Monday, November 18, 2019

Holiday Thoughts for the Food Allergic Family

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 make them.  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.

Happy Thanksgiving!image.png

Friday, October 18, 2019

NEW recipe for Revised--that is Food Allergy Friendly--Gumbo

The weather turned cooler, and all the magazines were starting with Halloween cookies and Thanksgiving sides--- too soon I thought.
So, instead I thought soup or stew --but something new.
And as I leafed through some cookbooks and took a look at what I had in my cabinet, I thought of gumbo.  This version is safe for the Big Eight, plus sesame and is pretty easy to make.

 Chicken Gumbo: Food Allergy Works-style

4-5 chicken thighs with bone and skin
4-5 drumsticks with bone and skin

1 large onion, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1inch rounds

1 28oz  can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cans (15 oz cans) kidney beans
1/ 16 oz bag of fraozen diced chopped okra

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
teaspoon File powder(optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in olive oil in a medium hot pot-- large enough to hold all ingredients
As onions become see-through, add in the chicken and turn up heat to medium high/high
--be careful of flying spatters as the chicken skin will pop.
Brown the chicken on all sides-- about 15 minutes total

Add in the diced tomatoes with a slotted spoon--reserve the juice
Turn heat to medium high 
Add in carrots
Add in file powder, salt and pepper -- I'm generous on the pepper

Let this simmer together for 10-15 minutes, adding in the tomato reserve liquid at intervals

Add in the okra and bay leaves and simmer for another 10 minutes

Chicken should be getting very soft--
Stir a number of times and keep simmering another 10 minutes or until chicken is nearly falling off bone

Add in kidney beans and stir
Simmer for another 10 minutes and then turn off heat

Keep on stove, with pot cover tilted to let heat escape

Stir occasionally to mix it all up

Serve with rice or safe bread for your family 

This meal keeps in the refrigerator --and deepens in flavor-- for a couple of days.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Email your Food Allergy Frustrations!

So, last month, I finally got fed up-- pun intended!-- with the NYTimes Food section which never acknowledges food allergies, much less publishes anything about them.
  Actually, that's not true-- last year there was an excellent article on food labels and how crazy-making they are, with "may contain"and "processed not he same line as" and "made in the same facility as"-- you know what I'm talking about.

 THAT article was really good, but in general no mention is made of allergens or reactions or substitutions for even common ingredients like nuts of dairy.

So, I sat down and composed an email to the writer Melissa Clark--whose recipes I always like. But, more importantly, I have always liked the upbeat "voice" in her writing and the acceptance of real world constraints, like time, affordability, accessibility of items as well as how difficult the dish is to make.  In general, I always like Melissa Clark's columns.
  So I wrote to her, noting that I was not a nutcase--but acknowledging that nutcases often say they are not crazy.  And, I laid out my beef [yes, pun intended]: Why didn't the NYTimes ever acknowledge food allergies or food allergic people when 15 million of the eating public deals with food allergies every day.

I wrote one morning, never expecting an answer-- but I got one a day later-- and, her response was lovely. She noted that food allergies must be hard to live with, understood my frustrations, and vowed to tell her editor that food allergies matter.

Of course, over the next couple of weeks Clark published [unintentionally of course] two recipes that were safe for my family to eat! I immediately wrote to tell her; and again received a lovely email back, hoping we would enjoy the meals she had published the recipes for. 
[We did.] --and a note here: my family is dealing with the Big 8 plus sesame--so the recipe jungle is a little more complicated to navigate than if we had only a couple to cook around.  [Not that even a couple is easy--especially when milk, wheat and nuts seem to be the extra added deliciousness in every dish conceived!]

So, while there have been no more allergen-acknowledged recipes, I do feel that people listen, people are concerned and can be educated--if we persist and push the conversation forward--always with a smile.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sample Food Allergy Letter to School Nurse -

 Sample Food Allergy Letter to School Nurse-- Preliminary to Meeting

Dear Ms. Y:

I wanted to touch base with you as these health forms are returned since CXX, my son, has severe, but controlled food allergies. I hope that what I've sent along doesn't feel like overkill-- I felt that you should have a variety of ways to put the information in your files.

I would like to come in and talk to you about CXX's allergies and hand over medications--whatever date is convenient for your schedule.  Our pediatrician, MXX, is available for further information if necessary and has told me that CXX will be in very capable hands at Independent School.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to call me at 877-4724.


Jody Falco
(re: CXX, Kindergarten 98-99)