Monday, July 21, 2008

Allergy-Safe Camping

Two weekends ago, I was dirty, sunburned, covered in eau de bug spray that only marginally worked, bathed in wood smoke, blinking ash out of my eyes, and engaged in competitive mosquito-slapping.

It was great! I was, of course, camping.

It was our second annual camping trip with a group of close friends – five families, for a total of ten kids and ten grown-ups. The kids range in age from 4 to almost 11, and they’ve all grown up together, so they’re a noisy, close-knit bunch that play at full-tilt from the time they rise until they begin to drop off around the campfire as the moon gleams and the parents laugh at old stories.

We spent two nights by a picturesque lake under towering pines on the north slope of the Uintas. The days were blue-sky gorgeous, and the nights were star-spangled and frosty cold. Camping in Utah is a joy, made better when you can split the cooking duties with other people.

We arrived Friday afternoon and left Sunday mid-day, so that meant we had five meals to deal with. After some complex mathematical calculations during our planning, we discovered that five meals divided by five families equals… let’s see, one meal per family, right? Yep. We’re purty smart.

So each family planned and prepared a single meal for the whole gang of twenty, and it made everyone’s weekend that much easier.

Because we have two allergic kids in the bunch, we make sure all meals and snacks are safe for them. The last thing we want is a life-threatening food reaction when we’re hours from the nearest hospital, so we simply ban all of their allergens from the entire campsite. All food the five families bring is free of milk, eggs, nuts, peanuts, and seafood.

Too restrictive? Not hardly. We ate like royalty!

Friday night was Susan’s fantastic kalua pork, rice, and salad, followed by a cherry chocolate birthday cake that was sinfully good.

Saturday morning was Necia’s fruit and cinnamon rolls on a stick, grilled over the open fire, along with bacon and breakfast cookies. When is breakfast ever that fun?

Lunch was a feast of Lorie’s delectable chicken salad and a smorgasbord of sandwich fixins on a variety of breads and tortillas.

For supper, Kim’s hobo dinners of beef, potatoes, green beans, and carrots all roasted in foil pouches over the campfire were delicious and really hit the spot after a hard day of fishing and Frisbee. And the roasted corn-on-the-cob was a first-of-the-season treat. Garlic bread was the finishing touch.

Sunday’s breakfast was my assignment, so I brought a variety of muffins – blueberry, chocolate chip, banana, and carrot cake – which I’d baked a few days earlier and frozen so they’d survive the trip. I also provided apple slices with Sunbutter for dipping.

All of those meals were completely free of milk, eggs, nuts, and seafood, but anyone who might have joined us would have never guessed. It was all delicious and nutritious, and there was plenty of it!

This group of friends has been close for seven or eight years now, so we’ve had a long time to get used to dealing with allergies and a long time to find delicious recipes. Each time we get together, it becomes a game for us moms to try out new concoctions. It’s fun, and nine times out of ten, it’s successful. (My chocolate chip muffins were a little too dense, but my carrot cake was a hit!)

Having food allergies hasn’t meant giving up on parties and get-togethers. It has meant we’ve come to appreciate this circle of friends (and more) who accept food allergies as a normal part of life, and who are infinitely willing to change their own cooking and eating habits for us. That is TRUE friendship.

We’re already planning next year’s camping trip, and I’m already coming up with some new muffin recipes to try. It’s the least I can do to thank these wonderful friends.

No comments: