Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

My Christmas Gift

Almost Christmas -- and I'm heading into the holiday happy and healthy. I've tried many new items this season-- I put together candy cane cookies-- which my mom and I made every year. Some years they came out perfect enough to hang on a tree. Some years they burned a bit or were untidy, the red and white stripes not quite separate.

This year I made gluten-Dairy-egg free candy cane cookies which were fat and lovely and the perfect twists of red and white. I was so proud. And I felt this ribbon of connection to my past.
I know I often lament the loss of the thread to my past, to my history. But perhaps I moved beyond that lament this Christmas. I know there is a loss of cultural tradition with food allergies. At least for my Italian tradition. But this year I duplicated the item , but far far more importantly, I duplicated the love and delight I experienced as a child by making this simple candy cane cookie and presenting the plate to my son.
I have always said it's not what's on the plate but who's at the table. And this Christmas that's my gift-- knowing how true that is.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


So Thanksgiving has come and gone. I, for one, had a great time and this year only two items on the table were not safe for my son: bocconcini (mouth size mozzarella balls) and caponata (eggplant appetizer) 
Those were there on the antipasto plate --separate ones of course-- because they always are--see below about tradition!

This year we skipped stuffing --last year I made gluten free stuffing and vegetarian stuffing for various members of the gang.  But this year, I skipped it entirely and made rice a la Thanksgiving.  That means, diced Granny Smith apples with the skin; orange dried cranberries, and golden raisins-- all put in the pot with white rice in water and chicken stock.
Although I made far too much-- it was delicious-- and sort of spicy -- perfect with both the turkey and the ham and today, by itself .

But Thanksgiving again got me thinking about traditions and how difficult it is to overlook them.  Around holidays, even in the least food-conscious cultures-- there are traditional foods for certain occasions. And within that larger cultural tradition there are family traditions: being Italian American we always had lasagne or straccitella soup before the turkey, and finocchio (fennel) and roasted chestnuts after. Well, lasagne and egg and cheese soup  don't go on my menu today-- and my question is, do I lose some of my cultural connection by not having the traditional foods grace my table?  What does it mean to NOT be able to pass on those cherished--or silly-- family recipes?

I do feel a loss, a loss of connection to my history, and a loss in general to my cultural tradition, in a way that is, well, American. As we become one nation, the melting pot of the world, will we lose these traditions anyway? Am I bothered because in my particular family we cannot continue those food/culture connections for a very particular reason, which means it's specific to me, and not the slipping away of tradition in general? Should I feel isolated by the severing of the food traditions-- or am I reading too much into those recipes?

It's a question I continue to think about-- any comments or ideas-- let me know how you feel.

Monday, August 27, 2012

it's been a while

Sorry I've been out of the blogoshpere.  no excuses at all.
This summer has been one for trying new foods for our family: lentil have been added as has tuna fish (albeit the imported kind without milk products -- check out a tuna label, soy and milk are present in most of the familiar brands--BumbleBee, Chicken of the Sea, store brands.
And there was blueberry jam and duck breast with chives and orange juice.
There was spaghetti sauce-- or if you're Italian, pork gravy-- made with pork neck bones and country ribs, simmered in a garlic and a little olive oil.

i've started using Canola oil --for frying chicken tenders it's great.  It is not heavy and provides lower saturated fats and lots of Omega-6 benefits as well.

There was a taste test --ALL of which had been approved by an allergist and nutritionist --of salmon...
well the smell was too much, although there were no reactions.

So, we've got a couple more items in the larder, to incorporate into everyday meals-- as well as a couple of items that are on the safe list, which means if mushrooms are in the soup, no longer a need to avoid--even if no one likes them enough to put mushroom gravy on the roast.

Second year for college is up coming-- and more on that later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Newly diagnosed

I just heard from a young mom whose 11 month old has been diagnosed with food allergies-- multiple food allergies.

Remember how overwhelming that felt?  The list of DON"Ts so long you couldn't even finish it in one sitting.  The pages of  AKAs for common foods--like casein is milk or watch out for marzipan...

I know it's better today than nearly 20 years ago when I first heard this diagnosis, but it doesn't change the heart pounding fear that YOU will make a mistake and your child will get sick, or worse.

All those feelings, including helplessness, came rushing back as I sat talking with this young mom.  I told her that this certainly can be done, that there are lots of resources-- and sent her immediately to FAAN site to print those "How to Read a Lablel" lists!
And I told her the truth-- it can be tough.  But doable.

Suggestions I had:

  • Dedicate one shelf in the refrigerator to food allergic child.  Label it.  NOTHING goes on that she can't eat.
  • Breathe
  • Make a list of all the foods she CAN eat
  • Ask your doctor and nutritionist lots of questions
  • Find a support group
  • Keep a packet of baby wipes in your purse to wipe other kids' hands, tables, etc
  • When in doubt--DON"T

We're going to have coffee, so I can hand over my list of go-to brands and easy foods to throw in the diaper bag-- it's been a while, but the concept of "transportable" never goes away.

We can do this together-- one sharing to another-- and learning from each other's experiences-- plus I get to hold the baby!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Now Here This and July 4th

I went to the musical Now. Here. This.   It's a small show with a big emotional punch-- Thomas Merton the religious philosopher of the early 20th century had a theory that we should try to center ourselves in the Now. And be Here. and focus on This.  -- (and yes four crazy funny smart folks made a musical about this concept)
 It's a wonderfully big idea for three words.  Enjoy the moment, the present company, the now.
Not a new idea, but one that was packaged in a way I understood.
  I spent the week trying to slow down, breathe and see what was in front of me. It helped my perspective-- of different we all are, and that we can share the moment, but in our own ways of being and visions--which brings more to the table.
What --you didn't think I'd forget about food did you? Of course there's a table, preferably a dining table where all of us, with our different worlds and our different desires can come to the fore.

And sometimes we have to see that present-- the world where we are helping and sharing and being there for each other-- and see the world from the varied perspectives of those around our tables...

Happy July 4th--be it fireworks and friends or the beach and family or Uncle Vanya and a peaceful city (like me)

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Well, we're planning a vacation-- so I'll be away from the blog.  We are taking a cruise, which I find is really solid for a food allergic family.  The staff are attentive, and make special dinner; the cross-contamination issue is thoroughly understood-- the salad bars on these ships allow no spillage of the egg slices into the beans... and the lunch buffets always include a carved plain meat and vegetables-- plus there's a burger and fry bar. (and that's the only thing they fry in the fryer)
 dessert poses more of an issue-- there's jello, and I usually bring chocolate and things-- but better than having to bring or cook all the food.
We;re lucky we found this kind of trip-- and have been to Alaska, St Petersberg, Tallin,Caribbean Islands, Mexican ruins, Tivoli Gardens, and Bernuda.
can't wait to see the underground caves...

Saturday, June 9, 2012


The pirate's curse title of this post is because today I was reminded again, that every day is like starting over.  Even with friends who know about your kid's allergy--and have for years-- they have to be reminded, you have to provide food, and all is not copacetic when it comes to parties and BBQs and days in the country.

I'm just venting to my people here who get what I'm saying and feel what I'm feeling. What's the name of that movie where every few minutes the world stars anew, and all old information and memory is gone...
that's what it felt like today...when friends forgot about providing the safe food they usually do, and it just felt crummy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My child is about to return home from college and some friends and I were chatting over this long holiday weekend as the question came up: while he w  as away, did we eat all the foods he can't? It's a good question -- so why do I say it in hushed tones.  Did we or didn't we and if we did --was it wrong?   For years we have all adhered to strict avoidance, kept foods out of our homes, not cooked certain items. So when the barn doors are opened-- do we run?  I think there's a certain amount of guilt accompanying eating foods your kids can't. Foods that you may have yearned for. Foods that were family traditions. Foods that easy to find in a train station or easy to pick up after work.    We've all had that moment: the wouldn't- it -be -so -easy. But we all stop and regroup. And hope our food allergic kid didn't see the wistfulness in our eyes. Because they don't get the choice.  They have to do the right thing every minute of every day, so it feels wrong for us adults to wish for something different for ourselves.     So did we eat foods my kid can't eat-- yes. We went out to dinner for Thai. I made spaghetti at home.  Did we feel guilty-- not exactly. But certainly we felt odd, out of practice in some way, and we found what we had always believed in, mantra like: it's not the food that makes the meal it's the people around the table. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


FAAN and FAI merge!

Great news that FAAN and FAI will merge-- I mean why not have one premiere organization that we can all support: FAAN can be the education and information branch and FAI can find funds to support research and legislation. We should all be singing with one voice--especially in Washington and with State regulators. So I am all on board.

And aside from this news, i hope you all are doing well. It's time for summer plans and camp decisions and that means health forms and long talks with camp dining services and the like.

Thinking about food does take up much of our time, and as the latest FAAN blogger mom notes-- it's worth the smile on our kids' faces.
But let's acknowledge too that it's time consuming and stressful. Not only do we have to think about what to bring, but we have to do the shopping, the preparation, and the planning for the event itself.

I had this realization again, recently. Since my son's at college and dealing with his allergies on his own, I've not been in the thick of it. But I went for a visit and had gotten tickets to a baseball game. I knew the French fries were safe, as were a couple of the bratwurst/hot dog items--but I know my son isn't that comfortable trying new items at a ball park. So I found a supermarket near my hotel and bought cold cuts, and cut up veggies-- which were great for the ride home from the game, since no kid --nobody really--wants to eat carrot sticks when everyone else is eating nachos...

But this one little trip to the grocery reminded me, again, that food allergies are a full-time job. For us, for our kids. It helps to know we're not alone, and that we don't have to re-invent the wheel each day. But we should also remember to reach out for support, step back and get some perspective, and try not to feel isolated by the everyday work of it all.

And--coming soon to this blog-- RECIPE BUILDER-- after all this time cooking without the Big Eight, I am ready to help build easy, family friendly recipes for other families. Email me at or leave a comment for more information.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Food Allergy Luncheon

Isn't great to get together with friends WHO GET IT!

-what a relief to be with people who get it, who believe you, who understand that the slightest bit can be harmful, and who are full of positive energy, and recipes, and tips on how to get through the rough spots.

At the amazing Food Allergy Initiative lunch ( I saw a moving video of teens talking about their allergies and how they'll feel when they go away from home:
One cute guy said: I'll have better things to worry about than my allergies-- like my classes. 
And one young teen said: I'm so lucky to be a girl-- we get to have a great fashion accessory to carry our Epi-Pens and Benedryl...
Is that the best!

And this week I spent time with friends who both have sons going off to college-- and we talked about what to bring, how much to text in the first week, when to cry (and when not to) as well as
I told them I send bulk items from Amazon-- this week I sent Enjoy Life CocoLoco Chewy bars --and to get  free shipping I added a bubble gun.  It's Spring--what kid doesn't want a bubble gun!
 And they told me that the new Rice Chex cereal is good, and I told them that the blue Peeps have milk-- FYI only the yellow chicks don't-- 
THEY GET IT-- and it buoys me up every time.

So whether it's a support group with regular meetings; reading a food allergy blog; going to a conference or a luncheon or just calling a friend-- food allergies are much more manageable with  people who get it.  

 Reaction alert -- Kingsmill Brown Rice bread-- even tho the listed ingredients were fine, and when I called the customer service line--they confirmed all ingredients.
   I  have to say the Kingsmill/PaneRiso people were great on the phone.
The woman read all the ingredients, including trace; looked up what kind of "caramel coloring" they use (dairy free and all natural) and even looked up what the cellulose is (made from denatured tree bark....)
Son was fine-- but won't eat that bread again.

Monday, April 16, 2012


In my city it's summer-- should only be spring, but it's summer with a high of 82 and humidity-- means lots of flowers and people in shorts-- and gets me thinking of summer foods-- and my goal to learn how to make a good granita (crushed coffee ices like in Italy) and fruit sorbet. I am looking for good recipes-- and easy too-- I am not very skilled at desserts- but maybe I'll have better luck with icey things than baked goods.

And, a small victory-- the mini marts at my son's college will now start selling plain rice cakes--a favorite snack of his.
Why is that a victory-- because before now these marts only sold "popcorn' or 'caramel' flavors-- the popular flavors. But my son advocated, and the dining services people listened and worked on it and found a supplier to provide these 'less popular' plain brown- rice cakes that are safe for him.
I'm curious if these rice cakes will be less popular, knowing that healthy snacks and whole grains are all the rage--for only the best reasons-- among everyone, college students included.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Holiday Time --Again

It’s Monday morning and you’re doing the final shopping for ______________(insert a Holiday here )and your –mother—aunt—cousin-- calls and says “I’m making strudel for the holiday dessert and I know that Johnny is allergic to nuts, but it really doesn’t taste good without them, so I just wanted you to know.”

You hang up the phone –and (circle one)

A. Scream B. Cry C. Laugh D. Shake your head E. All of the above

All of the above is the correct answer – and then you get the baking mix from the cupboard and read about how to make a strudel.

This is a typical holiday conversation for a food allergic family. We’ve all been there, and we all know what it feels like to NOT be able to make that special family recipe for a holiday meal. Well, as Loretta famously told Ronny in Moonstruck “Snap out of it!”

This is our life.

And this is especially true around holiday celebrations when ritual meals, steeped in tradition , are the standard fare. Food allergies can cut us off those traditions, memories—whatever you want to call those remembered moments from our past-- and not allow us to make those dishes.

But we can’t. And neither can my mother or my Aunt Sadie. Instead, I can make a menu that does not include allergens—and no one will know the difference. I can ask Cousin Pesky to bring a green salad—since that would be ‘easier’ for her—and ditch the strudel altogether. I may feel a pinch at giving up a family tradition, but what really makes the meal a tradition is that we gather our family and close friends to share it. That part doesn’t change.

As parents we must smooth the way for a happy holiday. People may mean well, but don’t have as much practice at keeping our children safe—or people may not want to change their habits. Whichever the case, your child will have a happy and safe holiday because you –and possibly only you—make the effort to prepare and bring a special meal or host a worry-free fete. That you must think ahead, prepare, and possibly reorganize tradition—that is a given in the food allergic household.

But, above all, we must remember that --while the menu may need to change-- the message of these holiday meals does not. What we are eating should not be as important as who we are eating it with— as well as the laughter and gusto we bring to the table—no matter if it’s ravioli or rice cakes and jam.

The love, the sharing, the connection are what truly matters and there is no substitute for that.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

May contain and other Food labeling statements-- do we buy or not

Food Allergy medical conference produced lots of good information --the excerpt below is from AAAI 's research abstracts on their website (link below)
it's about a topic near to my heart-- 'May Contain " and other labels-- here's their preliminary study results--my comments in bold italic

"Precautionary statements varied considerably in their effectiveness in deterring consumer purchasing with the statement “not suitable for” resulting in more than 80% of consumers not purchasing the food."
I've never seen this label actually-- maybe it's Canadian, and I am not. Canada has a more finely tuned ear to the voice of food allergic people-- and "Not suitable" is more direct than "May Contain"
"However, the precautionary statement “packaged in a facility that also packages products containing [allergen]” deterred purchasing in only 40% of directly affected from the general population, in 76% from the database of children with peanut allergy and advocacy groups, and in 73% of the indirectly affected. "

The statement below -- again from the research at the AAAI conference speaks directly to EDUCATION-- Those of us who are educated in Food Allergies, and who have some knowledge of the danger, are MORE VIGILANT.

"The directly affected from peanut allergy registry or the allergy advocacy associations and the indirectly affected were similarly vigilant; both were more vigilant than the directly affected randomly sampled from the general population."

So we should continue to educate educate educate-- that makes us-- and our all our children-- more safe.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

College visiting

College has been wonderful for my son. But with food allergies not so hot.
The problem is proteins. With multiple allergies finding proteins without sauces and breaking may pose a challenge. What options are there? A few
Go to a grocery to purchase cold cuts or beans(While Foods market has juice box containers that arête package kidney beans. And there's always can openers. )
Send foodstuff to your child. I am notorious for shipping 36 individual containers of Cheerios via Amazon). It's amazing what is now packages for individual use or in resealable packets. Olives! Black olives!
Get a micro fridge
That way your child can have some options. Oatmeal. Rice packets. Popcorn. A place to store food. Baked potato
Some times foods/proteins are there and one just has to find them. Kosher stations are often a good source for food allergic kids. Possibly vegan--but tofu and chickpeas are high on I greediest lists for that cuisine.

My point is dining hall experiences are not as srraightforward as restaurants can be. And yes it's a lot to add along with new friends and classes and living on ones own -- but that's life for our kids and we can help by being the support the springboard for them.