There’s been an exciting development in our lives. It’s really big for us. A few months ago, my son walked into a bakery and picked out a cupcake. With sprinkles. One that he didn’t see his mom make. One that he ate without hearing his parents ask a bunch of questions. I’m positive that my husband and I were even more excited than he was. Strolling into a bakery without planning and telling your child to choose whatever delicious treat that catches his eye is an allergy parent’s fantasy come true.
Nutphree’s Cupcakes in Mount Prospect, IL was opened by a family with the same fantasy as mine. Every single ingredient is researched to ensure they are free of contamination of peanuts and tree nuts, and every cupcake is lovingly made there in their nut free bakery. Since I’ve been gluten free, my husband is my surrogate taste tester and he LOVES their red velvet, with the banana a close second. My son’s choice is purely based on the frosting color he’s feeling at the moment. We leave happy on many levels every time. They just started a rewards programs and um, yeah, we’ll be using that!
As much as wanting to support and promote a local business, I also want to spread the word to those who don’t have any allergies, but know someone who does. About once a month, I get a message from someone on facebook with some questions about food allergies. I usually start rambling, so hopeful to prevent at least some of the stress a special diet brings with it. Listing off favorite brands and restaurants is easy. But when someone who doesn’t have to eat this way wants to bake for someone with food allergies or celiac, it’s much harder to answer without totally discouraging them.
It is so very touching when someone wants to reach out; to be a food hero to those of us who are used to baking and schlepping our own stash everywhere (including restaurants). The intention is awesome. I wish I could just suggest a few brands and ask you to send me a piece 🙂 But the reality is that every ounce, shred, speck, and whisper of an ingredient, as well as what they have touched, must be free of contamination of your dear friend’s allergens. You have to vigilantly avoid something that may be invisible.
That’s hard. And it’s not because I question your intelligence or cleanliness. It’s because a person with allergies should only eat food that was made with the distinct intention of feeding it to someone with allergies, and in a kitchen with equipment intended for feeding a person with allergies.
That’s more complicated than it may seem.
Home kitchens are where life happens. My personal kitchen is home to one good cook (my husband), another cook, two very short ninjas, and no maid. Cooking and baking are interrupted by phone calls and breaking up fights over Ninjago thingys. I am sure that my sugar and flour and baking powder have all kissed each other via the one teaspoon that hasn’t been eaten by the dishwasher. Not to mention the dishes I’m putting away when my little guy comes in with a leaky sippy cup of milk. That’s life. That stuff happens. But that’s exactly why I wouldn’t feed anyone with additional allergies without rewashing all of my pans and tools with a brand new sponge and buying all new, unopened ingredients. No matter how pretty or delicious, a cupcake will never be worth seeing a person struggle for breath.
So it’s ok if you can’t be that committed to a cupcake. Luckily, there are some great places like Nutphree’s that are committed to feeding the allergy community. If you’re having a party and need some cupcakes, check them out.
Two more quick things. It may be tempting to “surprise” your guest with a safe treat at party time, but those of us on special diets are constantly strategizing our meals and treats. Surprises with food can be unnerving for us. Your guest may have other allergies you aren’t aware of. Or they may be working with their child on specific ways to advocate for themselves. A heads up before the party is so valuable. Believe me when I say it truly is the thought that counts. The patient, honest conversation you are willing to have with us is what we’ll still remember long after that party. This is equally true if, after our conversation, you realize that you cannot offer us a safe treat. Secondly, If you do get your hands on a safe treat for a guest with allergies or celiac, please take extra care to keep it very separate from any other food. When I bring a dish to share, I like to take out my pieces for myself and my son and put them aside before I leave the rest of my dish subject to the rogue crumbs and spoons of the buffet. Your allergic guest could have their own system. What’s crucial is that everyone gets to the important business of partying. Communication and caution is how we do that.
Thank you for reading. Please share this post if you find it helpful in any way.
P.S. Any other gems out there? Do you have a gluten-free or allergy-friendly bakery near you? I’ll start the love with some gluten free options: Swirlz Cupcakes and Sprinkles Cupcakes in Chicago, Deerfield’s at a couple of suburban locations, and Rose’s in Evanston.