Saturday, September 3, 2011
The Allergic Conundrum: Eating at Parties
Happy Labor Day weekend everyone! Who's heading out to a picnic soon? Is this causing you some anxiety? Did you tell your host ahead of time about your allergies, or will you be bringing your own food? Were you just hoping to wing it and pick at whatever looks plain? What do YOU do when you need to eat out?
Between the five of us, we are allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, vinegar, apples, pears, melons, carrots, onion, garlic, palm oil, cashews, and a whole bunch of other random things. Plus, my husband is now avoiding all animal products. It kind of makes us hard to cook for!
If we are invited to a friend's house for a small dinner party, I do sit down with the hostess and go over some of our allergies, but not all. I hate to make a pest of myself, so I mention the big ones and wait for her to throw out some ideas for main dishes. If it sounds as though she might be planning to include other ingredients that are problematic, then I'll mention them.
If the party is a large one with many different families invited, I offer to bring a dish I know we can all eat. One would think that a potluck style event would provide a nice wide range of allowable choices, but unfortunately everyone we know tends to eat the same thing (is is just our friends and relatives?). The picnics we are invited to seem to always feature burgers, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, potato salad with mayo and eggs, pasta salad with mayo and cheese, chips, soda, and some kind of baked item from the store that features a Crisco-based frosting in brightly artificial colors. If there is a green salad, it is already dressed with vinegar (on our No-List) and oil (which my husband is avoiding). Kind of a drag....
Our allergist had an interesting viewpoint... one which I'm not sure I'm totally on board with. When I asked his opinion about making small exceptions in our food avoidance plan, he said, "Well, you used to eat all that stuff and you're not dead yet, so..."
I'll grant you that our allergies are not anaphylactic, so he's right in one way... eating the foods we are sensitive to won't kill us immediately. However.... we do all get terrible stomachaches when we accidentally eat something we shouldn't, along with headaches, irritability, diarrhea, rashes, and a few other unpleasant symptoms I won't mention on a food blog!
As you can probably tell, his remark struck me the wrong way. I think he was trying to say that we shouldn't drive ourselves crazy with worry about making small mistakes in the eating plan, but I didn't like the feeling that he didn't really care about our reactions. I do let my sons save up their "exceptions" to use in social situations, but only for the foods that they're only mildly sensitive to. On the other hand, I know that our bodies are invisibly struggling when we eat allergenic foods, and in the long term this will compound to cause more serious illness.
What do you do?
Labels: Life with Food Allergies