Every day, people live with a food allergy or the responsibility of care for someone with a food allergy. Up to 10% of adults and children have a food sensitivity (The association of UK Dietitians (BDA), 2015) and the consequences of an allergy can be severe.
Rookie, from Wombie’s Kitchen has a son with a dairy allergy. She shares some of her experiences and challenges around the lack of understanding about allergy, and its severity from day-to-day shopping, parties at friends’ houses and holidays.
“Supermarket shopping can be time-consuming; every label needs to be checked and usually double-checked. Quite often you can’t find all the ingredients you need from one supermarket, so you go to two or more. You get better at this, and woe betide if I forget my glasses. It’s a nightmare and I have been known to accost a shopper or a member of staff to help me read the label!
Eating out is difficult. Often, we are met with looks of confusion when we say we have someone with a dairy allergy. Quite often we’re given a gluten-free menu or a vegan menu. Yes, a vegan menu is suitable, but my son LOVES a burger or grilled chicken. We are better at walking out if the restaurant doesn’t ‘get’ it. If they do not fill us with confidence, we leave. The places where we have had amazing service, and a tasty meal, will be the places we go back to again and again. We will shout about this place to our friends and to the allergy community we belong to.
On holiday, we never go half-board or all-inclusive. All those buffet trays at food time, all that potential for cross-contamination, all the meals where there may not be anything suitable for him to eat. We stay in villas or apartments which have self-catering facilities. It doesn’t mean we eat in all the time, quite the opposite in fact, we all love eating out, especially my allergic son. We take Google translate with us – it’s so useful. It’s not a perfect solution though.
Parties are a minefield. When my son was younger, I took packed lunches as the hosts often didn’t want the extra stress. I understood, although it makes him feel different and left out. Play-date parents needed to be reminded that safe food needed to be cooked on trays covered in foil, to avoid cross-contamination, and that he had his medicine on him if needed. The best ones were with parents who asked questions, no matter how many, and who wanted to make sure he was safe, and that he and I were confident they knew what they were doing. It’s a lot to ask another parent, I get it.
I am so proud of the way my son deals with his allergies and how he navigates them on an everyday basis. There is more work to do, as he will happily skip meals to ensure he’s safe, rather than asking if something is OK. If that is what keeps him safe for now, and that’s how he wants to deal with it, I’m OK with that. The confidence to speak for himself will come in time.
Allergies need to be taken seriously. If this affects you, or someone you know there is hope. There is more awareness, some restaurants are making the effort and supermarkets are offering more options too. And there are caterers, like me, making the effort to ensure that people are treated and fed equally.”
Rookie has set up her business Wombie’s Kitchen to cater with consideration for those with dietary requirements. Check out Rookie’s recipe for shortbread biscuits, a delicious for all at: https://www.wombieskitchen.co.uk/post/shortbread-biscuitsFor more information on dealing with allergies, please visit: https://www.allergyuk.org/