Gathering Around Cultured Foods When Food Sensitivities Isolate You


Recently my husband and I shared our ninth wedding anniversary. It is always such a blessing to mark another year together. Most years, if we can, we try to do something special to mark the occasion and this year was no different. Stewart surprised me with a trip to town – just the two of us! – after dropping our four little ones off with loving friends.

We stopped at at a local restaurant that makes its own gelato, my husband knowing well my love for both frozen creamy treats and local artisan foods. We both had small cups and chatted as we sat in front of the little shop, enjoying the rare quiet time together.

On the way home he became exhausted and generally unwell. That exhaustion trickled over to the next day… and a little into the next. He had wanted to share something with me that I love, and in doing so he triggered a flare up that would last for several days.

Truth be told, I was saddened by this. Food sensitivities can be frustrating and difficult and incredibly isolating. For those who prepare food for loved ones with food sensitivities, it can be all of those things as well, not to mention challenging and exhausting. After several years of dealing with food sensitivities in my husband and eldest son, I’ve found that it is important to take responsibility for your own food and to try to find something we can gather around at the table and enjoy.

Cultured foods have provided that for our family.


The isolation of food sensitivities cannot be underestimated. This is particularly apparent to me when we gather with other families at the table. It is important to me that my husband and son be able to partake in the fellowship of a meal with those in our community. For that reason, I practice a few things at gatherings:

1. Bring food they and everyone else can eat. If I bring a dessert, I try to make it something they can enjoy together with everyone else. If I make a familiar dish like pasta or potatoes, I try to make them in a way that everyone can partake in them. My husband and I have talked about this and we feel a strong conviction to feed others as we would feed our own family – as nourishing as possible, doing what we can with what we have.

2. Bring more food than you would otherwise. Because there may be very few things that they can eat from the group table, I often try to bring an extra dish that I know they, and others, can eat. This takes a bit of the weird factor out of the equation in that they have more than just one or two things on their plates while others have a little of everything.

3. Bring ferments. This is the one food everyone seems to gather around, the food that transcends all types of food sensitivities and dietary restrictions. Whether it’s a tray of fermented vegetables, a salad that uses kefir as the creamy dressing, or a bubbly fermented beverage; everyone seems to enjoy the cultured foods that are brought to a meal. And, as Eve recently demonstrated, even cultured desserts are winners.

I’m grateful to live in a community where the ferments are popular and the people are understanding; so I know that my situation is much easier than it could be. But I do try to make life for those with food sensitivities a little less isolating and a little more “normal”. And cultured foods have played a large role in being able to do so.

Do you have food sensitivities? Do you find cultured foods bring you together?


Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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  1. Rebecca says

    My son has anaphylactic allergies to dairy, peanuts and sesame. When we go to potlucks I often bring a main course and a desesrt and buns so that he can have a full plate too (as you say). Of course other people enjoy eating the food I bring as well and it is always nice to be generous but sometimes when I’m busy in the kitchen creating those three items and I know other families are only cooking and bringing one item I feel overwhelmed.

    I do feel that dealing with allergies is an opportunity for my son and our family to learn how to be flexible and I encourage him to share the foods that he can eat with those around him.

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