Hosting friends and family can be a minefield at the best of times, when you factor in the assorted dietary restrictions and preferences of your guests. But throw multiple food allergies into the mix and things get much more complicated and critical. Getting it wrong for most guests just means a meal they don’t enjoy; getting it wrong for Ash could make him seriously ill.
Preparation is key
Before cooking for Ash, I usually ask Jay or Manj for an up to date list of the foods to avoid. They are always very helpful and patient in explaining what to watch out for. But even then, reading the labels on processed or packaged food is very confusing and I have often made mistakes! I usually stick with simple, fresh food, cooked from scratch - vegetables with poultry, lamb or fish - and I check whether Ash will be OK with whatever I’m planning. Luckily, he’s a much more adventurous eater than many children I know, so the menu can still be fun and interesting, with lots of herbs and spices. Whenever possible, I aim to make food we can all eat, so that Ash isn’t excluded, and also because it reduces the risk of cross-contamination from non-safe foods.
Luckily there are a few things that I know are safe, like Nomo chocolate, and it’s great to see ranges like this, which don’t contain allergens and any unnecessary additives, coming into mainstream shops and supermarkets. But it has made me realise how limited Ash’s food choices are and how difficult it is for Jay and Manj to find safe products and ingredients easily.
It must be so difficult for the family to eat out or at friends’ houses; hosts can be very well intentioned but still get things wrong, which could potentially have serious consequences for Ash. Luckily, Jay and Manj are very used to dealing with these situations and always stay calm, understanding and good-humoured, which is great for Ash – and us – and means we always have a good time when we see them!
Ani & Tim