‘It takes a village to raise a child’


As my little one’s 8th birthday draws near – the many, many people who have helped me keep him safe come to mind. Earlier this week, by mistake I packed pasta that could potentially have been highly allergenic for my son’s lunch. Just one of those mornings when things were rushed and I had woken up in a foul mood. It was mid-morning by the time I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Fortunately for me – my cousin Shobha lives and works in the same town as we live in and she is one person who has always had my back when it comes to Arjun’s care so little surprise that I called her up in utter panic! Smart sister that she is – she first calmed me down and asked me to inform the school immediately.  Then she dropped everything at work and rushed to his school just so she could drop off an Allergy Friendly lunch for my little boy! So – he was not only safe; he also did not have to go hungry because of a stupid mistake made by his mom. 

In the few moments that followed, the must-do measures to ensure an Allergy Friendly lunch box popped in to my head which I must share with all caretakers:

  1. Prep ahead: Leave the kitchen clean and do some of the lunch prep the night before like packing the dry snacks. A dirty kitchen is bound to delay things and push you over the edge on a busy morning.
  2. Be extra vigilant when doing routine/ repetitive tasks: those are the moments when our guard slips and we inadvertently make mistakes.
  3. Call the school the moment you realize that you have made a mistake. School authorities are very aware and will take action promptly
  4. And, finally if possible be fortunate to have a family member or friend who loves your child and will drop everything and rush to the child’s aid if you are unable to do it. For Arjun – one such person is his dear aunt Shobha! 

Shobha and I – we grew up together and being close in age have bickered and competed all through just like any 2 sisters would. Our own siblings have always lived far away from us but the two of us have inexplicably always been thrown in the same town.  So, through happy and tough times – we have stuck it out together. This has forged a life-long bond of trust and love between us and often in times of crisis no words are needed to communicate. A couple of years back I was at the cross-roads of life and even people whom I had tried to explain did not understand! But, Shobha needed no explanation – she was there for me and understood my predicament like she had lived the crisis herself – go figure!

Birthdays seem incomplete if she is not with me to celebrate it…

So, this post goes out to my beautiful sister Shobha who not only helps me to keep my boy safe but in her own special way makes sure her little sis is safe and happy too! I am often so wrapped up in Arjun’s weaknesses that she is the one who reminds me how he is as lively, intelligent and happy despite his allergies.

IMG_1654
On his first trip to New York City with his aunt!

When I think of preparing a special dish for Shobha – I always think ‘vegetables’ and lots of them! So, I chose this Allergy Friendly recipe which is bursting with colorful vegetables. I am sure it will score a home run with the ultimate health food foodie who loves my Allergy-Friendly spin on dishes. Presenting Allergy Friendly ‘Blanquette de légumes’  aka Vegetable Stew  🙂 Technically, ‘Blanquette’ refers to white sauce but we get a similar creamy albeit AF version -thanks to Coconut Milk!

Ingredients:

  1. Cauliflower: 1/3 – 1/2 of medium cauliflower
  2. Carrots: 1 medium
  3. Peas: 1/2 cup
  4. Beans: 1 cup diced
  5. Potato: 1 medium
  6. Tomatoes: 2
  7. Coconut Milk: 1 can
  8. Oil: 1/2 tbsp.
  9. Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp. (optional)
  10. Serrano chilies: 2 sliced (optional)
  11. Salt to taste

Apart from tomatoes – in all  use approximately 6 cups of vegetables diced small.

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil. Add cumin seeds and wait for it to start changing color. If using chilies, add the sliced chilies at this point and stir. Add a couple of extra chilies if you want to kick up the heat quotient a couple of notches. You can omit the chilies altogether or de-seed them before adding it to the oil if you want to avoid the ‘heat’.
  2. Add the vegetables and approximately 2/3 of the can of coconut milk to the heated oil. Mix it well – it may seem like there is an overdose of vegetables but it will reduce in volume as it cooks.
  3. Cook it covered on low to medium-low flame for about 10 minutes. Stir it a couple of times along the way and reduce the flame if the coconut milk starts boiling.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and desired amount of salt and stir well.
  5. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to desired level stirring occasionally. I like them cooked but firm.
  6. Now add the remaining coconut milk and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Now the dish is ready to be gobbled up 🙂
  7. I love it as-is – a warm bowl of stew or with an allergy-friendly tortilla or alongside a small bowl of rice (brown or white)
'Blanquette de légumes' - aka Vegetable Stew!
‘Blanquette de légumes’ – aka Vegetable Stew!

It is no surprise that seeing Shobha’s unadulterated love for my boy, her entire family dotes on him. Her two adorable daughters, Shruti and Soumya have helped raise money for food allergy research, participated in erstwhile FAAN (now FARE) annual walks, prepared allergy friendly meals for him and above all loved him like he was their little brother. And, in her husband Sudhakar, my soon to be 8 year old has found an uncle who pampers him like a little prince – massaging his legs, listening to his long-winded stories and just making him feel smart and very, very special!

To a cousin whom I love for her unparalleled zest for life, innate curiosity, hard-working and straight-forward approach, true appreciation for all that life has given her and above all for her ability to laugh like a child even when the chips are down – thank you! Wishing you the best now and always…

When I was younger, mom would say that people hesitate to help me because I would pretend to be a little too independent.  We are social beings and need each other – I learnt that important lesson only after Arjun was born. It is often said that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – clichéd but oh so true! And, if you have extended family in that village – you can be sure that your child will be one coddled happy camper 🙂 Reminds me of the beautiful song by the same name sung by Grammy nominee whose life has been dedicated to raising ‘social consciousness through music commentary’ and goes out to Arjun’s beloved aunt…

It takes a village to raise a child – Mickey Carroll

So, remember – a parent is not the only one who can keep a child with food allergies safe because we can’t do it all…

4 thoughts on “‘It takes a village to raise a child’

  1. Very nice and thoughtful post, I totally understand how difficult it is for a mom to go through each and every food, finding alternatives to make it taste as good as its original, scoring through food labels, pheww it’s painful and emotional when end of the day you make a mistake but don’t worry we learn and become stronger and I believe planning, being calm and smart thinking will overcome most of it, rest is in God’s hands.

    Btw love the recipe, that’s more of the Kerala style ishtoo which goes well with the aapam.

    Wishing Arjun a very Happy 8th Birthday.

    Lakshmi

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Thank you so much Priya. Infact, now that you mention it Aapam itself is a a great allergy friendly dish – thanks!

  2. Hi Anu, Your articles are as comforting as the recipes in them and always give me a lot of hope.My son Pratham is 5 1/2 yrs old and still has high allergies to multiples foods and although I don’t have an emergency contact or support system like your wonderful sister,I take extreme comfort in the fact that he does not have an anaphylactic reaction to foods and I know what a blessing that can be.Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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