The book is an excellent primer for the beginning allergic family. She covers important topics like a solid definition of the difference between allergy and intolerance; how to stay positive in the face of allergies; allergy etiquette; eating out and special occasions with allergies; traveling; eating by cuisine type; how to shop for allergen-free foods; and how to create an allergy-free pantry at home. She lays out a big-four substitution grid that every allergic kitchen should have pasted on the fridge. The book is gorgeous and glossy with plenty of food pictures, making it suitable for your coffee table or kitchen table.
Recently, Alice and I had an opportunity to virtually chat about allergies, cooking and taking care of an allergic child.
Q: What was your first experience with food allergies?
I first became aware of food allergies about 10 years ago when relatives and friends started having children who had allergies or sensitivities. It really hit home eight years ago, when my eldest son, Archie, ate a dish containing eggs and promptly turned blue and stopped breathing. We got him to the hospital, where he was given a shot of adrenalin and recovered, but it was very frightening. Tests show that he's severely allergic to eggs and also to tree nuts and peanuts. This was the beginning of my search for recipes that people with food allergies can eat.
Q: How did the Allergy Free Cookbook come about?
It's the book that I couldn't find when I needed it. When my child was diagnosed with severe egg, peanut and tree nut allergies, the books available were grim with lots unappetizing-looking dishes. None of them seemed to celebrate food. Many of them also had created ‘one size fits all' allergen-free concoctions, as if not being able to eat one or two things meant having no choice about the rest.
There should be dishes, I felt, that people could eat together without even realizing they were dairy-free or gluten free or egg-free or nut-free.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges caring for a child with food allergies?
The biggest challenges were not how Archie, who has coped amazingly, dealt with it so much as other people's reactions. There's so much to explain to people to make sure that he can eat safely and not all of it is intuitive. The challenge is working out just how much I need to tell each person: what you need to tell your child's school or an airline will be different from what your parents or friends or dinner hosts need to know.
Remember, it's important to be clear about what you would need in each situation and to be realistic in your expectations.