Long Weekend at the Cottage: The ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’

The great thing about June is that it is the month that officially kicks off Summer. I like to think of the Victoria Day Weekend as the unofficial inaugural long weekend devoted to the beginning of Summer: re-opening the cottage, outdoor barbeques, and family get-togethers. The Canada Day long weekend, only a month later, allows you to really enjoy all of the greatness that summer has to offer.

Green Canoe and Dock on a Misty MorningAs fun as family barbeques and cottage get-togethers can be, effectively managing your severe food allergy will always be a factor that you must keep in mind when planning your ‘getaways’ to the cottage. Here is a list of some tips and tricks to keep in mind when planning to host or attend events during cottage season this Summer. I’ve drawn these from my own personal experiences, so by no means is this a definitive list of ‘must-dos’. Think of this as a way to complement your existing routine and mindset.

  1. Managing the Barbeque Scene at the Cottage:

I love barbequed food – who doesn’t? I’ve always found barbeques to be the least “intimidating” form of a food-centric event, specifically in regards to managing allergies. This is usually the case given that I usually have complete access to the grill – I can see exactly what gets cooked and keep track of who handled what foods. Additionally, in most cases, barbequed food goes from grill to plate directly, which reduces the risk of cross-contamination as long as no sauces or marinades contain my allergen.

Having said this, however, you should always be acutely aware of what food is being prepared, and how that food is being prepared. At times, certain meats may be marinated in a sauce that may contain your specific allergen. In addition, some barbeque sauces contain a number of allergens, which brings home the point of ALWAYS reading the label, even if you think something is safe to eat. If possible, always try to handle you own food. Grill to plate, as mentioned above, is often the best policy when it comes to barbeques as it can reduce the risk of cross contamination. In cases where you know sauces containing your allergen have been used on the grill, try to clean the grill with soap and water before even turning the barbeque on.

Family having a barbecue party in their garden in summer

  1. Bringing Appropriate Awareness to your Allergy:

Always make sure that the people around you are aware of your allergy. Make sure that you show them your auto-injector, and, if necessary, do a quick demonstration of how to use one (with a trainer injector) just in case. It is essential that you speak to the “chef” (cousin, relative, etc…) preparing the food – make sure to explicitly explain the severity of your allergy and thoroughly explain the concept of cross-contamination. Many people (family included) have a difficult time grasping the risks involved with cross-contamination. Explain what it is, its importance, and how to ultimately avoid it.

  1. Travelling to your Friend’s Cottage:

The rules described above hold the same relevance when travelling to someone else’s cottage. Always let your “host” (friend or relative) know that you have a severe allergy and where you store your auto-injector. Never be afraid to speak-up about your allergies and never be peer pressured into doing something (or eating something) that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy in any way – your health is too important for that.

Remember that your allergies aren’t everything – it’s something that is a part of you that you have to deal with. Own your allergies, let people know about it, but don’t let them stand in the way of having a relaxing and enjoyable long-weekend.

Saverio M. 

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