Just when I think feeding my children is bad enough, every now and then I have to feed Someone Else’s Children. And that’s when I become totally unstuck.
Mr Justice’s choice in his two best school friends doesn’t help much – though I hasten to add they are both charming boys. It’s just that they put me in a state of panic when it comes to the whole food thing, particularly when they – as they did yesterday – both come over for a play date.
Master L is one of those children who comes with an EpiPen and a ten minute refresher course on how to administer it in case of an emergency. And an emergency could be caused by as little as him looking askance at a peanut. He’s also allergic to dairy and eggs – and to cashews, too, for good measure.
Master E presents a different challenge. He is currently adhering to the Cake’n’Air Diet, which means he pretty much subsists on cupcakes and oxygen. But he likes mangoes, too, which can make him more expensive to cater for than the famous gourmand Vicomte François René de Châteaubriand. And in any case, I think Master L might also be allergic to mangoes.
So if you were to look at their dietary requirements in the form of a Venn diagram, their two circles only intersect at allergy-free cupcakes – meaning no eggs, no dairy, no nuts and no fun (well, at least no fun to someone like me who mostly regards baked goods as a vehicle for getting more butter into my arteries). Anyone who has ever dabbled in allergy-free baking will know the perils that lie therein – any cake you make either turns out to be as heavy as a really heavy thing or has that bi-carbonate of soda taste that makes you walk around for the rest of the day making pha-pha-pha sounds with your lips. Which is to be avoided in polite company.
The internet is a great tool for finding recipes. But finding good recipes is another thing. I tend to gravitate to sites which have user ratings and comments, in the hope that the 5 star ratings and glowing comments aren’t all from the poster’s relatives or even the poster themselves. And then there is always the Vegan Factor to take into consideration. Vegans – with their meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free ideology – are prolific internet posters when it comes to recipes and comments, but my idea of a great recipe differs somewhat from theirs. A great recipe for me is one that requires minimum effort and has maximum impact, that I’d happily make for non-vegans/children without allergies. And for them… well, it’s for something – anything! – that tastes better than cardboard. In any case, a lot of their recipes require either obscure ingredients or, worse still, nuts – which, for our dear friend Master L, means an express train to Anaphylaxis Central. Which is very much to be avoided, even in impolite company.
Still, I like a challenge and over the past few years I have searched high and low for satisfactory allergy-free recipes to treat Master L, who I feel misses out on so much in life (if you accept my premise that life = butter). And then there’s also my little friend Master D, another child I like to bake for, who conveniently has a matching set of allergies (well, conveniently for me – but perhaps not for his parents who had to rush him to A&E the first time he encountered dairy). Unfortunately (well, unfortunately for me – and yes, IT IS ALL ABOUT ME), Master D’s parents recently eliminated sugar from his diet to see if it made him less of an Angry Young Man – so this means I now have to bake him things minus eggs, butter *and* sugar. Which pretty much leaves only flour and water: “Care for more glue, Master D?”
Anyway, the long and short of it, is that I forgot, in all my agonising over what to feed Mr Justice’s ‘besties’, is that when they are busy building underwater bases out of lego and making their own Autobot shields, they don’t like to take even union-negotiated breaks. So other than the embarrassment of admitting they’ve eaten nada when their mums come to pick them up, I needn’t have worried at all. In the meantime, if anyone wants any allergy-free rock cakes – i mean cupcakes – they’re sitting at the bottom of the deep freezer for next time.
For the record, the best vegan/allergy-free cupcake recipe I’ve found on the net, catering to most common allergies other than soy and wheat, is to be found here . Go on, show a child with allergies that you care.