Friday, January 28, 2011

Cooking for more of the crowd

(Note: in the interest of brevity I will use the term "food allergies" to include people with both allergies and intolerances. But there is a difference; please know it)
For any food allergy sufferer, one of the chanciest times is when you are going to an event that involves cooking for a crowd. Potlucks aren't so bad, because the allergic person can just bring a dish they KNOW they can eat ( I often bring two, a main dish and dessert). But when going to a social event where food will be provided, it gets trickier. For me, that often involves church events, and believe me, your typical Lutheran Hot Dish is NOT dairy allergy friendly. Now it's true, you can't please everyone all the time, and with the wide variety of allergies/intolerances, health, religious, and philosophical eating restrictions out there (not to mention just plain aversions!), you would end up just serving pears and water if you wanted to accommodate them all (Very few people are allergic to pears). People with severe or life threatening allergies will probably just forgoe any food they are worried about. That said, I wanted to compile  a few ways to make group meals a little more accessible.

1 Save the label If you do nothing else, if you bring manufactured food to a potluck or group dinner, save the label until dinner is served. This allows anyone with any kind of concern to make an informed decision.

2 Put it on the side Nuts, cheese, croutons, hard boiled egg, bacon bits, dressing - these are all things that can render a salad off limits to the allergic person. It may take a few more dishes, but leaving these things on the side opens up your salad to darn near everyone. (besides, a pre dressed salad gets limp pretty fast, and you can't really save the leftovers.) It also means picky people will be more likely to eat your salad, and we want people eating their salad.
This also goes for pasta dishes too- just leaving the cheese on the side will allow the dairy intolerant to eat it, as well as people required to watch their cholesterol ( and if the dish has meat, people who keep Kosher).

3 Bring it plain Most people can and will eat chips- if they aren't coated with an allergen. Bring plain salted chips (I like Kettle!), plain tortilla chips instead of nacho cheese ( you can serve nacho cheese sauce on the side) and Fritos instead of Cheetos.

4 Put fresh fruit on the table And I don't mean fresh fruit in a Jello salad, or dressed with a mayo and sour cream sauce. Just plain fruit. We could all stand to eat more of it.

5 Ask. All too often people confuse my dairy allergy for vegetarianism. If they get me something vegan, great. If they get me something lacto-vege, I'm still hungry and they wasted money.

Please let me know if this blog post help you, or if you have ideas I should add.

Author's Note. I'm a dairy allergic/intolerant mom with two lactose intolerant children. I'm also allergic to MSG and maybe peanuts. Fun. Permission to repost, with author credit given.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is the story of a hat.

Originally uploaded by gojirama aka romanylass
A few years ago, when we went to visit family and friends in Fresno, my friend Jenn passed on the book "One Skein" by Leigh Radford. I love the book and it's patterns and it has become my "go-to" book when I need to knit a quick present for someone.

Fast forward to this fall. My friend Carolyn handed down some knitting supplies that had belonged to her mom because, in her words, I was the only person she knew who finished her knitting projects.

Then, my childhood friend Roy and his wife had a baby. Which meant- time to make a quick gift! No time to go to the yarn store! I pulled out the book from Jenn, a skein of the yarn from Carolyn's mom, and hey presto, a hat for a friend's baby.

I love knitting for others, not just because it's an enjoyable way to produce a gift for someone, but because it's a form of Making. If you've read Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series, you''ll understand the reference. If not, let me summarise very quickly and inexactly- whenever we make something with our hands,we push back the darkness/chaos that tears down. That's part of the gift.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Things children have taught me

While I'm by no means any kind of expert, I've worked in some type of child care field for about 18 of my 38 years, in addition to my own kids. While theories vary, I've managed to distill a few things I think are universal- parenting or caregiver, favourite aunt or uncle,  styles aside.

1) How you want the children in your life to speak, patterns are more caught than taught.
This covers SO many things. If you don't want your child to swear, set that example. Then , if your child brings home a swear word, you won't be a hypocrite when you tell him "We don't speak like that in our house".
If you want children to say please and thank you, make sure you are extending the same courtesy to them.
If you want children to have impressive vocabularies, use big words with them. They'll ask if they don't understand a word.
Perhaps most importantly, remember the song from South Pacific. Bigotry is carefully taught.

2) When a little child falls down, don't make a fuss. Usually they are just fine and will only fuss if they can tell their caregiver thinks it's something to get upset about. If they DO need first aid, it will go much smoother if they haven't been unduly upset.

3) Children of all ages need to be with children of all ages. This is a difficult one with the set up in most of our schools, but multi grade classrooms and high school/elementary partnerships are increasing in popularity. Little children need big children to look up to, and older kids may gain even more- the pride from being looked up to, cementing their own knowledge and skills by teaching them, learning how to nurture before they find them selves parents.

4) Good Job has its place, but is overused. Try saying Thank You to a child who does as you ask instead.

5) Our older kids are capable of much more than we expect of them, but our society has for decades been extending childhood. Expect the older children in your life to be mature and they almost always will be.