My Two-Thirds Kitchen

A few weeks ago I posted about my daughter’s newly determined food sensitivities, and my quest to turn my house into the gluten-free, soy-free, basically vegan place my daughter needs it to be. I’m here to report my progress as chief home ec officer of my home. The results have surprised me, so they may too surprise you.

In the weeks since my last post, my daughter’s diet has been cleared of gluten, dairy, soy, beef, turkey, garlic, cashews, peanuts and a number of random things like codfish (that, at least, was an easy one). I’ve scoured our local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, independent natural food stores, and the natural food aisles of every big box store in the city. I’ve joined online forums, read food allergy blogs, and consulted my vegan cousin. I’ve informed her school, her Sunday school teachers and her Girl Scout leaders. I’ve also reorganized my kitchen.

During this month of sorting things out, two defining moments have happened.

Moment One: While at my friend’s house, her daughter ran up and asked my friend if the brownies on the table were safe (4/5 of her family is GF). Heather looked at her daughter and said, “Do I ever make anything you can’t eat?” Her daughter said no, but she was double checking because there were people over and she didn’t know if her mom had made the brownies or someone else.

Stack of pancakes on a stick, with syrup

Moment Two: Two days later, I switched purses before going to our usual church/Sunday school routine. Half way through Mass, I realized I didn’t have anything for my daughter to eat during “coffee and donuts”. To add insult to injury, when we got upstairs for Sunday school, I found out her class was having cupcakes. Thankfully, December is full of candy canes, and her teachers sent her home with a fistful. As a consolation, on the way home,  I told my girl that while I picked up some other items at Target, she could pick a special snack. This Target was not a Super Target, however, so their food choices were minimal. Our quick walk through the grocery aisles netted us a choice between fruit leather and potato chips. That’s it. Those were her choices.


These two experi
ences drove home to me that until Sally Jr. can drive to the store & plan her own meals, this gig is on me. I have to be prepared, otherwise she’ll be stuck with a life full of candy canes, fruit leather and potato chips. If I don’t make our home a safe place, then she doesn’t get any break, ever, from evaluating her food and deciding if it will make her sick.

So, where has it gone from there? I’ve rearranged our kitchen. The refrigerator, the pantry and the cabinets have all been rearranged, so that anything unsafe is out of her reach. This means that we have to reach up extra high to get our breakfast cereal and other assorted carbs, but it means that she can go to the pantry and pick a snack without asking if it’s safe (she’s six, she still pretty much asks me for food, but I’m laying groundwork here). Dinner, every night for the past month, has been completely allergen-free. Weekend/holiday lunches where we sit down together, have been completely allergen-free this month. I’ve found a great pancake recipe that works for the whole family, and have been experimenting with allergen-free baking. We still have items for our personal lunches that she can’t have, but now they are out of sight. My husband and I can access them when we pack lunches in the evening after the kids are in bed. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll ever get my kitchen to be 100% safe, but I think 66% in one month is a good start on the project.

 

9 thoughts on “My Two-Thirds Kitchen”

  1. I had a childhood friend with some severe food allergies. His mom kept dry snacks prepared in plastic baggies on a shelf by the door so that anytime they were going out they could grab a baggie just in case they would be out long enough that snacks were required. If he was going to a party or something he would bring a meal, but if he was just coming over to play for a few hours? He’d bring a baggie to snack from. It worked well for him, and I imagine it gave his parents some peace of mind, knowing that although they always informed parents of his allergies, he wouldn’t be tempted to eat food prepared by someone who might unknowingly cross-contaminate. Your daughter’s situation is a bit different, but the easy-to-grab snacks might be something useful to consider.

  2. LawToddler has a pretty serious egg allergy, and we’re fond of the BabyCakes cookbooks, in case you haven’t already discovered them.  Also, the Ener-G brand egg replacer is pretty good for some things, but not meringues…

    Our biggest challenge is getting my in-laws to take his allergy seriously.  Last Christmas, they hosted the holiday for the family, and EVERY.SINGLE.DISH had egg in it.  I was livid.  So, this Thanksgiving, we wound up hosting and making everything, just so we knew he’d be OK if he wanted to try anything.

     

    1. My grandma was much the same way when I was growing up. Most of my allergies and intolerances didn’t show up until I was in college, but it still took her quite some time to catch on that I wasn’t trying to be rude when I turned down food.

      Fortunately, she has turned a corner (after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, so now clearly things are Serious Business…). If we are going out to eat, she asks me if the restaurant is okay. If I am staying with her, she runs dinner plans by me. This was right before she moved to the same town as my parents, though, so now we generally do meals with my mom.

    1. Uuuugh that pisses me off so much. As an adult who developed food intolerances later in life, I do sometimes make a choice to eat a food that I know I can’t digest (heck, my sister, who is lactose intolerant, hosts lactose parties where she and her other lactose intolerant friends get together and eat ice cream, then have a sleep-over, because no-one can judge them if they’re ALL farting up a storm). The difference here is that I’m an adult and can weigh those decisions properly. Kids can’t do that.

      … so, yeah, that makes me super angry.

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