Accommodating food preferences and needs is an act of love


For this Food issue, I interviewed my sister-in-law, Devorah Raskin. She and my brother, Russell, are the parents of eight children, and have many beautiful grandchildren – which adds up to lot of different diets, food preferences and even some serious food allergies. I wanted to know how Devorah coped with all these diverse needs.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

How do you accommodate your grandchildren’s food needs and preferences when they visit?

More than just the specific foods I make, it’s a philosophy of wanting everyone to be comfortable in all areas, and food is one of them.

For example, one son-in-law doesn’t like tomatoes. When we have salad while he is here, I serve tomatoes on the side, and those who want can add them.

My oldest grandson was the first one with food allergies in the family, to peanuts and tree nuts.  Before he comes, we go through the house and we put all the nuts and foods containing nuts up out of reach.

It was scary when he was younger and he didn’t know to be careful. Now that he is older, he is very aware and will ask “does this have nuts?” Rather than be insulted that he doesn’t trust me,  I am grateful that he asks! I would never want to serve him something by mistake.

If your ego is not in the picture, then it’s really about making sure people are not overlooked and everyone feels valued.

If I cooked with tomatoes every time my son-in-law came over, he wouldn’t feel very welcome. Whether it’s things you leave out or things you put in, it’s about focusing on what your loved ones appreciate.

What snacks do you share with your grandchildren that are pretty much universal and healthy?

What I serve my grandchildren is very similar to what I served my children when they were younger. I use very little sugar, serve lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and try to make sure it is yummy.

Can you share with us a recipe, particularly a kosher recipe, that you really love to make and that most of your children or grandchildren love?

Cabbage soup!  It is delicious, rich, hearty and substantial, and has a wonderful flavor that appeals to all ages. See recipe at bottom

What about separate cooking utensils, and safe snacks?

Since I use a lot of nuts when allergic grandchildren are not here, I am careful to rewash my cooking implements prior to cooking for them. If I am reusing parchment paper, I will write “nuts” on the paper so I won’t use it if they are coming.

What about things like dairy, or gluten, things that people often have allergies to?

Neither of these are issues for family members, but they are for other guests. Since most of our hosting is on Shabbos, and we serve meat, dairy is not an issue. Our gluten-free guests don’t have my challah, but most everything else I serve is easily made gluten-free.

What would be your advice to families with different food needs and preferences?

Don’t view their unique needs as a burden. Focus on the person and your relationship with them. Each person is unique, as are their needs. Have little expectation for what and who you want them to be, and appreciate who they are.

This makes it very easy to enjoy them, love them and prepare food that they are going to want.  It’s just another way of welcoming your loved ones into your home and into your life, enveloping them, so they can feel safe, happy and wanted.


PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is an award-winning radio producer, business owner and leader.  She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.  Her “Positive Aging with Patricia Raskin” podcast is broadcast on the Rhode Island PBS website,

Patricia Raskin, Food, Cabbage Soup, Devorah Raskin