I can’t count the times that a scenario like this has happened:
We are eating away from home, or having a potluck in our home, with food prepared by others. (I usually don’t expect others to cook around our family’s allergy issues, as they can be quite complicated. I just make enough and then if there are other things there that are “safe”, then it’s a bonus!) Someone will overhear me telling an allergic child “No, you can’t have that, it has _____ in it.” The someone will ask, and I will explain what my child is allergic to. Well-meaning someone will then say “I made this ___ and it doesn’t have any ___ in it.” and then offer a piece/spoonful/helping to my child. The last time it was cookies that didn’t have milk. (and if you’re reading this, it wasn’t you- we were far away and it was someone we’ve never met before or since! (0; ) My child smiled a huge sparkly smile and almost took a bite. I stopped her and asked, truly interested because I’m always on the lookout for new substitutes to use in our allergy-free cooking adventures (for example, using Crisco won’t work for the ones in our family that can’t have corn or soy. I usually use coconut oil.), “What did you use instead of butter?” and the answer was: “Oh! Just butter! That makes the best cookies!” I agree, it makes great cookies! But butter is MILK! When you’re not used to thinking in allergy-mode, you think of milk as the white stuff in a plastic jug. If you didn’t pour white stuff from a plastic jug into your cookie dough, then your cookies don’t have milk. But when you’re thinking in allergy-mode, there can’t be any butter, the chocolate chips can’t have “butterfat” or “whey” or “lactose” listed in the ingredients, and so on.
I have a friend whose son is VERY allergic to peanuts. To the point that if there are 2 pans of brownies, one with peanut butter, one without, sitting side by side (the sans-peanut butter ones being graciously provided to accommodate his allergies), and someone unwittingly mixes the serving forks, and his non-peanut butter brownie is put on his plate with the peanut butter brownie fork, he gets a fast ride to the ER, and that family’s day of socializing is over.
When you’re in non-allergy-land, their refusal to eat what you are sure you didn’t pour milk into, or stir peanut butter into (did you know that a lot of pre-made chicken nuggets are fried in peanut oil? Or that fish sticks have milk in them? and that canned tuna has soy?) isn’t about them not trusting you, or not believing you. They’re not trying to be rude. But there are a lot of things that just aren’t worth ending with you saying “I didn’t know”, or finding out that little Johnny or Susie mixed up the serving forks.
I don’t always accept offers to cook or provide food for our family, because unless I know you are familiar with just how much you have to read the labels and decode the names of the ingredients (did you know that maltodextrin is derived from corn? and that baking powder has cornstarch in it?), sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes I do, especially if I know what you’re making, and I’m familiar with the way you usually think about food, and sometimes I don’t.
I’m still wondering what to do about the potluck situations like the one we had a while back: It was a crowd of 30-40 people, most of whom were strangers. I planned all “safe” foods for our family, and figured we could walk through the buffet line that was set up, and only take things from our own serving dishes. It would have worked, (I think) except for the sweet old lady who “helped me out” by adding 2 sticks of butter to both my lima beans and my mashed potatoes, and prebuttered all the bread I had baked with no milk. She really was sweet and trying to help, but we ended up with a few hungry children, and had to leave early to feed them.
What would you do?? Please, let me know in the comments!