Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Surviving Holiday Get-Togethers and Festivals with Food Allergies

Another glorious holiday weekend has come and gone, and hopefully we all made it through without a cross contamination issue. We should all be grateful every time we make it through a weekend where potluck and cookouts rule, which has most of us with food challenges scrambling to achieve normalcy. The dreaded potluck moments, uneducated family member moments, and even our social media woes of pictures and recipes of food we never get to have unless we learn to cook it. Holiday festivals are usually filled with food trucks of glutenous delights like funnel cakes and hot dogs or hamburgers and the fries or onion rings are often in a shared fryer.

The bright side is we are way less likely to get a case of salmonella from hot potato salad or under-cooked meat. But seriously, many people are more likely to become recluse-like to their pals and family members due to the sheer complications. And everywhere, reports are echoed through our community of family members that seem to think we are making up the seriousness of the situation.

The following five tips and solutions to problems posed will hopefully aid you in a less stressful time, or at the very least, share an empathetic shoulder to your challenges.

1. Identifying food at pot luck dinners can be challenging, not to mention someone using the spoon of one dish to spoon another. Most guests are unaware and do so out of being unaware.
Safe Solution: Purchase food tags or set up a table separate which has allergy free foods and have a server there to avoid issues.

2. Most hosts are not aware of the same things you may not be aware of with cooking surfaces. Teflon and non-stick surfaces can absorb gluten proteins as they bake into it. All hands should be washed between preparation and surfaces cleaned thoroughly. Lastly, avoiding the ever present danger of double dipping into butter and spreads is always a high risk assessment.
Safe Solution: You can invite people over to help you make items in your kitchen so you know they are safe.

3. If going to a festival, be sure to vet out the safety of a food truck by speaking to those who are running it. Chances are, if they offer other items which may contaminate your food with whatever allergen, you most likely will want to make a risk assessment based on your specific reactions and sensitivity.
Safe Solution: Bring your own tailgate meal if allowed or eat before meeting everyone.

4. Grills can be cross contamination nightmares, which the grill master is usually not aware of. Not only do you not know what has been in the many rubs and marinades, but you have no idea if bread has ever touched the surface unless it is yours or brand spanking new.
Safe Solution: Purchase a cheap small portable traveling grill and take it with you or host a get-together at home.

5. Family gatherings are a high anxiety situation for most everyone involved. Inevitably someone makes a snarky remark or belittles you for being a pain in their rear. There are even people/family who think it is OK to place peer pressure on you that "just a little bit won't hurt" and make you out to be the seemingly paranoid individual.
Solution: Sometimes people are simply never going to get it. Toxic people are no better than toxic food and sometimes you have to remove yourself from those situations to have a more healthy life. And sometimes, it only takes one family member or friend to make it all feel better, especially a support group friend. :)