Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why you can't cook for me. An editorial.

Food. It seems that every social event that takes place in the United States revolves around food. Lets meet for coffee. Lets do lunch. Lets celebrate at your favorite restaurant. Got a cram session for finals? Order pizza. Had a rotten day? Ben and Jerry to the rescue.

America has a love affair with food. But if you have food allergies, social scenes can be a real nightmare. (If you can’t get around the idea that someone with food allergies might not want to just sit and socialize with friends who ARE eating at a restaurant ask yourself this…would you really be smiling and relaxed sipping a glass of water and staring at a brownie that you knew had been laced with arsenic? The ambience is nice, but the poison would probably make you uncomfortable.)

Some well meaning friends try to get around the restaurant hassle by “simply” inviting their allergy suffering friends over for dinner. This sounds like a great idea. Its very thoughtful, and anyone with an allergy will appreciate the gesture. But, especially if the problem is CORN, we’ll say no, thank you. We don’t want to be rude. We aren’t saying anything against your cooking. We simply know how hard it was to learn our restrictions, and really don’t want to take a risk. (Honestly, you’re not going to feel too good if we race from your table to the hospital.)

What could go wrong? The most obvious problem is the reading of ingredients. Unless you are cooking from scratch garden-style, there will be plenty of ingredients to read, and you need to know how to read a label. A can of roasted tomatoes containing tomatoes, citric acid, and salt is not safe for corn allergic individuals. Many brands of fresh meat are not safe for corn allergic individuals. Bagged salad greens are not safe for corn allergic individuals. Its crazy, it’ll make you crazy, it makes *us* crazy…but its true. We’ve had a steep learning curve and we just don’t want any more mistakes. Especially since there are no medications available to counteract our symptoms. They all contain corn. So if we get “corned,” we have to wait the reaction out or risk making it worse. Your famous spaghetti sauce with Aunt Myra’s secret ingredients isn’t worth that risk. Sorry.

Another serious potential problem is cross contamination. If you use a wooden spoon to stir the spaghetti, any protein particles buried in the porous wood from that big batch of corn bread you baked last Christmas can be released into the cooking water. Any bacteria are long dead, its not a health hazard. But it is an allergy risk. Crumbs in the knife rack pose a hazard, as does the kitchen sponge you use to swipe off the counters and the kitchen towel you’ve been drying your hands on all week.

And then there’s the simple risk of autopilot. We all use it. In fact, most allergy sufferers have “gotten” themselves multiple times in the beginning by going on autopilot. My husband has a good friend with a dairy allergy. His new in laws went to great lengths to make him some dairy free breadsticks. But they inadvertently poisoned him by buttering the pan. It was automatic, the butter was handy, they didn’t even realize what they’d done until he was at the hospital. For corn allergy sufferers, the risks increase, as corn truly is everywhere.

I think its sufficient to say…you can’t cook for me. Its not your food, or your cooking ability. It’s the corn.

1 comment:

Von said...

Ugh.. I dread invites for dinner. Especially from the overly well-meaning friends. We have a couple that always throw dinner parties, and they always want to make me corn-free food.

She tries so hard and makes a very good effort. Nearly breaks my heart to have to tell her, "I'm sorry I just don't trust your cooking".. So I tend to pretty it up when I tell her that. Usually saying "I'm not that hungry, but everything sure looks good." or "Thank you for the special effort, it sure is appreciated, but I just don't feel very brave tonight"

The last time we went over for a small gathering, my husband and her husband (they're really the friends) got together and agreed that I'd bring the food. I brought meat and salads, and they fired up their grill. That worked out wonderfully.