Two Peanuts Walk Into a Bar

One was a salted.

Back in England my peanut allergy was, at worst, mildly embarrassing. It felt kind of undignified and pathetic to have to decline food lest I be brought low by a legume. Not the best, but I never felt like I was in danger. It was very much a first world problem, a mild inconvenience.

Nobody who has a peanut allergy in China has to suffer from this inconvenience or embarrassment.

Because they’re dead.

When it was realised by other foreigners here that I had a peanut allergy I was met by either surprise  or accusatory looks, presumably because it was considered possible I was unstable. Greetings directed at me during the first week were often along the lines of a good-humoured  ‘Oh, still alive then?’.

Surely it’s not THAT bad. What about all the Chinese people with bad peanut allergies? Well there aren’t any. I wasn’t being dramatic before. At some point, I guess right after breastfeeding, they die because they eat something. Maybe they survive the first meal or by some ridiculous chance grow up with a family who only eat fruit and manage to see a birthday or two. But at some point they’re going to want to eat chinese. And then they die. A conservative estimate for the amount of Chinese food that is either cooked in peanut oil or contains peanuts would be, from my massive two week experience, something like 80%+. Given that Chinese food is remarkably popular in China that causes a problem.

I should point out at this point that my allergy isn’t as bad as it used to be. I think I would have to eat quite a lot to expire (unsure how much for obvious reasons) and when I do eat something with peanuts I know about it immediately and can abruptly face the impossible challenge of gracefully refusing an entire meal in a restaurant. So that is good, but it steal leaves everything food related here as a bit of a challenge.

Another guy here has the same allergy (much worse actually, seems to be unfazed by his regular hospitalisation which I can’t help but find totally bad-ass) and gave me some of what I have dubbed ‘Death Cards’. They’re just little business cards that say, in chinese, something along the lines of ‘Please don’t use peanut oil in your food or you will experience the inconvenience of moving a dead English guys corpse out of your lovely restaurant’. It’s pretty helpful, although it seems like a lot of Chinese people understand the writing but just don’t understand the issue I’m attributing to myself. I don’t think that they ‘have’ allergies here really, they aren’t generally recognised.

Death Card

Death Card

All in all this just adds to the adventure. Every meal starts with a teary goodbye to Lewis and Ayesha and a re-writing of my will. Successful completion of a meal is accompanied by an absurd high, a feeling of enlightenment and a reinvigorated appreciation of how great it is to be alive. How many of you can say that?*

*May be exaggerating massively.

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