As a family, we’re not so easy to accommodate for food if you’re not used to catering for allergies. Unfortunately dairy and eggs are so prevalent that label reading is essential. For someone not initiated into the world of scrutinising each food item, it can be tedious and even exhausting.
We understand that it is usually easier for people to come to us for a meal. Eating should be something so simple, easy and enjoyable and it is hard to put that extra stress onto someone else. That said, when we plan to visit others we usually aim to fit in between mealtimes.
We take our own snacks for MyItchyBoy everywhere and a packed lunch if needed. That way, I can relax about what MIB is eating, knowing he is safe. However, I do stress about what other people think when we take our own food to their house. It feels like a rejection of their hospitality. My own food demons come under ‘sensitvity’ and ‘intolerance’ so I can be polite and eat small amounts knowing that, at worse, I will suffer a headache and tummy grumbles the next day. I make that decision myself, as an adult, knowing what I am doing to myself.
However, for my son, it is not so easy. Why should I be the one to choose whether or not he should have an eczema flare-up just to be polite? Or, worse, a trip to A&E? Nevertheless, I find it hard to stick to socially acceptable behaviour whilst trying to protect him.
This week we were lucky enough to have two mums and their children come to play. We made a vegan lemon cake from the Ethical Chef as it has no milk or eggs in the ingredients and it is quick to make. However, our two lovely guests also brought cakes. There began my social manners dilemma.
‘How lovely, thank you’ should suffice for most hosts. Trouble is, if I say that and keep quiet, at some point, when it does come out about MIB’s allergies, they will surely think I’m a bit odd and wonder if their gift ended up in the bin. Or, I come out and apologise but explain that only Husband (who they’ve never met) will be able to eat their yummy-looking cakes. Both are a rejection of sorts and make me feel uncomfortable.
I ended up serving mostly our cake and a normal chocolate sponge was also opened. I then sent the other, unopened cakes home with the guests who brought them. Husband enjoyed the leftover wheat/egg/milk containing chocolate cake – no doubt delighted with a cake that had the full ‘normal’ complement of ingredients.
Over the last few weeks we have been given a few things which have been tricky to consume in this house. The worst was a large tin of Celebrations that we had to put on a high shelf before rummaging out the Snickers and donating them quickly to someone else.
I am still new to the etiquette in these situations. So, what is the right thing to do? How do you reject edible gifts politely?