That first allergy-friendly Christmas seemed a little daunting to begin with, but with some canny forward planning and lots of investigation into recipes and food sources, we were able to enjoy as normal a Christmas as possible for those suffering with food allergies.
The first step was to look at each part of the meal and decide whether :
a) it was M-friendly as it was
b) could be adapted to accommodate the “everything-free” diet we were now following
c) could be easily replaced by a free-from alternative available from our local supermarket or health food shop
d) we really needed it, if no obvious alternatives came to mind.
I have to confess that nearly 18-months on, my memory is more than a little hazy about what we did and didn’t, or should that be could and couldn’t, eat. Somewhat ironically, for a household who’d never really had a chocolate advent calendar before, we suddenly had 2 as I discovered the amazing Moo-free advent calendars that suited even my most-difficult to feed child. A Christmas pudding recipe was adapted by my Mum, who then spent Stir-up Sunday with both children in the kitchen to prepare this. Mince pies and shortbread disappeared as no successful alternatives could be found that Christmas; but creams and custards were replaced with dairy and soya free ice-cream.
I even found a vegan chocolate cake recipe which worked and was able to concoct a rather spectacular Christmas cake that we all could enjoy.
I can honestly say that, whilst we had to adapt our menu for the big day itself, we managed it and Christmas lunch was enjoyed by all. Tackling this important day in our year had felt like a real challenge and it was fantastic to succeed against the odds. It might not have been the typical menu enjoyed across the western world, but it suited our family and set us up for life going forward.
Several birthdays and another Christmas on and I am continually searching for new recipes to try or adapt to suit M’s diet. I now have a range of party foods that I can prepare for M and have discovered that some things can be perfectly frozen in advance. This past Christmas we were able to enjoy mince pies as I found the perfect vegan pastry recipe to bake. We have even just adapted a simple shortbread recipe that M had in his reading book from school. By swapping out butter and flour for the snappily titled “free-from dairy alternative spread” and rice flour, we baked a batch of shortbread cookies with which the toughest critic would have struggled to find fault.
We got through that first Christmas despite our fears and were then delighted to welcome a string of Canadian guests for the New Year. As one of those was a vegan, I was suddenly able to put my new-found food knowledge to good use and with the help of the fantastic “Better Food Company” in Bristol, managed to find a whole range of foods that would feed both vegan friends and allergy-suffering children alike. What’s more, the date for M’s scopes had been confirmed and the first week of January saw us welcoming in 2012, Uncle A’s wedding and travelling to GOSH for scopes.