ColumnsThe Allergist

My Journey Through Histamine Intolerance

THE ALLERGIST: A new column by Queen City Nerve contributor Jasiatic

Jasiatic Anderson sits on a wall in Camp North End before development of Seemingly Overzealous
Jasiatic Anderson. (Courtesy of Jasiatic Anderson)

It’s a Friday afternoon and much of my morning has been spent preparing for my monthly plant-based dinner party: the Liberation Dinner. After a few market runs, I head over to grab ice cream from Seemingly Overzealous in Camp North End. I am destined for a dietary cheat.

I haven’t had breakfast (cause it’s not really my style) but I have had exactly 17 macadamias and a cup of cantaloupe, if that counts. These days I’m eating much of the same thing every day. I’m on both a low-FODMAP and low-histamine diet. While I know having any ice cream is gonna be problematic, I’m intrigued that I’ve found a lesser evil.

All of the ice cream at Seemingly Overzealous is oat-based. This makes sense to me not because I eat a plant-based diet but because most people are lactose intolerant — Black and brown people specifically — even if they don’t know it.

See our other columns: Going Plant-Based for the Right Reasons

In fact, a Cornell University study found that, while Denmark saw a 2% rate of intolerance, close to 100% of folks living in Zambia were intolerant. It’s believed that, worldwide, 65% of the human population is allergic to ice cream. Now I’m feeling catered to.

The truth is I haven’t tasted or smelled in almost a year. (I remind you that I am a chef, which makes this all the more difficult.) No, it’s not long COVID, as is the first thought of many people who hear of my symptoms. I have what my allergist calls a “pseudo allergy” (insert eye roll).

What I initially thought was an alcohol allergy turned out to be an all-out histamine intolerance. People would laugh when I said I couldn’t drink alcohol, or remark, “I wish I had that problem.” At first I thought wine was the culprit, as that’s what would create the most severe symptoms, but then I noticed that my beloved whiskey neat was also in betrayal.

One night, while traipsing through the streets of Miami, I happened upon an exclusive gin bar, where they made their own infusions — lemongrass, saffron … can you even? So I decided for the first time in my big adult life I’d try gin. I actually felt fine! I’d found it, my juniper berry cure. But upon arriving back to North Carolina, I quickly learned that the Hendrick’s was not it.

Histamine intolerance is pretty common, to some degree. If you’ve ever had a headache from drinking it is quite likely the histamine that you’re reacting to. My situation, however, is admittedly severe and chronic.

Jessica Berresse and Garrett Tichy, who opened Seemingly Overzealous in May, have said in interviews that they themselves didn’t have any allergies, so I was curious why they decided to take the plant-based route.

“Early on into making ice cream, before it was really a plan to open a shop, a vegan friend asked if we could make it dairy-free,” Berresse told me. “We tried and when we finally got our recipe right, she was blown away by it.

When we started trying other non-dairy ice cream brands we realized the quality was pretty hit or miss. On top of that, most non-dairy folks only get one or two options when they go into a scoop shop. We wanted to change that.”

I can attest to all of this, and would add that ice cream makers have been doing too much with coconut. We’re in our oat milk era.

“Without having allergies ourselves, we’re new to the allergy game,” Berresse said. “So we have learned (and continue to learn) a lot about all the different food allergies out there.”

Berresse told me that it wasn’t the intention to make Seemingly Overzealous completely gluten-free until one potential customer described to Jessica and Garrett just how severe their celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, could get.

“It had us consider just how many people are gluten-free and ultimately we decided it was easier to nix the gluten from the cabinet than to try and work around the cross-contamination and separate scoops,” she explained. “Even folks who walk in but ultimately can’t have anything of ours due to an oat or other allergy are so grateful that we’re even making an effort to be allergy-friendly. People have been so overwhelmingly kind and supportive, it’s truly incredible.”

How do you taste without any taste? Butter pecan was my mother’s favorite (and if you are a child of the ’80s, possibly your mom’s favorite, too) so I’m admittedly a pro. I look for a few key things that my palate still recognizes, and I find them all in this superior vegan butter pecan scoop. The nuts are both crispy and salty while the base is creamy and sweet.

This cheat was everything an ageusic foodie could ask for.

So many of us are dealing with variations of allergies. While not all of us adhere to the strict dietary measures necessary to control or provide ease to our diseases, for some of us it’s life or death.

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