It doesn’t matter where you live, as autumn draws to a close, there’s a feeling of festivity in the air and talk turns to holiday dining.
For folks with food allergies, anxiety can begin with the first invitation.
Rest easy, you can do this. Read on to discover what you can do as both guest and host to ensure your holiday is relaxed and festive.
We’ve all heard the expression, “knowledge is power.” It’s key when dealing with food allergies. Be honest with your needs. Hosts can find the task daunting but if communication lines are kept open, it truly is easier for everyone. It may be tempting to eat before you go, brushing off your allergies and simply abstaining, but there is a better solution.
Let people know
Contact the host in advance, and explain what allergies you have, and the severity. My son’s food allergies are life-threatening as he is anaphylactic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and barley, and we need to be careful of cross-contamination.
Normally, a conversation results in the preparation of several dishes which he can have, and these items are pulled aside before the buffet is opened to discourage cross-contamination. Ingredient labels are saved and provided for reference so that we can double-check. It is a system that has worked well for 15 years and has the added benefit of not bringing your allergies front and center for all guests in a negative way.
Like everyone else, people with food allergies want to find their safe niche. It isn’t as if you want to hide your food allergies, but you would prefer to avoid an announcement before eating.
Show off your mad cooking skills
Chances are, if you’re living with allergies, you know your way around a recipe or two, and you know which ones are your favorites. Offer to bring something everyone can enjoy. Food allergies are more common these days, and you might be surprised to find someone who shares those allergies at the same gathering. Don’t be shy, bring along a few copies of the recipe, or at least a link to share.
If faced with a gathering and can’t connect with your host beforehand, bring your own food.
Choose those items you really enjoy, pack in a keep-fresh bag (many kinds available from bento boxes to basic black) and head for the kitchen when you arrive. Countless hosts have been relieved to find that their guests have taken the initiative to stay healthy and attend. They are more than happy to provide dishes, cutlery, and a festive drink so that you can enjoy the evening along with everyone else.
Host your own event and invite guests to enjoy your special traditions. Every year, we host a gingerbread-man party for the entire neighborhood. The giant dining room table is filled to capacity with homemade gingerbread men free of wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and barley. They look like “regular” gingerbread cookies and taste wonderful!
Guests are encouraged to bring allergy-friendly toppings, and they each take great pride in discovering new treasures to bring every year. The evening ends with each guest taking home a basket of cookies and a little more knowledge about food allergies.
Education is a facet of food allergies
People are naturally curious, and for the most part, they really want to do the right thing. They just need to know what that is.
Food can be a wonderful ice-breaker and educational tool. What better way to learn about something than to break bread together and talk?
Grab a recipe and go. Here’s one to get you started!
Deborah Fingerlow is partner to her college sweetheart, mom to two amazing kids, two incredible therapy beagles, and one emergency back-up beagle. She specializes in hitting-the-road travel, home schooling and all things canine, as well as teaching people how to connect through the written word. You can find her searching for local farmers’ markets or at email@example.com.