Friday, May 6, 2011

Food Allergies for Mother's Day: Welcome to Mom's Diner!

You'd think we'd get out of cooking one day a year, but if your child has severe food allergies, forget it. Actually, the traditional Mother's Day brunch, served buffet style, can be hazardous for many types of food allergies. In my family, we've never gone to big Mother's Day meals in a restaurant since so many breakfast foods have some type of tree nuts due to all of the baked goods and cross-contact. For those of you who deal with egg, dairy and/or wheat allergies, you know how difficult it is to locate an allergy-friendly brunch.

For me, this state of affairs means a lot of cooking and/or baking at home. Often, I prefer it--personally it's not relaxing for me to bring my child to high-risk restaurant situations. I'd rather go eat with the family during a "safe" restaurants downtime when they are more likely to pay attention to special food requests.

Last year, I baked a coffee cake and brought it to a brunch. This year I plan to make the same cake because my family loves it and it looks impressive (streaked with two layers of cinnamon/brown sugar filling) even though it is relatively easy to make. I assume I will be cooking throughout the day even though my husband volunteered to grill at night, as he usually does on the weekends.

Somewhere along the line, I just accepted that I would be doing most of the cooking, when possible. That's been OK for the most part. I've had a lot more control over ingredients and my kids have enjoyed a pretty healthy diet. When I cook, I have the added pleasure of knowing that I am providing some love along with the meals. As my favorite food writer M.F.K. Fisher put it: "One of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few... to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world."

It is in this spirit that I once spent 6 hours making and decorating birthday cakes for my daughter's first big birthday party. She was in kindergarten and had invited every girl in her class plus a few more friends. She wanted a "Groovy Girl" theme -- if you have daughters you've probably seen these colorful, fashionable dolls -- and I needed to create orange, pink, black, purple and yellow frosting. This took me awhile. I also had trouble with the cake writing, since I'm not very good at it and the miniature Groovy Girl dolls I bought for the cake kept sinking into the frosting. Since they were not "true" cake toppers, they were too heavy.

I was exhausted and covered in frosting by the time I finished but I didn't think much about the time it had taken. I shared this story with one of my friends recently and she said "Wow, you must really love your daughter!"

I laughed because a) I guess I do and b) when a 6-hour cake prep doesn't faze you, that's when you know you've got a child with food allergies.

Last week I was reading a newspaper article in advance of Mother's Day that asked authors to chime in with their favorite advice from their mom. My favorite was this quote, taken from Baha'i writings: "When there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time."

That's how I feel about being "forced" to cook on Mother's Day. Kids with food allergies have to be so careful of what they eat, all the time. If I can give my daughter something delicious, something safe so that she can be included with all of us, her happiness makes me happy. It's a gift that keeps on giving, not just on Mother's Day, but all year.


Kim said...

Your last paragraph sums it up beautifully. Happy Mother's Day, indeed.

Lindsay said...

I think you hit the nail on the head regarding time! And it's not just the time spent on cooking or baking (like you said, 6 hours is just 6 hours!). It's time and energy spent reading labels, researching brands, calling restaurants in advance, and being constantly on alert/aware of the food around you or your family members. It can be exhausting! But love compels you to keep your daughter safe and included, and you clearly do a great job at that. Happy Mother's Day, Jenny!

Kim Lutz said...

You made me laugh out loud. It is so true that you know you have a child with food allergies, when cooking for hours doesn't even make you bat an eye! Happy Mothers' Day! Kim

Poker Chick said...

We spend 6 hours a year, at least on the birthday cake. Funnily enough, doesn't occur to us that it's a big deal either. Even kids without food allergies - if you're not spending hours cooking or reading labels, it's something else. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart! Happy mother's day!