|Ken Barnett and his mother Hattie Kloss Barnett|
'Tis the season again! No, not that one. I mean the season where we food allergy sufferers get together with long-lost relatives who want so much to feed us things we can't eat, and don't understand why we won't eat them.
When I first started writing this blog, I posted several entries that explained food allergies in simple terms. I was hoping that our friends and neighbors would read these, commit them to memory, and never ask me what we could eat again. Ha! If life was that simple, psychiatrists would never work again.
Unfortunately, people to whom I've explained food allergies and food sensitivities to in detail have been acting like they never heard a word I said. Apparently, my voice sounds like all the adults in the Charlie Brown movies -- wah wah wah-wah wah wah-wah. (You get what I'm trying to do there, right? It's that funny trumpet sound that replaces all the words an adult might say? Ok, now you can think about that piano riff ...)
Guests bring cheese and crackers over for a party, despite the fact that we can't eat dairy or gluten. Teachers offer our kids donuts and candy in school, even though they've seen the email listing all the allergens (like corn syrup). Moms on the soccer team bring fruit roll-ups for snack, but the kids can't eat apples or grapes.
Despite the fact that I'm whining about feeling like our needs aren't being taken seriously, I very rarely say anything to these people directly. I hate spoiling a good time, and I hate being seen as high maintenance, so I usually smile politely and just eat something else (or whisper to the kids that I'll get them something when we get home.)
Part of the problem is that our allergies aren't simple or common. Most people understand the seriousness of a peanut allergy, and are careful about offering peanut-free foods if they can. Our allergies are of the non-anaphylactic kind, which tends to make people think we can make exceptions to our food rules if we want to. And that's true, we can get away with eating certain foods occasionally because our symptoms aren't life-threatening. That's not to say that they're not uncomfortable, and we wouldn't prefer to avoid dealing with them when we can. (Think stomach ache, migraine, itchy rashes, diarrhea, etc.)
Also, we're allergic to odd foodstuffs like carrots, pears, cashews, strawberries and bananas -- things that most people view as healthy and wonderful. When my son was in first grade, he was choosing items from a buffet in his classroom. Most were dessert items, but there was a bit of fruit and cheese as well. A well-meaning mom who didn't know him put some cheese on his plate, thinking she was giving him something healthy to balance out the sugary things he had chosen. He was old enough to know he wasn't supposed to eat the cheese, but he ate it anyway because an adult had given it to him. It's that kind of thing that's the hardest to deal with -- people who are trying to be nice.
Beyond that, though, I'm starting to get really aggravated with people who understand full well that we can't eat certain things, but choose not to go out of their way to make sure they have the appropriate stuff to offer us. I just don't get it.
Now the holidays are here, and it's time to eat potluck at relatives' houses again. How are you feeling about that? (sigh) I'm kind of feeling invisible (not because of my relatives - just in general). Is it that people just don't understand and don't want to ask? I am kind of at a loss.
What do you do on holidays when you must deal with people who don't "get" food allergies? I'd love to hear your stories.
Shared with Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Gluten Free Wednesday at the Gluten Free Homemaker and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Traditional Tuesday at Whole New Mom and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and the Gallery of Favorites at Premeditated Leftovers.