Food and Inclusivity

No one person is unidimensional. Yes, some people have specialties, even going so far as to say they are paragons of their respective fields. But to say a person is not more than the one thing you know them for is a falsehood. Life is messy, full of kindness and hardships alike, and because of this, we all exhibit some form of intersectionality. Lived experiences shape us in ways that are unique and unexpected. Navigating these issues for ourselves is tricky enough, but having the space and compassion to self-adjust while being an aid to others is a feat we should all aspire to have. 

It’s been a crazy few years and many of us have had to come to terms with a few new intersectionalities (for ourselves and those closest to us). Social, environmental, emotional, and medical, many of us have had to adjust to new norms. With the holiday season around the corner, it’s all the more important to show our compassion towards one another and what better way to do this with food or recipes that allow them to enjoy the season with everyone. With an estimated 1 in 10 Americans having a food allergy, or food-related illness, there is nothing wrong with giving the family recipe an update so everyone can enjoy it.

While caution in proper food preparation is needed for both, there is a big difference between an allergen and a food-related illness. I know there is a lot of information out there on the subject (and I encourage you to research the ones prevalent in your life) but the gist is that allergens are a transitory hyperimmune response, while food illness leads to degradation of the body as a response to certain foods and are mostly considered auto-immune disorders.

For example, the main way to treat an allergic reaction is with an antihistamine or an injectable dose of epinephrine, which can be a life-saving treatment. For those with food-related illnesses, avoidance is often the only solution to extreme discomfort and long-term damage to internal organs/tissues. Those with celiac endure extreme bloat (were talking pregnancy levels of expansion over an hour) and the erosion of their small intestine to the point where their body will no longer be able to absorb nutrients from food. Those with meat-related illnesses face a plethora of long-term health issues. Basically, the body mistakes the animal proteins as foreign invaders, and the auto-immune system attacks all animal tissues until the flare-up subsides. This can lead to many chronic and joint-related illnesses as the body is, quite literally, tries to destroy itself. IBS, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis are GI tract inflammation issues and those with them are often put on a FODMAP diet (no fermentable food) which pretty much means that non-home food is off the table. Wheat, dairy, onions, garlic, fruit, sugar, alcohol, … are all food that will cause discomfort and can lead to long-term health issues. 

While all these conditions are relatively rare (often genetic), at 5% of the population, odds are you know at least one person. So how can we do to show our support during holiday gatherings? My advice, find a dish/recipe that they like and tweak it to fit their dietary needs. With enough digging, you will find that there is a substitution for almost everything. Then practice the recipe a few times until you are satisfied (make sure to keep track of adjustments. It may seem like a small gesture, but I can almost guarantee it will be one that is appreciated.