Like many families, our holiday traditions involve food, and lots of it! It seems that every holiday we prepare a smorgasbord of yummy sides, cookies, cakes, breads...you name it from so-and-so's famous recipe of all. the. allergens. It feels overwhelming to take on the daunting task of making our beloved traditional recipes safe, but we do it. What's one more stressor this time of year anyway?
We reach the end of the internet reading about substitutions, grocery shop at three stores to find all the right ingredients, put on our apron and hope for the best. Even with all of this preparation, sometimes it is not enough. We wonder where we went wrong, "All I changed was substituting the egg with applesauce, what happened?!" After spending hours trying to save Christmas and show everyone that Gramma's Famous Chocolate Pie tradition can safely continue, we end up with a bad taste in our mouth; not just from the pie, but for the holiday altogether. On top of that, someone has the nerve to ask, "How can we have Christmas without Gramma's Chocolate Pie?!" This scenario will bring you to tears, my friends.
So let's challenge ourselves this holiday season...
Let's challenge ourselves to think about traditions differently. Yes, that chocolate pie was heavenly and smelled like Christmas to my family. After a good cry over my failed, allergy-safe pie, I remembered why I loved her pie so much to begin with. That chocolate pie meant watching Gramma in the kitchen where she talked to me while she baked. It meant Gramma winking and grinning as she "tested it" to make sure it was just right. It meant the clatter of the "good" dishes as slices were served. It meant sitting around with family just a little longer before we had to head back home. That dessert was not the tradition; those feelings, they were the tradition.
When I realized the feeling is what made the tradition wonderful, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I can create those feelings and connect with my family in other ways during the holidays. I can give them special attention through a shared activity like baking (even if it's something other than Gramma's pie, they'll never know, they've never eaten it!). I can give them memories of working together in the kitchen to prepare our special meal. We can laugh and cut up while doing something fun. The feelings are what traditions are made of and what they will pass down to their children one day.
Let's challenge ourselves to focus on how our holidays feel this year. Allow ourselves to let go of how the holiday plans are executed, and embrace why the plans were made in the first place. Allow ourselves permission to make changes to the menu and traditions (gasp!), and not feel guilty or grieve too long. Allow ourselves whatever is needed to enjoy and participate in how the holidays feel. Then cherish the memories of our new traditions for a lifetime.
Happy Holidays...from our FAAMily, to yours!
Food for Thought is the blog for the Food Allergy Alliance of the MidSouth. FAAM's mission is to provide food allergy support, education, advocacy, fellowship & fun for Memphis, TN and surrounding areas.
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