We've been invited to a few parties lately, and although it's a sign that we have got some good friends around us who wish to celebrate milestones together, it also brings up a sense of dread as the parties approach. Some friends offer to accomodate for our son's restricted diet, but on the whole we've declined such offers. In general, unless you have an allergy child, the precautions needed in food preparation is, simply put, ridiculous, and I wouldn't risk our son's health in the hands of others, no matter how well-meaning. Plus, even if the food was carefully prepared, once it lands on the table and people begin to help themselves, the risk of contamination is too high.
One recent exception was where I contacted the trained cook, identified all the ingredients being used and clarified exactly which oils were being used - not generic vegetable oil, but specifically sunflower oil. The cupcakes were in paper liners, so the risk of contamination reduced. On this one occasion, I forced myself to trust another person, whom I have never personally met, with the health of my child. I decided beforehand what sized portions I would allow... just in case there was contamination. On the day, our son had two small pieces then was too interested in the toys to bother. So, problem solved :-) However, I realised that having the cupcakes on a tray for anyone to take left us open for contamination from sticky little fingers that had touched other dangerous foods. Even using plastic plates demanded some thought. I took a plate from the middle of the pile rather than the top one just in case someone had placed anything on it before us. Fortunately the cutlery was still in its packaging so that was fine. Sound neurotic? Try living like this every day!!
Anyway, then I thought perhaps if I write a list of the most dreaded party foods, this might help other friends of allergy families. So what foods do I wish were never served at a party??
1. Bowls of nuts - these are prone to being dropped. If they are at child-height everything turns ugly since the oil on nuts doesn't come off easily and is quickly wiped onto toys, furniture and people.
2. Meringues - these are especially popular in Australia. I don't blame people, they used to be my favourite. Now I never make them since they are essentially very crumbly, sweet bits of egg white waiting to be dropped then picked up by a toddler.
3. Bowls or plates of food conveniently scattered around a room - these are too convenient for little fingers and on-the-play-eating (as opposed to on-the-run-eating). We try and keep all the food in a certain area - this helps with clean-up afterwards too adults!
After saying all this, we don't want to be party poopers. We still want to be able to enjoy the company of others. We do actually like and love these people and their children! So what's the solution?
Actually, if we all just sat down to eat properly, then, when we finished, washed our hands and mouth, then went on to play... everything would be sweet!! If this applied to kids too, then there wouldn't be risks of food dropped, or smeared onto anything. Wouldn't that be lovely! We'd all probably have more parties and go to more parties - and who doesn't want that?!