Making the World Hospitable (to Folks With Food Sensitivities)
Imagine being at a banquet with friends, loved ones, & lots of beautiful, fragrant food. Now, imagine that you cannot eat any of the food you see. Everyone around you can eat the delicious entrees, sauces, breads, etc. But if you eat them, it will make you very sick, & could even bring about your demise.
If you are one of the many of us who have developed food sensitivities, or if you are vegetarian, vegan, paleo, or if you have a not-so-mainstream way of eating for any reason, you probably don’t have to imagine this scenario, because you have lived it already. In fact, everywhere you go, you are surrounded by foods you are unable to eat, many of which aren’t so great for anyone else, either.
Now, imagine you have a severe food sensitivity and you are 4 years old. Or 9, or 13. Perhaps you are the parent of such a child. Maybe, if someone gives your child a chicken nugget she breaks out in a rash, or has abdominal pain for a week, or begins to think irrationally, crying hysterically for no apparent reason. For a family like this, the big world is not such a welcoming place; it’s more like a mine field.
So, what can we do to help our sensitive friends? Or those who have chosen different ways of eating? Here is a simple suggestion: We can offer a few items that are simply prepared, single ingredients, clearly labeled, & can be assembled. I know this does not fit every occasion, but it often works well. A “Mexican food bar,” for example, can be easier to navigate for someone who is gluten-free or vegetarian. Separate dishes of meat, beans, rice, cheese, vegetables, & simple condiments can make it possible to serve different needs.
In the case of children’s gatherings, I wonder if we’d do everyone a favor by offering things like baby carrots, raisins, & nuts (if there are no nut allergies!) to everyone. Kids can become rather fixated on the 1 or 2 kids who have something different. But really, must we give the whole group white flour based crackers? They are not helping anyone, nutritionally. Yes, I know the crackers are cheaper! I just believe we could make an investment in the health of the next generation, & at the same time, serve the families who would like to, or need to eat healthier foods.
I personally know several families who would like to take the plunge; who believe their children have food sensitivities, but find it daunting to have to take the children to places like preschool & church, where they are constantly bombarded with foods they would not be able to eat, should they discover it is really necessary to discontinue them. Several of these children are experiencing psychological symptoms, in addition to things like rashes.
This weekend, I am going to prepare lunch for a group of women who have special dietary needs, including myself, at a weekend seminar. Part 2 of this post will let you know what I made, & how it turned out. Until then, enjoy your weekend!