There’s something most of you probably don’t know about me/may find hard to believe but it’s true: once upon a time I was an actress. I know, I know, seems crazy right? I mean this is the self-proclaimed painfully shy child whose first role (as an angel in the church Christmas play) ended with my 4-year-old self tearfully running off the altar before the Wise Men even arrived. This is the girl who nearly got sick the morning of high school graduation because the thought of standing up to address an auditorium full of people was near-paralyzing. Yes, I think my family was just as shocked when my 7th grade self came home from school proclaiming that I would be auditioning for the school play. Yet I did and I loved it and for the next 6 years, without fail, I was up on that stage performing in every school production we had. I think something about leaving Katie behind and taking on a new persona for a few hours was what brought me profound joy/enabled me to overcome my otherwise crippling stage fright. (Which by the way has since dissipated, mostly due to the Public Speaking course I took sophomore year at Villanova…thank you, Professor McCloskey)
My favorite stage experience to date remains our production of Meet Me in St. Louis from my Junior year of high school. If you’ve never seen it, please do yourself a favor: rent it. It’s the kind of simplistic, joyful, family-centered musical where the worst tragedy is the thought of having to leave St. Louis before the 1904 World’s Fair arrives/the boy next door notices you’re alive and yet everything is all wrapped up in a joyful family hug by the time the 2 hour show is over. Plus, Judy Garland is the star. What more do you need?? I played the role of Anna Smith, the mom of the family, who spent the whole show trying to guide her 4 daughters and 1 son through adventures in love, college, and of course some mischief while also keeping the peace when Mr. Smith insists on moving the family to New York City which means leaving before the arrival of the World’s Fair. I won’t ruin the ending but let’s just say, this production took place almost 100 years after the real World’s Fair and I can only imagine the thrill and joy of the real thing if we found that much excitement simply pretending to be there.
|The Smith Family: sometimes we’re sad…|
|…and then we go to the Fair and all is right with the world again 🙂|
So what does all this have to do with food allergies/intolerances?? Well, nothing and everything. It may not be the 1904 World’s Fair BUT if you have food allergies, this might just be the next best thing: The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo! You can imagine the wonders which await you at this fantastic event…but I can promise you that reality will far surpass even your wildest expectations. Just as the fair attendees personified by the Smith family had no idea what they were excited for, you cannot appreciate the true joy of the Gluten/Allergen Free Expo until you experience it for yourself. However, since I’ve been there and lived it, here is my attempt at giving you just a glimpse:
What made the World’s Fair so Spectacular??
- Ice cream cones, Dr. Pepper, iced tea, and cotton candy were introduced on the world’s stage. (Note, apparently all these things existed prior to their debut in St. Louis…but not many people knew about them; remember no social media back then!)
- The iconic ferris wheel which has become synonymous with the event…even though it was destroyed over a century ago
- A similarly iconic song was popularized which expresses the excitement of the fairgoers even a century later (I would highly recommend listening to this song as you continue reading…11 years after the fact, I still remember every word: it’s that catchy 🙂
- John Philip Sousa led the band/parade which entertained the crowd for miles.
- You will discover “you-safe” foods that you thought were off the table forever. Gluten-free ice cream cones, dairy-free/soy-free ice cream, even soft pretzels were all things I could eat there!! SOFT PRETZELS?!?! I’m getting excited already!
- There are “you-safe” samples EVERYWHERE. And because everyone there is well-versed in allergies, there are clearly visible signs at every display indicating which allergens are contained in a certain product. That’s right, a full day of living like the rest of you non-food-allergenic friends. That is actually priceless.
- You will make connections you never dreamed possible. Imagine this scene: a jolly man in a chef hat approaches you with a hot steak sandwich. ON BREAD. He tells you it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and corn-free bread and it just came out of the oven they brought with them. You hesitantly take a bite: it is AMAZING. And then you realize he is from Texas and thus your dreams of delicious bread in your life again are dashed. Not so fast! He hands you a business card, he tells you he’ll ship anywhere in the continental US, and then you hug him (after asking permission first of course) because your frown has been turned upside down. And yes, that is a true story.
- Coupons. Need I say more? You will leave with so many coupons. Tickets to the Expo are $20 but I guarantee you will more than break even with the amount of coupons you’ll take with you. And that doesn’t even factor in the absurd amount of samples you’ll have consumed before you walk out the door. Not to mention the intangible asset of feeling like you were “normal” again for a day. Priceless.
- Informational presentations, meet-the-author tables, cookbooks, I could go on and on and on. And trust me, I will if you ask me about it.
- Watch this video. Then let the excitement start to build 🙂
- Go to this website: http://gfafexpo.com/. Check out the various dates and locations. Some of them have already happened this year…but that just means you can start planning for 2015!
- If you find an expo you can attend, buy your tickets now. (But if you’re going to Secaucus, skip to #4 first) I mean that, last year when I arrived there were people who had to wait outside because the number of tickets for a given timeslot were already gone. Everyone did get in eventually…but trust me, this is the highlight of someone’s year and they will be waiting in line an hour before it opens to get a good spot/first dibs on all the samples.
- If you decide to come to Secaucus, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, email address, and one thing you’d love for me to write about (food-related or otherwise) and you will be entered to win 1 of 4 free tickets to the Expo!! (Hint: non-food-allergen friends, this would make a great gift! Or you can come experience the joy too…you don’t need food allergies to love this event!)
- Even if you don’t win a free ticket, just for being a loyal reader, here is a discount code to save you 20% off your ticket price! EXPONJ20
- Last but not least, get yourself to the Expo and have an AMAZING day/weekend!! I promise you won’t be disappointed.