By Kelley Lindberg
Barbeques are a mainstay of summer. Whether we’re throwing
some chicken on for a quick weeknight dinner or hosting a big ol’ summertime
bash, our grills can be indispensable helpers. But if we have food allergies,
we have to take a few extra steps to be sure that this weekend’s fun barbeque doesn’t
end in a trip to the ER.
The first thing to consider is that food residue on a grill
can be a problem. So if the grill you’re about to use has been exposed to food
allergens in the past, you’ll want to use caution. For example, if your friend
is allergic to seafood and you cooked salmon or shrimp on your grill last
night, it’s not a good idea to cook your allergic friend’s food on that same
grill. Just scraping the charred remains off of the grill isn’t good enough. If
you can, first scraping the grill, then clean it thoroughly with soap and water
until all residue is completely gone.
Remember that the grill lid may have residue on it, as well,
which might drip onto cooking food. So clean the inside of the lid, too.
If you can’t clean the grill yourself (for example, if it’s
someone else’s party and grill), then you still have options. First, you can
wrap your food in aluminum foil – use heavy-duty foil or double-wrap it so that
it won’t tear and expose the food to the contaminated grill or to other food
that may be cooking at the same time. Second, you can use a grilling tray to
separate your food from the grill itself. Third, bring food that can be cooked
in the oven or in a skillet, and bypass the grill completely. Most hosts and
hostesses will be more than happy to accommodate you, because no one wants to
be the reason you had to rush to the hospital mid-party. Nothing puts a damper
on a summer barbeque like having to call an ambulance.
Next, consider the seasonings that the grill-master is applying
to your food. Ask to read the label of any packaged seasonings, marinades, or
barbeque sauces that the cook may be liberally shaking or splashing onto the
food. If any of the seasonings look suspicious, don’t hesitate to ask for your
portion to be wrapped in aluminum foil first, to prevent cross-contamination.
Finally, take a look at all the other dishes being served.
Potlucks are always problematic for food-allergic folks, but there are ways to
make them a little more manageable. For example, if you can, enlist the host’s
help to try to position the dishes with food allergens in them at the end of
the serving table, so that the safe food gets served first, reducing the chance
that anyone will drip sour cream or grated cheese onto the milk-free grilled zucchini.
Separating the food allergen dishes from the safe dishes also helps prevent
spoon-sharing between dishes.
Another hint is to ask the host if you can dish up the
allergic person’s meal first, before everyone else begins to swarm the table.
And finally, the tried-and-true way to avoid problems at a
barbeque is to eat your own meal at home before you arrive. Then at the party,
you can enjoy a beverage with your friends without having to worry about the
food at all.
Now, go fire up that grill and have a safe and happy