Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Monday, January 04, 2016

Food Allergy Counseling: Hosting A Birthday Party When You Have Food Allergies And Everyone Has Other Needs, Too

This year I hosted 26 friends and family for my birthday party. We were a group with tree nut allergies, peanut allergies, one vegan, four Kosher diners (each with different requirements), and dairy, wheat and egg intolerances. It may sound like a lot to coordinate but you can make it all happen, safely and easily.  I talk about this in my book, Allergic Girl, as well.

It comes down to communication:
Communicating with yourself - what do I want?
Communicating with your guests - what do they need?
Enacting that in an easy, simple way that is safe and fun for all.

***

1. I wanted some delicious BBQ and chocolate cake for dessert. I started there. I remember that Hill Country did BBQ, I had eaten there once with no issues. Also recently, I had been there for a social event (not dining) but did meet a GM who said he’d happily walk me through everything whenever I wanted to dine there. So, I contacted him and went in at a non-busy time and had an hour long sit-down. We went over ingredients, kitchen processes and how my food would be prepared. I then talked to one of the chefs, who cut off a slice of some incredibly succulent brisket. Pictured here. 



I tasted it and thought, oh yes, this will be perfect. And no allergens present. 

***

2. I built up my menu based on my meat-and-cake concept of the perfect birthday meal.

Main: 
Brisket and short ribs with a dry rub of salt, pepper and cayenne 
Rotisserie chicken (commercially made)

Sides:
Corn (butter on side)
Baked beans (vegan, cans kept for ingredient labels) 
Martin’s soft potato rolls (with labels)
BBQ sauce on the side (with labels)
organic mesclun salad with Lucini olive oil, lemon juice salt and pepper

Dessert:
Chocolate cake - commercially made
Cookie pie - Sloane-made (nut-free, gluten-free)
Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream - Sloane-made(nut-free, gluten-free)
Fresh strawberries and red grapes
Top 8 allergen free chocolate bites, kindly provided by Pascha

***

3. I emailed everyone the confirming details of the event and menu, with a caveat to let me know about any restrictions or special requests and to not bring in outside food. This last request is a crucial one, because, who knew, but people *love* to bring non-sanctioned food treats, even to an Allergic Girl's party. This simple reminder to not bring outside food cuts down on nutty, fishy treats walking through my door and hurt feelings. 

***

4. I then privately messaged everyone who I knew at the outset had a special need or request, told them what on the menu was safe for them, what wasn't and asked if they'd like/need something different than what I was planning. (No one did.) Since these were many of my bestie besties and their kids, I knew everyone's everything but I wanted to make double/triple sure that I had their details correctly.

***

5. When I served the menu, buffet style, I pointed out all of the dishes to everyone, and ingredients and labels and asked them to be mindful not to swap spoons between dishes.

***

It was all so delicious, one, people still ask me where I bought the BBQ, and the recipe for my cakes and two, I forgot to take pictures! No one had any issues with any of the meal and all was wonderfully well! Such an easy menu and everyone (tree nut allergic, peanut allergic, vegans, Kosher, and dairy, wheat and egg intolerances) enjoyed.

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