Visiting family is wonderful. Well, mostly. They may be our biggest fans as well as our biggest critics. And nothing can go against the grain more than having different habits. Whether it's a food preference or aversion, a life-style change,
religious considerations, or food allergies, visiting family can put pressures and set expectations that you don’t face in your day-to-day routine.
I remember when I decided I was eating too much salt. I was in my early twenties, and I had cut out added salt on everything. When I visited my mother on vacation, she simply wouldn’t hear of it. She had made salted nuts. They were almonds that were coated in salt. Not just a sprinkling, but a thick shell of salt. She thought they were wonderful, and simply would not accept the fact that I had not eaten salt in months. She was able to pressure me like no other person. I finally gave into her constant demands and had one. Just one. It was such a shock to my system that I promptly threw it up. My mother was not amused, and never did understand.
I’m sorry to say that her passing before my allergy diagnosis was a blessing. She would not have understood it. I don’t remember anyone having food allergies when I was growing up. The closest thing were people that were diagnosed with diabetes. My uncle was one of those, and his wife became an expert of cooking without sugar. She learned to make delicious desserts that everyone was excited to eat. Grocery stores carried several types of cookies and sweets, but for the most part they were dry and tasteless. People were so desperate and unable to learn much about diabetic cooking, that they were willing to put up with it.
That is still an issue today for people dealing with allergies. There are some wonderful products available, with more appearing all the time. But there are also many products that just don’t live up to the hype. You need to have the patience to sort through items, try different things, and listen to your friends and people like you. It’s possible to make delicious meals that are safe for your allergy sufferers that will be enjoyed by the entire family. Don’t feel the need to make separate dishes.
Which takes us back to relatives and your food allergies. The first line of defense is speaking honestly with anyone in the immediate family about not being shamed into eating. You may hear the line: “One bite won’t hurt you”. Of course, depending on the severity of your allergies, one bite may kill you. So you need to emphasis that it’s okay to say “no”.
If it’s some place that you visit often, consider storing an air-tight tote there that contains non-perishable foods and snacks. A safe, welcome treat is a wonderful thing when you first arrive, and it’s nice to know that you don’t need to stop at a grocery just before arrival. People are happy to store games and toys for nieces, nephews, and grandkids, but may feel uncomfortable doing the same with foods. Make it easy for your relatives – create and stock your personal food locker that can stay in the pantry or closet between visits.
One thing I prefer is doing the cooking. While I may be in a strange kitchen, they only way I feel safe is to either bring my own food or to prepare the meals. Most hosts are happy to have someone else take on the responsibility of cooking. Don’t be afraid that you are diminishing the hospitality of your hosts. Think of the consequences if you have an allergy reaction.
So the next time you travel over the river and through the woods, grandmother will be equipped to entertain and feed your family without the drama. And that’s a good thing.