Many get anxiety when it comes to food allergies and the holidays. While food allergies can be daunting when it comes to gatherings, they need not be. As a child, this Allergic Traveler always went to her grand parents for the holidays. Out of 18 years of holidays (Christmases, birthdays and Thanksgivings), I can only remember getting sick once. My late aunt was the culprit. She was of the generation that did not understand food allergies. When I started eating a dish that she made and had an immediate reaction, my mother asked, “Are you sure there are no eggs in that?” Her response was “well maybe just a little.” I was then rushed to the hospital. Fast forward and everything was fine. The next challenge in my life came with my in-laws. Again, they never knew anyone who had food allergies. I never got sick However, frequently I would end up at the grocery store during the actual meal trying to find something I could eat. The point here is that I get it, holidays can be hard. I am here to tell you though that they do not need to be.
Everyone gets to eat!
I am a big advocate of making sure that everyone has something to eat. I pride myself on making dishes that can accommodate those that are gluten free, dairy free, pork free, or sugar free or vegans, or…. Of course, all the dishes that I make need to accommodate to my dietary restrictions as well. The dishes cannot have any eggs, nuts, shellfish, mushrooms, pork, soy, sesame or garlic in them. I am not one of those that can cook something even though I am allergic to it. The reason is because most of my allergens I cannot even touch. For instance, you would never find a pecan pie at my house because I am allergic to nuts. There are even some of my allergens that are airborne to me, eggs and shellfish. So, I cannot touch, ingest or smell some of my most sensitive food allergens.
With all these restrictions, you would think we ate a bucket of ice or a bag of air for the holidays. Not true! There is always something for everyone at my house. I am a big fan of experimenting in the kitchen. I believe in the art of substitution. For instance, if something needs to be dairy free, then I will substitute olive oil for butter. The trick to substitution is that those without food allergies cannot tell the difference.
My goal, whenever I entertain, is to make sure everyone can eat. And that everyone feels safe. No one is going to the hospital or grocery store on my watch!
Tips on surviving the holidays
Here are some tips for having something for everyone during the holiday meal –
- Ask your guests before their arrival of any dietary restrictions. If they have restrictions, invite them to bring their own dish as well. Let them know you will have a dish for them, but many feel safe if they can also bring their own.
- Make your dishes with as few ingredients as possible. The fewer the ingredients, the easier it is to play with the necessary substitution. For example, you can substitute fish sauce for soy sauce. I promise you, people cannot tell the difference when its cooked.
- Always have a vegan option. Vegan options will work for those that are dairy free as well as those who do not eat pork for instance.
- Make a spicy dish. I believe in making a spicy dish and a sweet dish as it will accommodate to both groups. Think of it this way, not everyone drinks wine, some like beer. It’s the same thought process.
- Make a sweet dish. See above.
- Have a card for each dish with the ingredients. People like to know what they are eating. Some will even take pictures and try to replicate your recipe at their house.
- Have a salad and fruit salad with dressing on the side. While salads are not really a creative dish, they can be a life saver to someone who has multiple allergies.
Happy holidays everyone! Don’t worry you got this! I have faith, now you need to!
What has worked for you in the past? What would you add to this list?
Author: Tarah Jakubiak
After working for 20 years in the corporate world, Tarah Jakubiak founded Allergic Traveler. Jakubiak, president of Allergic Traveler has traveled the world since the age of two. She has been to 25 countries and 34 states. Jakubiak has been to all inclusives, gone on cruises, gone camping; backpacking through Europe, gone to the big cities, and little hidden gems. She has multiple food allergies but it does not stop her from seeing the world. Jakubiak is allergic to eggs, nuts, mushroom, soy, garlic, corn, sesame, potatoes, celery, shellfish, chicken, pork, peanuts, and many fruits. She is originally from Montreal, Quebec and now lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband.