If you or someone you love has food allergies, you know that eating outside your own home is like navigating a minefield sometimes. And if your family is lucky enough to have escaped food allergies altogether, you might still have to deal with them anyway. That is, your kids probably go to school where somebody has allergies severe enough that you can’t bring certain treats for snack time, and you definitely can’t send them to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in their lunchbox or you’ll be banned from private schools for life.
This is why you need a copy of the book “Bake Sales Are My Bitch: Win the Food Allergy Wars with 60+ Recupes to Keep Kids Safe and Parents Sane,” out April 11 by April Peveteaux. (And not just because I worked on this book writing recipes with April. But isn’t that good enough reason anyway?)
“Peveteaux’s irreverent and frequently profane take on the subject brings both levity and perspective to the discussion,” says the Publishers Weekly review of “Bake Sales Are My Bitch.” Who are we to argue? (Also, that’s probably why we’re friends.)
My own experience with food allergies and food intolerance
As someone who has had lifelong food allergies—shellfish and most fish—and has family members or friends with virtually all of the no-no items on the list below, I can tell you firsthand what a clusterfuck it is to deal with in daily life. Food allergies are no laughing matter; exposure to even the smallest amount of something you’re allergic to can have severe consequences or even result in death.
I religiously carried an EpiPen into my mid-20s out of fear (including on my own wedding day because we had a beach wedding in Mexico and couldn’t avoid serving fish). I’ve been hospitalized for a severe reaction once, and had some close calls where I nearly had to go to the emergency room. The first thing I learned to memorize when I studied abroad in Italy was how to say “I’m allergic to all fish and shellfish. Everything that comes from the sea.”
I’ve been lucky, but I know others who have almost had a child die due to exposure. You’ve surely read plenty in the news about children who have actually died from some of the most common foods that can induce potentially fatal anaphylaxis—peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. I recall reading a story that really shook me up a few years back about a child who died at school after being exposed by cross-contamination from a kid who ate peanut butter at home that morning and somehow managed to go to school with enough peanut butter residue on them to cause the reaction.
Even in the places where you think you’re being careful and have asked the actual chef at a restaurant for the ingredients of a dish so you can be sure you can really eat something, you might end up puking your guts out shortly after eating and feeling like you’re going to die anyway because somebody in the kitchen wasn’t careful enough and you’re poisoned by cross-contamination. (Yes, this has actually happened to me twice in the last three years—once at a swanky hotel, and another time at an exclusive supper club that had a year-long waitlist that was invitation-only.)
Food allergies can also come up (or go away) at any age. My cousin was diagnosed with celiac disease in her 20s, which is how I ended up learning that soy sauce has gluten. (Back then gluten-free soy sauce didn’t exist, but it does now!) It’s well-documented that some kids grow out of their life-threatening peanut allergies.
At any rate, I want to share with you the things that I think make this book a truly excellent resource for anyone dealing with food allergies on the regular.
4 Things you’ll absolutely love about this book
(aside from the title, obviously)
1. The recipe labeling for food allergens is incredibly thorough
Each recipe is labeled at the top with who it’s safe for, and if you only have one or two allergies you’re worrying about, you can also skip to the back of the book to easily cross-reference with a list of all recipes in the book by their combination of allergens or allergen-free status.
This cookbook has more than 60 recipes for desserts and party foods that are:
- Tree nut-free
- Refined sugar-free
2. The real talk and resources of what the hell to do next when you have to deal with food allergies
If you’re new to the food allergy scene, you’ll definitely appreciate the resources section in the back with lists of websites, organizations, books, magazines, cookbook recommendations (including my favorite, Kelly Woyan Rudnicki of Food Allergy Mama and her amazing cookbook “The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book”), conferences and expos for the allergies discussed in the book. There’s also a whole chapter (9) about traveling with food allergies if you’re wondering “where the hell can I go on vacation now that I can’t eat anything?”
Appendix 2 (starting on page 191) also has a guide for where you can still eat a meal at a chain restaurant and what to order.
3. It’s got a handy guide on how to stock your pantry with allergen-free products that don’t suck
There are so many allergen-free products on grocery store shelves nowadays. But with the larger variety of choices means more careful label-reading. April has written an awesome guide you’ll want to take photos of to keep in your phone to reference at the grocery store. It’s a list of products broken down by genre and includes what allergens are present (always read labels anyway, she says, because ingredients sometimes change over time).
4. The recipes are really good (and not just the ones I wrote… but those are good, too)
If you’ve been disappointed with gluten-free baked goods and other allergen-free desserts and pastries, you’re not alone. A lot of the stuff out there (both on store shelves and in bakeries and dining establishments) isn’t an equal substitute for the real deal, although that’s getting better every year. I’ll be totally honest and say that in the past, I’ve been woefully disappointed with some bakeries that tout their gluten-free items because they’re either dry AF, the texture is off, or you can JUST TELL that something is off about it. Good allergen-free recipes shouldn’t taste weird or far off from the original thing you’re trying to replicate.
I wrote the ice pops recipes because—as April writes in the book—I am a master of popsicles. Seriously, I am. I’ve written dozens of popsicle recipes, many of them allergen-free. (Thanks for the shoutout in the book, April—I’m TOTALLY putting “master at the art of ice pop making” on my resumé!)
Some of my favorite recipes in the book, by genre:
Savory party foods: Spicy vegan cauliflower buffalo wings (can I get a YAAAS?! and they’re fried to boot), the snackadium (page 142, the coolest Super Bowl party dip you will ever see and which Publishers Weekly called “ingenious”), and the chicken tinga taquitos
Desserts: Dr. Pepper sorbet, dairy-free strawberry cheesecake ice pops, lemon bars, Arnold Palmer ice pops, sunbutter Buckeyes (do NOT give me side-eye, people from Ohio, they are GOOD!), and choco-coconut paleo brownies
Drinks: Hot cocoa cubes, pom-orange sparkly punch
P.S. If you have celiac disease or you eat gluten-free (or want to), you might also like: “The Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet”—a book I worked on with April in 2015.
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