Most people know at least one friend with food allergies. At some point, one might even want to try cooking a meal these friends can eat. But where does one start?
One does need to know that for people with multiple allergies, having someone go to the effort of making food that is safe for them to eat is one of the best things you can do for them. It shows you truly do care. On the flip side – never, ever tell them “we tried to make food without but it was too hard.” No matter what you did manage to serve – it is those words that they will remember. They live with the allergies, they know it’s hard. Instead – present it as a positive “I made these ones specially for you.” Or “this is what I know is safe for you.”
Firstly – ask questions. Ask for ideas, what to avoid, etc. People with allergies are used to it, and would rather you ask if something is safe, rather than having to find out that you’ve used an ingredient that means they can’t eat what you’ve made. Some people, depending on their reactions to the food will fudge at this point, as it’s always appreciated when someone tries to cook for them. Others, will have to decline, leaving the host & the guest in the aqkward position of “what do we do now?”
Next up – read ingredients labels. So many things contain hidden allergens, it’s easy to accidentally serve one without knowing. To make it more confusing, some allergens are hiding under other names. Again, when in doubt – ask your friend, and or check with Google. The simple phrase “does X contain gluten” (or other allergen) can be very helpful in looking up items online.
Have the recipe & ingredient labels handy. When someone is used to having to watch what they eat, it’s second nature to check the ingredients. Being able to double check what you’ve used, can alleviate the whisper in the back of the mind “am I sure they didn’t use X?” and let them actually enjoy what you’ve made.
Never, ever assume someone is avoiding foods simply due to a fad diet and not necessary health choices. Some food reactions may be manageable enough that people do not need to be on high alert and can eat the food as a treat. Others can create absolute misery for a few hours – or even a few days, or at the worst – be fatal. But, it is their choice what foods are worth the reaction. Not yours. When we were first married, my husband didn’t fully understand how severe food allergies can be. But having seen first hand how my body reacts and how hard some reactions are on me – he’s become very diligent in reading labels and making sure foods are safe for me to eat.
Have fun. It’s often a new adventure when you foray into the world of different cooking. It can open new doors and help you find new favourite foods. And have fun with friends at the same time.