Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My family is allergic to (almost) EVERYTHING

July is a time of birthday celebrations for my extended family.

My brother and two of my uncles were born on the 25th, while other family members were born on the 8th, 11th, and 13th of July. There are also a handful of late-June and early-August birthdays. So, every year we have a family get-together for "The July Birthdays". This event is usually hosted at my mother's place in Sydney, and all the guests typically bring a plate of something nice to eat.

But, in recent years, feeding the extended family has been getting harder and harder.

It all started when, several years ago, one of my uncles was diagnosed with celiac disease. Since then, gluten (i.e. anything made with wheat flour) has been forbidden at family gatherings.

Then, five years ago, one of my cousins gave birth to a child who turned out to have mild autism as well as life-threatening allergies to nuts, eggs, shellfish, and strawberries. Needless to say, these items are now off the menu, too.

Then, one of my aunts drowned her mid-life sorrows and became an alcoholic, so alcohol is now strictly off-limits at family gatherings.

Meanwhile, my mother has astronomically high blood pressure, so salt is a big no-no for her. (Mum recently caused her GP considerable alarm when she produced a blood pressure reading of 232 over 100-and-something. In other words, her doctor basically thought she should be dead, or at least suffering from a terrible headache or some other grave symptom. He checked her BP several times, with different machines, and got the same reading every time. My dear old mother has been defying death for about 25 years, but that's really another story).

Then there are the various other family members who have personal objections to sundry food items including mushrooms, yogurt, beef, salad dressing, and pasta (which is already disqualified anyway, by virtue of being a wheat product).

So, this year, almost everyone came up with the same solution to the problem of the main course: potatoes! Which is how we ended up with at least four strange and elaborate potato-based concoctions. (If you think it's impossible to ruin the trusty spud, think again).

LS had the bright idea of frying up some papadums just before lunch. The papadums were a hit, and were, in my opinion, the best potato dish of the day, by a considerable margin.

But what to make for dessert, with no wheat flour, no eggs, no nuts, and no alcohol allowed?

Good old Aeroplane Jelly saved the day for me (it's basically just sugar, gelatine, and a bunch of artificial colours and flavours, to which you simply add water and stir). Yum!

But, being the acknowledged Chocolate Fanatic of the family, I felt a strong obligation to produce some kind of chocolate dish too. Luckily, a Chocolate Bavarian fit the bill perfectly, with its remarkably basic ingredients: chocolate, sugar, milk, whipped cream and gelatine - a very simple crowd pleaser that went a long way to making up for the disappointment caused by the under-cooked, grey-coloured, and weird-tasting potato dishes.

(I just can't believe our luck that, with all the allergies in my family, not one person is allergic to, or otherwise intolerant of, milk).

The only person in the family whose allergy isn't pandered to by my mother is poor LS, who is allergic to cats.

Unfortunately for him, my mother's house is run by an evil feline, Claudia, who has my mother at her beck and call 24 hours a day. It's painfully amusing to see my mother leaping up every 30 seconds to let the cat in ... and then out ... and then in ... and then out ...

The evil cat that has enslaved my mother.

I can hardly wait for July 2011!

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