Tuesday, October 9, 2012

PTA, Food Allergies, and Global Adventures

By: Irene Antonoglu
Founder, Footprints of the Mind

There is no more hiding.  Today I became *that* mom.  I decided to take a modest near-the-back-row seat at Little A's preschool PTA meeting to meet some new faces and see how I can help.  The first order of business was to discuss the upcoming Harvest Day event and the topic of food was the first priority. 

We went around the room with introductions and within minutes I was called out.  "You're the one whose son has the food allergies." I nodded. Yes. I am the one that made it so your kids can't eat PB&J sandwiches or have cupcakes on their birthday. 

I am *that* mom.   

They spoke about French toast, hash browns, sausage, a cookie decorating station, and jugs of juice.  In an effort to be considerate they asked if those items would be problematic for Little A. 

"I can't alter an entire program to make it convenient for my child.  Please don't worry.  I will bring in food that will be safe for him to eat" I said. 

The moms made another effort to be understanding.  "What can we make him that he will be able to eat?  Is he allergic to peanuts?"

I had to tell them that he cannot eat any of those things.  That with the exception of some highly processed foods that would be better classified as plastic or cardboard, I have to make everything from scratch.  He is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, soy, legumes, corn, shellfish, and sesame.   

How do I explain that apple juice that has high fructose corn syrup listed as an ingredient can possibly give Little A digestive anaphylaxis without sounding like a lunatic?  That sausage with "natural flavoring" (a fancy way of saying soy) can make his lips swell.  That the corn oil used to fry the hash browns will make his lungs fill with mucus.  And, if the cook that prepares any of these things doesn't wash their hands before handling the fresh fruit, that he will react to eating grapes and cantaloupe too.  I have to admit that if I heard myself say these things out loud, even *I* would think I was crazy.

But I'm not.  I just want to make sure Little A is alive when I pick him up from school. 

Thankfully, I have found a gem of a school.  The director organized a seminar for all the teachers and administrators to be trained on Epipens and warning signs for food allergy exposure.  The mom that volunteered to do pizza days asked me to go home and concoct a "pizza" that will be safe for him to eat (even if it was just a slice a Rudi's bread with tomato sauce smeared on it) so she can serve it to him and make him feel like he was eating something special - just like the other kids. My eyes still well up with tears thinking about her thoughtful suggestion.

So what does all this have to do with Global Adventures?

Tonight was Travel on Tuesday to Costa Rica.  On Tuesdays, we pretend to travel to a new country.  We find it on the map, talk about customs, interesting facts, and make a craft that pertains to the country.  For years I would also cook a traditional meal. That was my way of incorporating the intersect between geography and culture.  After all, food seems to be the cultural glue that binds us together. 

Then, Little A came along, and suddenly cooking traditional meals became nearly impossible.  How do you replace black beans in beans and rice?  You don't. 

But that isn't going to stop me from pursuing what I have set out to do for the last decade or so which is keep the travel bug alive every week by dreaming of visiting far away lands, and raising the next generation of globally aware citizens. If that means that I cook variations of traditional meals on Tuesdays then that is what I will do. 

Here, Little A dines on steamed broccoli, rice and pork seasoned with paprika, salt, pepper, and a splash of lime juice. 

The rest of us ate Costa Rican black beans and rice. 

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1 comment:

  1. It is not fit that every man should travel; it makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.

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