Purim is a time of great celebration. Many of our traditions for this chag require food – festive meals, mishloach manos. Abundant food can mean abundant pitfalls for the food allergic. How can one navigate this maze of food allergy landmines?
Being prepared isn’t just a Boys Scout motto; in food as well a little planning can go a long way. Think about where your seudah is going to be. Can you bring/prepare some of the food so it is safe for you and your loved ones? Are you dealing with many food allergies? Perhaps hosting the meal yourself where you can be in complete control of the menu is the best option.
When planning your menu think of each course and potential allergens. Most foods can be prepared in an alternative manner to omit allergenic foods. Challah can be made without eggs, nuts can be left out of salads, eggs can be omitted from dressings and vegetable dishes can be served instead of kugels. For the gluten free guest, think vegetables, meat, chicken, turkey, potato, rice, corn, and fruit. If you’re hosting someone with food allergies get a complete list of their allergies, create a menu based on omitting those foods if possible, and reach out to them again to run your ingredients and preparation method by them. Some people are so allergic that cross contamination with other foods may be an issue.
There are many resources available for allergy friendly recipes. Ask a mom experienced with preparing food allergy friendly recipes, buy a food allergy cookbook, or scour the Internet in search of appropriate recipes. Stroll through the health food aisle of your local grocery or a specialty store for products and ideas. Kosherfoodallergies.blogspot.com is a wonderful year round resource for food allergy management tips, recipes, and inspiration.
Mishloach manos must be carefully scrutinized for food allergy safety. Read ingredients on all packaged items. Items baked at someone else’s home or with unknown ingredients should be assumed problematic. If you don’t know what’s in it, don’t eat it! It is vital that young children with food allergies be closely supervised to assure accidental ingestion of allergens doesn’t occur. You’d be surprised how many chocolates and candies have nut and egg ingredients. Have safe treats on hand for your kids to avert “I want my candy melt-downs.”
When sending mishloach manos be sensitive to the food sensitivities of your recipients.
Do you have a family on your list with a peanut allergy? Maybe a friend that’s gluten free?
When possible (especially if food allergies are life threatening) tailor those gifts to suit their allergies. Given the severity of nut allergies consider making all of your mishloach manos nut free. There’s no mitzvah in sending someone food that could make them sick (or even put them in a life threatening situation)!
Schools often have Pre-Purim celebrations that can pose allergy risks as well. Consult with your child’s teacher about upcoming parties and any food that will be distributed. Offer to provide a safe snack for the entire group or have a stash of allowable goodies, clearly labeled with your child’s name in school. Having a food allergy action plan is a good idea year round. The school should be aware of the child’s allergies, location of medications, know how to administer medications, know who to contact for emergency assistance.
Last but not least, have allergy meds on hand. Wherever you (or your food allergic child) go, the epipen/antihistamines should follow. Check expiration dates on all medications. Being prepared can help you avoid or at least effectively manage an urgent allergic situation.
A Freilichin and Allergy Free Purim
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (a little less)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup mango nectar
Favorite pie filling (apple, cherry, etc.), jam or preserves (strawberry, apricot etc.), chocolate chips
* mon filling (poppy seed) often is made with egg so check ingredients
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Whip margarine, sugar, and nectar. Add dry ingredients and combine to form a soft dough. Chill the dough (should feel like fresh play-dough consistency) for at least 1 hour. Form thin circles of cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet (use the bottom of a cup or a round cookie cutter).