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Taking It All In

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Taking It All In

I can count on one hand the times Max has complained about not being able to eat something because of his food allergies. It’s easy to take advantage of his good attitude and assume he is unaffected, but I was reminded again this week how he is taking it all in.
The concession stand at our neighborhood pool sells a number of items that are off limits to him. Claire, who is all about fairness, never asks for what he cannot have. For the most part, when I give them money, I encourage them to buy either a frozen slush or a frozen lemonade, both of which — while not that nutritious — are somewhat hydrating, or at least that is how I rationalize it in my mind.
One of their good friends loves soft pretzels. After a few shared snack times, Max asked about whether they were safe for him. It wasn’t a casual question tossed out before ordering or on the way home from the pool. It was a careful question asked at the end of the day after story time and before sleep. Nonetheless I gave him a pretty casual answer. We are the pool a lot. I have seen the lifeguards take the box from the freezer. I knew the brand was safe, but I also suspected they coated the pretzels with butter before serving them. Since Max isn’t the biggest fan of hard pretzels, I suggested to him that we try them at home first. If he liked them, then we could see about the possibility of getting one without the butter at the pool.
A couple of days later at snack time we brought out the box of pretzels. Max immediately noticed they were smaller than the ones at the pool. Claire and I weren’t sure (turns out they were), and we went about following the instructions to coat them with salt and bake them in the oven. They both liked them. The next day we had three remaining. This time we mixed up some cinnamon sugar (which is the other option at the pool), sprinkled and made another batch.
I asked them which they liked better. Claire immediately said “salt.” Max said he wasn’t sure. I teased him, “Who should I ask to find out then?” He said,”Well, at the pool they put the salt and cinnamon sugar on after they are heated.” He thought this could affect the taste. I asked him how he knew this about the pool ones. He said “I’ve watched.”
It turns out he knew a fair amount about all the menu items at the concession stand, including more than anyone should about the different rainbow-colored wrappers the ice cream treats come packaged in. Oh my gosh. I think it must be so hard to watch things like that and know it’s not safe for you to eat. Then again he’s never known anything different. He wasn’t complaining. He was just answering my question.
Still, you can be sure I decided he needed to try the pretzels at the pool. I told him we would pick a non-busy time and ask one of the lifeguards (preferably a friendly one he sort of knew) if they would make him one without the dairy. He and Claire have been taking refresher swimming lessons (although it’s mostly diving they are working on) for a few weeks. There is only one other kid enrolled in their group, and they often have three lifeguards teaching the lessons, which means they get a lot of personalized attention. Theirs is the last lesson on Saturday mornings before the pool opens. We decided first thing after the lesson, as the pool opens but the teacher lifeguards were still there, would be the time to try out the pretzels.
Jason usually takes them then. He is pretty good at negotiating these kind of things. We discussed the plan. I packed the epi pens and sent them on their way. It turns out the lifeguard was happy to make the pretzel sans butter. The cinnamon sugar stuck to the pretzel better than the salt and Max and Claire were both super happy. They have since had pretzels a couple of times. The lifeguards never seem to mind. Max handles the special ordering himself now. Just yesterday when Max had a friend over with him Claire asked if he minded if she got butter on hers, and he shrugged and said no. She liked it even better but said she wasn’t always going to order it that way.
All this pretzel talk reminded me of when I was a teenager learning to bake. The Betty Crocker cookbook I was using had the best recipe for soft pretzels. It would put the Super Pretzel Co. pretzels to shame. I couldn’t find that recipe for you, but I did find this one from Alton Brown that looks great. I am going to try making it (substituting dairy-free margarine for the butter and maybe adding in some whole wheat flour) with some sauerbraten next week.

No matter how good those pretzels turn out I have a feeling that for Max (and possibly Claire) it won’t beat the experience of getting to order one at the pool and eat it with friends.


7 responses »

  1. Your kids are so great! I am always impressed with the way food allergy kiddos maneuver life. You don’t want that for your kids, to have to learn such hard lessons when really they should just be allowed to be kids, but in the end they are always better for it. And I love how empathetic Claire is about it too. For a few months, they thought Amelia had a milk protein allergy when she was a newborn, and I gave up everything with milk protein in it while I nursed her, and it was SO HARD. So, so hard. I can’t imagine being a kid and having to put up with that.

    These are the pretzels I make (link to the recipe – I double-check, and no butter!)

  2. Thank you Vera! Those look great! I will have to try them.

  3. What a great learning experience you had with the pretzels…a serious dilemma broken down into parts in order to come to a solution! So happy it all turned out well for all! I have only made baked pretzels once for my boys…I should give it another go…the cinnamon sugar sounds yummy! I made the dough in the breadmaker. Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles.

    • I know I shouldn’t have gotten rid of our breadmaker in a garage sale years ago. I liked it, but it was huge. I know you use yours all the time. I bet it’s great.

  4. I love doughy soft pretzels. I liked them before I met Jeff, but after my first trip to Philly with the roadside vendors, I was really hooked.

    We tried the AB recipe a few years ago with mixed results. I think you’ve inspired us to try it again.

    I was thinking earlier today that we (in a generic sense, not necessarily you and I) underestimate what children take in. I was a little sad when I read your line about checking out all the wrappers. I imagine Max picking each one up thinking, “maybe, maybe this one doesn’t have dairy.” Then being disappointed, yet again.

    • I was thinking about making them for book club, but we’re on vacation most of next week. I think I won’t have energy. I don’t know if we underestimate children in general or if you and I just have two careful kid observers. Claire is much more in her own little world when it comes to things like that.

  5. Pingback: confessions of an NPR junkie and Guten Appetit! « dairyfreediner

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