I was relaxed and smiling on July 5th as I wrote this article. I planned a small gathering at my home with two other families affected by food allergies. I met both of these moms years ago at my local support group meetings. We've become close friends as we share the trials and tribulations of raising a child with food allergies.
Early on, when we got together, our struggles with food allergies dominated the conversations. Gradually, as we acclimated to allergy life, our topics of conversation moved to marriage, travel, work and even our own hopes and dreams. We helped each other remember to keep food allergies in perspective. My friend Jane would sometimes prepare us for an evening out by saying "No talk about food allergies tonight!" But like parents on a date promising not to talk about their kids, most times we'd hit on the topic anyway.
It's worth noting that although we each handle our kid's allergies differently, they all seem to be doing just fine. You can see that there is a special bond with them, first because they like each other and especially because they have multiple food allergies in common. So my son was really looking forward to our Fourth of July celebration with his allergy friends.
In the past, I took pride in being the "hostess with the mostest." I subscribed to and saved every issue of Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazine and I'd carefully choose a selection of recipes to prepare for my guests. In truth, it was more about me looking for rave reviews than about really sharing with my guests.
Fast forward several years later to life with a food allergic boy. After several missteps entertaining in the early days, we stopped entertaining altogether for a few years. Gradually and almost reluctantly, we started again but mostly with family members who are really not capable of "getting" life with food allergies. It was not as much fun.
Yesterday was different though. Three of our six kids have food allergies that include: milk, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, sesame, mustard, and many fruits and vegetables. So we allergy moms collaborated early on a safe menu for all. We started with what the kids could eat: chicken, rice, tomatoes etc. We literally emailed UPC codes of specific brands of dairy-free margarine and marshmallow. My friends walked in with boxes and labels from every product they used. This is the first time anyone had ever done this for us!
When I laid the food out, I kept out every ingredient and spice that I used and I saved every label. I put them all aside on a counter so my friends could double check them. When it was time to eat, the kids could help themselves to anything they wanted. Even with all of their food allergies, everything was safe! The menu was varied and delicious. We had grilled chicken breasts marinated with lemon and olive oil, chicken tacos with corn tortilla shells, homemade salsa, bean salad, romaine lettuce with balsamic vinaigrette, Spanish rice and for dessert, Rice Krispie treats drizzled with Enjoy Life chocolate. And enjoy life we did!
Even though we were all grateful for the meal, it was clear that the adults (okay, the moms) were even more grateful for the serenity. What a relief not to worry when a child wandered over to the buffet or ran out of sight. How wonderful for our kids to know that for once they would partake of the wonderful dessert that everyone was oohing and aahing over. More than anything, it was such a delight to be with others who "get it" on a whole different level. Yeah, we know that others have it worse than we do. We also know that others have it better, but it sure is nice to be with others who are right here in our shoes!
Published On: July 07, 2009