Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dessert? Do You Mean That There Is Something That Comes After Dinner?

"People actually order that?" I asked my friend. Since I never order any desserts when I go out to dinner, I forget that many people actually do! I work at an Italian restaurant once a week, and when people are done with their meal, I have to remind myself to ask them if they want any dessert. I find that I am always shocked when people actually order something.  

My surprise is due to the fact that I never go out to eat and order dessert afterward.  Almost all desserts involve something I am allergic to, and in the rare case that a server tells me otherwise, I would never be willing to take the risk!  Desserts are just something that aren't worth messing with!  It is the same with any bakery items.  Bread is the rare exception I occasionally make. Otherwise, nothing I eat ever comes from a bakery!  There are too many nuts, too much cross contamination, and too many unanswerable questions. 

Recently, I visited a few of my favorite places from childhood.  Each place conjured up a happy memory involving food! The first place I visited was a historical village where I had my birthday party and went to summer camp.  I thought back to the simple foods we were taught to make at camp, and the birthday cake for my birthday.  The food though, that stood out in my mind, was the chocolate chip cookies that we always bought at the general store/bakery. At the time when I was there for camp, they only made fresh batches of chocolate chip cookies, and the ingredients were safe.  I didn't have to worry about cross-contamination, because they didn't make anything with nuts.  Sadly, when I went back for a visit, there were many more options, including peanut butter cookies.  Clearly this was a risk I couldn't take!  My solution: go home and make my own chocolate chip cookies! 

They may not have been the exact same recipe, or taste quite as good as I remember the ones I used to eat tasting, but they were still good! 

Another place that I visited was the old bakery in the town that I went to elementary and middle school in.  My mom became friendly with the owner and staff at the bakery, and they could always tell us every ingredient, and make sure food was cross-contamination free.  It was wonderful, because it was a place that didn't have many foods with nuts, and they were always extremely nice and accommodating.  I could eat focaccias, breads, cup cakes, cookies, and cakes without worrying.  Going there, was always a special treat, because I knew I could eat safely.  It has been years since then, and the ownership has changed.  I couldn't eat anything there anymore.  I'm glad that when I was younger, I was lucky enough to find a place like that!  
My last reminiscent excursion was a visit to the ice cream stand from my childhood.  I would always get a chocolate and vanilla swirl with rainbow sprinkles.  This is the ONLY place I was ever able to have the sprinkles!  They would take sprinkles just for me from a new box that hadn't been used before.  That way, there was no concern for cross-contamination.  It was quite a treat!  

Looking back, I feel lucky to have had all these places that catered to my allergic needs!  It was not a common request, and finding people who were understanding was never easy.  A tip for parents: It is important to find special places like these, where your child can safely enjoy foods that they may not normally be able to take a risk on.  These places are becoming more and more difficult to find, but forming relationships with people will always help! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

School Restrictions

Since I am a teacher and have spent a lot of time in schools, I have noticed how differently each school and district handle food allergies.  Below is a list of some of the guidelines that I have noticed when being in a school.  Does your child have any of these same guidelines?

-Pictures of students on the cafeteria wall with list of allergies
-Specific rules/guidelines in classroom, like everyone wash hands before/after eating
-No food or eating in the hall
-No child can share food with another
-A policy of no food or backpacks brought inside the classroom, and everyone who enters must use a handwipe first. 
-One-on-one classroom aide for the allergic child
-Classrooms with PAL posters on the wall
-Signs outside the classroom that say "Allergy Aware Classroom"
-"Nut-free" lunch tables

How do people feel about these guidelines?  Does it help your child feel safer? Do they feel singled out?  When I was in elementary school, I was the only one in the entire school with any allergies.  My teachers were certainly aware, but it was nothing like the way elementary schools are handling it now.  I have a lot to say on this topic, but I would like to hear what you as parents have to say about it?  I look forward to some comments!