Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Potluck...with allergies.

Potluck dinners are so fun! It's like domestic dietary anthropology and a party, all mixed up! At least it used to be...before I knew I had an egg allergy.

Let me make a few points clear before we move on:

  1. I am pretty sure I have always had my egg allergy, however, all of my allergies went into high gear after my son was born, and that's when it was (finally, thank God) diagnosed. (Word to the wise, if a doc tries to tell you that you have IBS, go see an allergist. Seriously, there is no need to feel that crappy all the time.)
  2. When I went totally off eggs a few things started happening: I felt loads better, my sensitivity toward eggs increased, and I started dreading restaurants and communal eating parties.

As I prepared for the annual neighborhood block party, I googled for ideas about how to survive a potluck with a food allergy. There was loads of bad advice out there. Including, but not limited to calling the host and requesting that she ask everyone coming to the party to adhere to your particular dietary restrictions for the event. I am going to go ahead and put that in the "uncool" column. Because it is a potluck. As in "luck of the pot", meaning, for the evening you set aside your preferences and and go with the flow.

Unfortunately, a food allergy is not a preference, and not easily set aside. If the event is a small gathering of close friends, and your kid has a serious allergy, (like peanuts=quick death), then yeah, you might need to make a call about that one, or not go. Because it is reasonable to assume that some well meaning adult or child will share something "off limits" with your kid.

Other, more reasonable strategies included asking people to label their dishes, eating before you go and just going for the social part of the party, taking multiple dishes that are safe for your family then only eating those, politely asking that you be able to serve your family first to avoid cross-contamination when the spoons move around. One woman discreetly packed safe foods like allergen-free brownies in her purse for her kids then snuck it onto their plates to guard against cross contamination.

Fortunately for me, my egg allergy is unlikely to cause anaphalaxis, (I still have to carry an epi-pen just in case), and it's easy to spot likely egg containing dishes, anything italian with ricotta cheese, stuffed pastas, meatballs, anything creamy, anything baked. Given the size of the party (huge) I opted for the more discreet approach. My feeling was that if I had to, I could always quietly ask my close friends if their dishes were ok.

I made a panzanella salad I could eat as a meal just in case, and made an eggless cake. My dishes were not allergen free, but they were my allergen free, so I knew there would be something I could eat.

Here's the panzanella:

Mmmmm. It was good.

The eggless cake was also delicious. I now know to use the vinegar and applesauce method, and each time it comes out moist and fluffy.

I topped it with butter cream frosting and lots of sprinkles so everyone would know it was good. I still came home with half a cake and a bunch of salad.

The party was super fun as usual. It is so great to see everyone all in one place and catch up with friends that we don't see regularly. And I had plenty to eat without getting sick. I stuck to the Mexican looking dishes and salads with clear dressings. My personal assistant spent about half an hour running up and down the street with a glow stick, and the rest of the time chatting and flirting like the social butterfly he his. I am so glad we have the kind of neighborhood that throws a potluck and does as bike parade and egg toss...even if I am allergic.



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