I love to entertain, to feed my friends. I love the discussions that happen during mealtime,
to hear people’s stories. In my past life – prior to my allergy diagnosis – I created meals without any consideration for allergies or dietary considerations. I didn’t know anyone that had an allergy, at least that had admitted it to me, and it wasn’t even part of my thought process. My biggest concern at that time was that I enjoyed food that is spicy, some might say down right ‘hot’, and I didn’t want the food to be so hot that it wasn’t enjoyable.
Now I do my research before meal planning. There are more than allergy considerations. A person may be on a restrictive diet, whether doctor ordered or self-imposed. They may have restrictions due to religious disciplines or cultural norms. Somechoose a plant-based diet, others prefer to be vegan. They may have a food sensitivity, which is different from an allergy. Some people just don’t like certain foods. My husband had an unfortunate tuna experience as a child, and now he won’t eat fish. If there are no restrictions except for my own, then I don’t talk about the fact that the meal they are eating is gluten, dairy, egg, and pea free.
What I don’t appreciate is when someone doesn’t tell me there is a problem until they arrive. Or worse, until we are ready to eat. The last time that happened is when someone told me that they wanted to avoid refined sugar. I had made a desert to share with everyone. Fortunately, I had some fresh fruit in the fridge. It was a small and simple gesture, but my guest was very appreciative. I was just lucky that I had something so that they could enjoy desert with everyone.
Considering my past behavior, I’m not sure why I’m surprised when the tables are turned and I’m not asked about my food issues. What bothers me the most is when we’re asked to dinner, they know about my allergies, and then completely ignore what that means. It puts me on the defensive. I am forced to ask about every single food item. I ask to look at food labels, sometimes being reduced to going through the trash can. I ask what ingredients were used in a recipe.
People may know about my allergies, but what does that mean? Was mayonnaise used? What about cheese? Soy sauce contains wheat, so if soy sauce is an ingredient in the product – such as teriyaki – then I need to know that. Plus people just forget. The corn on the cob was grilled in foil, with butter. Oops. The steak has been dusted with a seasoning combination – did you look at the ingredient list? I remember the first time that someone told me that they needed to be gluten-free. They
were coming to dinner and I didn’t know what that meant. I really struggled with the menu. Looking back, I was lucky that it was just gluten. I took the safe route and prepared fresh meat and vegetables. I found a gluten-free desert mix (I kept the box to prove that) and even found some gluten-free beer.
Having experienced that, I hesitate having people cook for me. It’s just too much of a
burden for most. Please don’t think that I think that I’m better than everyone else. I just take the
opportunity to ask and then make the adjustments necessary. Of course, I’m happiest when I’m able to use my creative process to design a delicious meal. And I’m gratified when the meal is enjoyed, without thinking about the substitutions that were necessary.
And I get to enjoy their stories.