MEL: Multiple-allergies and mealtimes
When my 4th child was diagnosed with allergies to milk, eggs, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, kiwi fruit and mustard, my first thought should have been for her wellbeing.
Instead, all I could think was 'Does that mean we can't have cake anymore?!'
Clearly I'm a terrible parent, but the wider point is that a food allergy diagnosis for one child affects the whole family. And once I was over my cake grief, I couldn't imagine a future where one child was continually deprived of childhood treats while the other kids carried on eating ice-cream. So how was I going to manage it?
Sound familiar? Well here's how I juggle the needs of allergic and non-allergic kids. Oh and I'll tell you how I solved the cake problem. Hopefully some of it will be useful and if you have any tips to share, don't hold back!
Menu planning and kitchen re-arranging
If you're prepared to cook separate meals every evening to meet your family's needs, then I salute you. But I'm essentially lazy and decided it was easier to find meals that are safe for my daughter but which my other kids can sprinkle with cheese. So pasta dishes and soups are get-out-of-jail-meals as are - whisper it - chips and beans.
In our house it would be impractical to stop buying milk and eggs but - because anaphylaxis and nuts get on far too well - we don't have Brazil nuts or hazelnuts in the house.
In the refrigerator, my daughter has her own shelf for her dairy free margarine, coconut milk, etc and woe betide the family member who puts cheese on it by mistake.
In the kitchen, there's a designated cupboard for my daughter's biscuits, treats and edible treasures. She loves having it and all the more so because it makes her siblings jealous. Look, when you've got allergies you gotta take the wins where you can get 'em!
Learning to say 'no'. (To all your
Children with allergies are used to hearing 'no, you can't have that'. And there are times when my other kids suffer too. If I've forgotten an allergy-friendly snack and there's nothing on the menu for my daughter, then it's 'no' for everyone. The howls and protests aren't pretty, but no-one said allergies are fair, right?
Online shopping, I LOVE you! (Hello
The price of specialist allergy food is horrible, but it's a necessary evil. Instead of scrabbling around on the supermarket 'free from' shelves, I'm a fan of Goodness Direct ( http://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/cgi-local/frameset/script/home.html) and Dietary Needs Direct. http://www.dietaryneedsdirect.co.uk/. It's encouraging to see how many good products are coming onto the 'free from' market. Get spending!
It's ok to cry about allergies
However hard you try, you can't cure the allergies and there will be days when your child is really, REALLY fed up of being 'different'. Those days are tough. My advice? Sit down and cry together. You'll both feel a bit better. And after a good cry? You need cake. Which brings me to my final point...
Don't grieve for cake. Get baking!
Do you like a sturdy fruit cake? Or are you more chocolate sponge? Then it's good news. Because remember my uncharitable 'does-that-mean-I-can't-have-cake-anymore' thought? Well, my cake addiction is strong and I've spent the last six years making egg free, dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, soy free, nut free cake, bread, biscuits and desserts.
So if your child has just been diagnosed with allergies, don't worry. You can still fill your boots (and theirs) with cake and good stuff! Head over to: www.piginthekitchen.co.uk. :-)