Day 3: Lean Into Allergies - Hospitality for the Holiday Season

Day 3: Lean into Allergies

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV)

My roommates and I stood in the frozen dessert section at Target staring at our options. We were in the middle of a movie night and took a break to go buy ice cream.

“Butter pecan?” I suggested.

“Tree nut allergy,” one roommate responded. “What about peanut butter chocolate?”

“Peanut allergy,” the other sighed.

“Strawberries and cream or cookies and cream?” I added.

“I’m allergic to strawberries.”

“I’m allergic to wheat,” the other two said in unison.

We left the store with a half-gallon of vanilla, our options severely limited by the range of allergies between us.

Stroll the aisles of any grocery store today and you’re sure to find several items that you might never have imagined gracing the shelves fifteen years ago: almond flour crackers, rice flour cake mix, a dozen different alternative milks, and dairy-free, nut-free cheeses, sour creams, yogurts and more.

If you or your family have allergies, you probably welcome the explosion in offerings. They allow a sense of normalcy in the face of so much restriction.

If you don’t contend with allergies yourself, you might feel like everyone around you suddenly does. Where did all these allergies come from?

Since the early chapters of Genesis, humans have had a complicated relationship to food. It was the eating of forbidden fruit that brought death into the world, and the ramification of that fall was a painful relationship with the growing of food. Humans have been contending with these ramifications of a broken creation for all of history. For myriad reasons, today that tension often reveals itself in the form of food allergies.

Allergies can make hospitality especially hard. How do you know that the dish your well-intentioned friend made doesn’t accidentally contain a hidden allergen? How do you accommodate for all the different restrictions that are popping up these days? It’s tempting to just give up and decide not to take any risks at all—everyone provides meals for themselves.

But what if instead we used allergies as an opportunity to show love for others? To learn the limitations they contend with every day and cook for them accordingly?

It’s impossible to cook in a way that addresses all potential allergies. The dairy-free milks or gluten-free flours that work for one friend can trigger a nut allergy in another. Instead, food allergies require us to pay attention to the unique limitations of our particular community. They require us to slow down and pay attention to every hidden ingredient in the items we prepare, and they require us to listen closely to the concerns of those we love.

At the same time, they invite those with allergies to share their favorite recipes and to receive the gift of another’s hospitality.

Food allergies do complicate hospitality. But they can also serve as an opportunity to show love in a unique and meaningful way.

Kitchen Tip: When you cook for a friend, use the time preparing food as a time to pray for them. Perhaps you have specific petitions you want to bring to the Lord on their behalf, or perhaps you simply want to express your gratitude to God for their friendship. With every movement of your hands, hold them before the Lord and ask God to bless them through the meal that you will share together.

From the Book: