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Dinner-less Dates, Ideas for Corn Free Couples
Date night and dinner go together like...well, like movies and popcorn. But when you have a corn allergy, neither seem nearly as safe or appealing as they did before diagnosis.
In a society where date nights usually conjure up images of candle lit dinners, or holding hands in a darkened movie theater, or at the very least, coffee and a pastry, a corn free date seems impossible. However, whether you're still single or married and up to your ears in diapers and PTA meetings, the best way to reconnect with your significant other (or significant hopeful) is to go out on that dreaded date.
Date night isn't something you're supposed to dread. But when you're living a corn free lifestyle, the idea of sitting in a restaurant while everyone else eats, or worse, going out to eat and getting sick from it, doesn't sound very appealing. The memories of the last time you accidentally were exposed to corn make that dinner date even less romantic. (Digestive reactions are not romantic. And it's very difficult to feel remotely romantic when you're breaking out in hives.) Since people with a corn allergy or intolerance often react to airborne allergens, including many perfumes and air fresheners, just going out in public can be a trying experience.
On the other hand, to have a healthy relationship, getting up and out of the house is vital. In fact, getting up and getting out of the house is vital to your mental health. A change of scenery improves one's mood. Lack of social interaction is known to be a contributing cause of early onset dementia, as well as depression and increased risk of illness. For someone with a corn allergy it might look like you're stuck in a losing battle, there's a cost to any choice. But you can win this battle. Going out to eat isn't the only way you can build a healthy relationship with your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or other partnership.
While dates generally denote a single couple out on the town, most of these corn free ideas can be incorporated into group dates or double dates, even if there's only one participant with a food allergy. Having a corn allergy doesn't mean that you have to be a martyr and expose yourself to dangerous situations. But it also doesn't mean that you need to isolate yourself in a bubble. There are plenty of fun activities that anyone can enjoy. They aren't quite as simple as going out to dinner, but perhaps by thinking outside the box you can have twice as much fun.
These Aren't Food Free!
Everyone's got to eat eventually. Some of these suggestions involve a picnic lunch or dinner. It takes a little planning, but most corn free foods can be packed up and served on the go, or in a park. Even if you plan a food free event, bring a corn free snack. You might get hungry. If others get hungry, they can always stop 'somewhere' and grab 'a bite'. As a corn allergy sufferer, you may not have that luxury. So plan ahead. Pack some homemade trail mix for that hike, and some cookies for the zoo. Always bring a safe water bottle.
Drop the Night
Try skipping date night, and go for a date day.
- Take a hike! But do it together. Meet at a local nature preserve for an afternoon or early morning stroll. Early morning hikes, or ones taken just before dusk are most likely to reward you with a glimpse of wildlife. Unusual birds, deer, even foxes can be seen even on the fringes of urban life. If you aren't used to hiking, you can sign up for a guided walk with a naturalist through many parks and recreation departments.
- Go wild! Visit the zoo. It might not be nearly as exciting as it was when you were 8; but the local zoo still has a lot to offer. Lemurs, parrots, koalas, leopards...What's your favorite animal? The walk around will at least get you some fresh air, and those keeper notes and display signs will give you something to small talk about. Many zoos limit the areas where food is available, for the safety of the animals. Luckily, that means no popcorn fumes or stray crumbs coming your way.
- A picnic in the park...Having a corn allergy is no picnic. But you can pack one. Fill your favorite basket or knapsack with your favorite corn free offerings. Cold macaroni and cheese, peeled apples and oranges (the oranges will help keep the apples from turning too brown), egg salad, homemade cookies or brownies are good starts. Pack in some safe water bottles, too. Just make sure your containers are corn free, and pad any glass containers well with cloth napkins and your picnic blanket.
- Go fly a kite...Literally. Yes, I'm serious! If you live near a body of water (the ocean, a lake) take your homemade picnic down to the shoreline. Bring a swimsuit in summer and an extra layer in winter. And don't forget your kite. If you don't already own one, you can pick a decent sized kite up at most drug stores for under $10.
- Play golf: If you don't own your own set of clubs, head to your nearest mini golf facility. Food will be in the arcade section, but you should be able to go golfing without entering that area.
Keep a doctor's note stating that you have special dietary needs and require your own food in your wallet or purse, where it's easy to pull out if you're questioned about the snack and water bottle. Just be responsible about when and where you snack, no eating in the theatre or the middle of a museum!
Seize the Night!
Okay, so sometimes you do want to go out at night. Maybe you need to adjust for work schedules, or maybe that's the only time the babysitter is free. Most people choose dinner dates as an ideal way to connect because everyone has to eat. But since corn free folks need to eat food they prepare in a safe place, eating out isn't much fun. Here are a few alternatives to evening dinners:
- Concerts: Most music bands travel, and most places have a concert venue of some sort that isn't housed in a bar. But you can also find local talent playing for free out on the green grass of many local parks during the summer dinner hour. Check your local Parks and Recreation department website or publication to find out if there is a set time and place for your town. Then pack in a picnic, or just dessert. Since food isn't being served, you can settle in well away from any meals that have airborne crumb risks (powdered donuts and popcorn are the worst offenders for corn allergies.)
- Theater: Broadway is expensive, and travelling shows are almost as bad. If you can afford it, though, a night on the town is a real treat even without the dinner before and drinks after. If even Disney on Ice is out of your budget, though, there are often community or children's theaters that showcase local talent for much less than the professionals do. And they limit refreshments to the reception area, between acts. Sit on an aisle to limit exposure to perfumes and bodycare products and you're almost guaranteed a reaction free evening. Our local community theater sells tickets for less than a movie matinee!
- Play pool. Pool halls and bowling alleys seem dark and dusty, but there are some that are limited in their food offerings. Call ahead to make sure that popcorn isn't their allergen-friendly freebie offering (or sold by the bag full). But all in all, it's hard to munch and play at the same time, so if you go, choose an off time for food and limit your explorations to the game playing areas. Bowling may be a safe option as well, but the rental shoes are generally treated with disinfectants that may contain corn derivatives, so be aware of the risks. Costs are comparable to a night at the movies.
- Go clubbing...book clubbing that is. This option may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy reading, check your local library for book clubs. They meet every few weeks or once a month to discuss their current read. Some clubs read classics, some read current best sellers, many read anything in between. If you're not an avid reader, just attend the meetings for books you want to read. You can connect with others while having something to share and discuss with your significant other.
- Watch the stars...There are plenty of stargazing clubs around, and members love to share their knowledge and put their telescopes to good use. If you can't find when one meets, or the trip to the darkened areas that are best for seeing stars is too much for you to deal with, check out your local planetarium. (They're often located at a local museum or university, and evening showings are usually open to the public)
It doesn't really matter what you end up doing. The goal of any date is to have fun together and getting a change of scenery. While many people can enjoy date night at home, it's nice to go out and get some fresh air now and then, too.
Date may be a four letter word, but it doesn't have to involve food (another four letter word) or corn. You don't have to be scared to go out and date...but you do need to be willing to be creative, and to be a little bit different. Corn allergies keep you corn free, but they don't have to isolate you completely.
By thinking outside the box, you might have to put a little more planning in, but the pay off is much more fun than a simple dinner. Go out on a date...make some memories. It's okay to go out and not eat. Or at least, avoid eating food others have prepared in a questionable environment. If the person you're with is worth spending time with, they'll understand. And they'll do what they can to accommodate both your needs and your comfort level.