This post was written by Peter Goldberg. Peter is a gardening and landscaping writer, and outdoor extraordinaire. He likes to fire up the grill to cook for family and friends, as well as using his organically grown garden produce to create mouth-watering meals.
As the weather warms up, invitations roll in for outdoor gatherings centered around the grill or fire pit. While cooking al fresco is fun, it has dangers for those with allergies.
People with allergies don’t have to miss out on the fun. Follow a few of these allergy safety tips for cooking outside and keep on grilling in the free world.
Dedicate a Safe Grill Space
You might cringe as you see someone warming buns across the entire expanse of a grill surface. Cross-contamination by gluten is a serious risk, but the issue is preventable.
Call your hosts beforehand and make sure they understand that your food allergy is a big deal but can be managed. Politely request a section of the grill surface be gluten-free. Once you’ve arrived, make sure whoever is manning the grill knows that you need a little personal space on the grill.
Worst-case scenario, BYOG — bring your own grill. If you’re attending a large party where it isn’t possible for the grill master to make a gluten-free zone for you, you should consider this option: there are plenty of adorable, small grills that fit the bill. Everyone waiting in line at the big grill will wonder why they didn’t think of bringing their own as well.
Practice Ingredient Awareness
Always ask before you indulge in anything that has been marinated, dipped, or encrusted in something. Even an innocent-looking piece of meat may have been soaking overnight in a marinade rich in soy sauce. That gluten-free crust may contain peanuts. Innocent-looking foods such as ice cream or hot dogs can contain gluten, so keep your guard up. If you don’t want to seem rude by asking about the ingredients, discreetly test the food yourself. A Nima gluten or peanut sensor fits nicely in your pocket and can be your best line of defense.
Avoid Excessive Tree Pollen
Whether your problem is with gluten or nuts, there’s growing evidence that celiac disease or wheat intolerance may cause heightened allergic reactions to pollen in the air. People with nut allergies may suffer oral allergy symptoms when consuming raw foods outdoors that contain traces of pollen. If you’re heading to an outdoor event during a period of unusually heavy pollen loads in the air, you may want to take precautions. Taking an antihistamine before you arrive can help minimize the effects of grass pollen allergies. Making sure you eat only cooked foods (and eating indoors) will further protect you from the ill effects of seasonal allergies.
Despite the sense of limitation you may feel as an allergy sufferer, there’s no reason to throw in the towel on outdoor gatherings. By taking a few precautions, preparing yourself, and being flexible, you can enjoy every last lawn party this year throws at you. So buckle up, and Bon appetit!