Cooking for a partner with food allergy can seem like a daunting task, especially on a romantic occasion like Valentine’s Day, when you want everything to be special and you really don’t want to get it wrong! However, asking a few simple questions and doing some forward planning can help ensure a sweet and safe Valentine meal.
Tip 1 – Just ask
Don’t feel embarrassed about asking your date what they can / cannot eat. People will allergies and intolerances are usually quite clued up on what is safe for them (and will be pleased you asked!).
Tip 2 – don’t try to ‘cook them out’
Allergies cannot be ‘cooked out’, no matter how hard you try.
Tip 3 – Check what’s hiding
Check ingredients labels for hidden allergens, like tahini (sesame paste) in hummus, fish in sauces, nuts in cooking oil and milk in gravy mixes.
Tip 4 – It’s not just the food
It’s not only food you need to be careful about. Don’t forget to look out for sulphites in wine if you are planning on serving some.
Tip 5 – Prevent cross-contamination
Clean work surfaces and equipment thoroughly to remove traces of anything you might have previously cooked. Using hot and soapy water will do the trick nicely.
Tip 6 – Careful how you dress it up
Be careful with garnishes, sauces, toppings and dressings that might introduce new allergens into a safe dish – like adding chopped nuts or an egg glaze over pastry.
Tip 7 – Do not serve it up in the first place
If your date is allergic to something, simply taking it off their plate isn’t enough. A tiny trace of the allergen (food they must avoid) can be enough to cause an allergic reaction.
Tip 8 – Try a substitute
There are often good substitutes for allergens in most food shops. Ask your date for suggestions of what to buy, where to find it and what they really enjoy eating.
Tip 9 – Enjoy the creative challenge
Rather than seeing your date’s allergy as a limitation, view it as an opportunity to try something new. Great ingredients and the care you have taking in planning a suitable meal your date can enjoy is true romance!
Tip 10 – Prepare before you pucker up
Feeling romantic? Kissing is one way to cause an allergic reaction. Allergenic protein can remain in the mouth for around four hours after eating the food. If you’re dating someone with an allergy, try avoiding the food which makes them ill before your date.
And remember: there is no cure for food allergies – the only way for people to manage the condition is to avoid the food that makes them ill.