Allergies? relax

Cynthia Stone
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As far as I know I'm not allergic to anything I put in my mouth, but I know that's not true for many of you.
At a family gathering once, my niece brought a friend who was allergic to eggs. We had a tray of fudge and she got quite sick. Turns out the fudge was made with marshmallow cream, which is made from egg whites. Wow, what an eye-opener that was.
Since that moment I am so careful when I serve food to people whose sensitivities are new to me, and sometimes it's quite a puzzle figuring out what to cook that will sit well with their stomachs and their immune systems.
A common conversation among friends of my vintage is how there were no food allergies when we were kids. I don't know whether there are really more allergies or that we are just more aware of them, but whatever the case, life can be miserable for people with restrictions in their everyday lives.
The most common food allergies? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the big ones are eggs, milk, peanuts, seafood, sesame seeds, soy, sulphides, tree nuts and wheat. Holy cow. I'm not sure I could make a meal free of all of them. On the other hand, most people aren't allergic to the entire list, so it would be manageable for most - not easy, but manageable.
Can you imagine the challenge facing people who have to translate labels with things like "modified milk ingredients" or "simulated flavour" into plain English? I know it's easy to say stick with unprocessed foods, but think about how you would live your life without anything from a package or a can. It's easier said than done, I suspect.
If you are facing this challenge yourself or with a family member, then you are probably already well-educated on the usual cautions - keeping cooking and serving utensils separated from the rest of your kitchen or cleaned thoroughly to prevent contamination, for example. And there are many websites and publications to help with safe substitutions. I decided to try a few things and they turned out pretty good, so for the next two weeks, I thought I'd look at alternatives for people struggling with what to eat when what they eat sometimes makes them sick.

Eggless blueberry cornmeal coffee cake
If dairy products are a problem for you, substitute soy milk and increase the vinegar to 1 tbsp. in this recipe. Cornmeal can be bought in bulk, or in the cereal section of your favourite grocery store. Particularly coarse cornmeal can be whizzed in a food processor for a minute - don't turn it into flour. I kinda like the texture myself. Applesauce takes the place of an egg so don't be tempted to leave it out. Partridgeberries work in this recipe, too.
1/2 cup each flour and cornmeal
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1/4 cup applesauce or other fruit puree - even mashed banana
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each ground cardamom and freshly ground nutmeg (both optional but flavourful)
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, applesauce, oil, vinegar, vanilla and almond extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry, mixing just until combined. Fold in blueberries and pour into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan. Combine almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg and sprinkle on top. Tap the pan on a hard surface to settle the crumbs then bake at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.

See Recipes, page E3

Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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