The reaction many people have when they learn they’re allergic to a common food substance is often: “Why me?” As well as the risk this poses to their health, it’s difficult not to think of the inconvenience. It’s bad enough when it’s an allergy to nuts- in many cases you can go for a “nut free” option or avoid them altogether. Yet what do you do if you suffer from an egg allergy? Not only is it a dietary staple and a highly convenient snack food, it’s used in countless foods, sometimes ones you would never guess.
Let’s have a look at the facts. According to NHS Choices, a food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts to specific foods- it is not being ‘picky’ or ‘spoilt’. Egg allergies are most frequently found in children and often outgrown; other people suffer them for life. The commonest form is a person’s antibodies reacting to a protein in the egg white- ovomucoid is the most frequent subject of immune system attack. Yet allergies are hugely variable: some people react to egg whites, others to the yolk, others still to both. A diagnosis is made by skin prick or blood testing and analysing the foods the patient regularly eats. At this point in time there is no known cure and the best way to prevent an attack is by excluding egg from your diet.
So how can this be done? The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation points out there are two different products on the market, egg replacements and egg substitutes, and it’s important not to confuse the two. Egg substitutes cater to the cholesterol conscious and contain eggs- they’re therefore not suitable if you suffer an allergy! There are numerous egg replacements on the market, generally indistinguishable from the real thing. Eggs tend to be used for the following three things: as a binding agent (to hold the recipe together), a leavening agent (to help it rise) or as a glaze. You can find successful substitutes for all of these functions; margarine, for example, is perfectly adequate if you wish to glaze a food.
If you’re fond of cakes or baking, discovering you have an egg allergy can come as a real blow. No need to worry! On the commercial side, cake makers such as Kool Cakes in Kingsbury make beautiful egg free cakes, every bit as tasty as the usual kind. As for your own efforts, you’re not alone: Madhuram’s Eggless Cooking blog is dedicated to making the perfect egg free and vegan recipes. If you’re more of a traditionalist and prefer to use a cookbook, there are a growing number of books for people with food allergies.
So you don’t need to regard it as a sentence or a chore. Get cooking!