Thursday, July 22, 2010

Egg-free cupcakes & pig-free pancakes

Egg-free; nut-free; dairy-free.  Those were the instructions on the sign-up sheet today for Naomi Rivka’s camp party on Friday, their last day (it’s only a one-week camp).  The party theme is “stripes and polka dots.”  (I think)

Dairy-free, nut-free – those are easy.  And when I signed up to make or bring cuppycakes, the one the counsellor pointed out specifically:  “they have to be egg-free.” 

“Fine,” I thought, “I can do egg-free, no problem.”  Okay!  I love accomodating different dietary needs, for whatever reason.  So I can do that.  So help me, I will bake for you, little EGGLESS BOY OR GIRL:  you “EGG KID.”  Sure – can do!

But just now – twelve hours later; that’s how long my brain takes to kick in – I started thinking. 

Here’s what that niggling thought said to me:  “Why?”

“Why do I have to accomodate their EGG KID, when they are not at all accomodating my KOSHER KID?”

I bring separate snacks for Naomi every single day, even though the camp provides snacks and drinks.  Beyond unprocessed fruit or veggies, I have told them she can’t eat or drink a thing.  The pure fruit juice may be grape; the crackers, unsupervised.

The thing of it is that I don’t expect them to accomodate her food needs – the camp is not in a Jewish area and she’s the only Jewish kid.  That would be weird – shopping kosher for just one kid.

So we just bring our own, I give it to her, we don’t make a fuss.  She knows she gets separate snacks.  No hard feelings – we all eat this way when we’re out of the house.  We often say “no thanks” to treats we would otherwise enjoy that just don’t happen to be kosher.  (drat!)

And that’s why it strikes me as just a little… unfair… that EGG KID is learning that wherever he or she goes, the world will simply open up to accomodate that weird little need.  It’s simply not true:  that’s not the way the world works. 

If we accomodate every single dietary need with every single school or camp snack, then what the kids are left snacking on is… lettuce, celery sticks, water.  Healthy stuff, actually.  But not very interesting, as the world of snacks goes.  Almost every snack food contains something that some kid can’t have.

Honestly, I think my way of teaching my kid to say “no thanks” will have more positive effect on her character than teaching EGG KID to say “yum, sure!” every time a snack is offered. 

EGG KID may someday die (or at least compromise his or her parents’ vegan principles) because of being taught to say YES to food.  Instead of saying, “I need to see the label,” or “it’s okay, I brought my own snack.”

Is there a limit to inclusiveness? 

Can we tell parents gently, nicely, that we will NOT accomodate their kid’s special food requirement, not even try, not even a little bit?  Ask them to please take responsibility for their own child’s safety, or their own family’s principles, rather than rely on the supervision of strangers, creating delicious baked goods in their own home?

Where do we draw the line?

Surreal post-script:  I’m thinking I will make the cupcakes… but somehow bake them IN THE SHAPE OF EGGS.  And I will ice them, white, shiny-smooth, eggy.  Ha!  That will show them.  “Oh, yes; they’re egg-free.  What?  They look like eggs?  Sure do.  You got a problem with that???”  Sort of like kosher pancakes in the shape of little piggies…