No donuts

Please ask your guests this question …


(… and check out a recipe for Norwegian apple pie!)

We had old friends over for supper last night. Much had changed since we had last hosted them — children had grown tall, adult hair had grayed (and fallen out), households had moved, jobs had evolved. All the usual stuff.

Then there were the eating habits. Over the past three years, my family’s diet has evolved to be gluten-free, largely dairy-free and free of artificial flavors, artificial colors and natural flavors in their various forms.

Bottom line: Our family is not the easiest to feed, but (and this is massively important) changing our diet has nearly eliminated the debilitating tantrums that dogged one of us — and, as a result, all of us — for years.

All we have to do is stay mostly on our diet. Hah.

Temptations are legion, especially in the holiday season, when nearly every event, including many a school day, is laced with “goodies.” But even a regular meal can blow up this diet and send us into a tailspin.

Sometimes we feel we’re alone in this dietary struggle. But the more I ask a certain question, the more I realize we have company. Like yesterday, when my husband texted our friend: “Do any of you have food sensitivities or allergies?”

Our friend quickly replied, “My wife is allergic to butter, and it’s real.”

Those final two words — “it’s real” — make a fitting slogan for all of us who deal with food allergies and sensitivities.

Many find sensitivities hard to believe. How could eating “natural flavors” lead to a tantrum? How could gluten cause a headache, or butter cause stomach problems? Thing is, it doesn’t have to make sense. Dozens of experiences show us — and others — the connections are real.

If we plan ahead, we can generally eat around trigger foods. But when we don’t, we’re stuck in Label Land, reading the fine print on every can and carton (I’ll share my thoughts on chicken broth, organics and health food stores another time). And it’s awkward. I go into investigative-reporter mode, (gently) grilling friends and servers about ingredients, reading cans and cartons, and googling chemical names. Often my family just schleps a backup meal for our most sensitive member.

Is it worth it? Yes. Yes. Yes. Our family is healthier physically, emotionally and socially. And we’ve had the opportunity to learn that everyone’s body — like everyone’s personality — is different.

This holiday season, and in the coming year, please remember to ask your guests: 
“Do any of you have food sensitivities or allergies?”


One thing we served last night: Norwegian Apple Pie


Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash; illustration by SC

4 thoughts on “Please ask your guests this question …

  1. Hi Sarah. I am surprised by only one cup of apples. Is that right? The recipe looks good otherwise.. Have. A super week Love Dorothy ________________________________________

    1. Dorothy, it’s exactly right — about one medium-sized apple! (I was surprised too.) It’s also really good with 2/3 cup diced apple and 1/3 cup fresh cranberries. Yum!

  2. In the last five years, I’ve found it necessary to ask dinner guest if they have any allergies or sensitivities to food. I grew up on a Midwest farm and learned to eat almost anything, including meat. Now one son and his family are vegetarian, so I’ve learned to prepare many vegetarian dishes and am always looking for recipes my 9 and 11-year old grandson will eat. It is an adventure cooking these days.

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