t have to give up pear tarts or French fries (diet staples, obviously).
I’m a bit of a risk-taker, so there are those times when I’ll throw hives and caution to the wind, and give in to my craving for a granny smith apple. Of course I only do this at home, because my lip hives make me look like a monster.
So, apple picking has fallen to the bottom of my list of all the things I love about Fall. And I miss biting into fresh summer peaches, and popping ripe bing cherries into my mouth. But is it really a bad thing to have to pass up a piece of fresh fruit for a slice of apple pie a la mode?