A Surrey mother is working hard on her baking skills, now that a commercial waffle maker has given her the recipe to help feed her very discerning son.
Jenna Roman was thrilled when Richmond-based Nature’s Path Foods sent precise details about how to make their discontinued Maple Cinnamon Waffles, which is the only food eaten by her son, Jerico, other than vitamin-packed smoothies. The nine-year-old has autism, and struggles with extreme oral aversion and complex eating challenges.
In recent months Roman has been on a mission to round up remaining waffle stock, and now she’s making them herself.
“The waffle recipe isn’t easy to make — it’s actually very complex,” Roman explained. “The next step in this journey is to replicate this recipe and tweak it until it’s accepted (by Jerico). Hopefully it’s an easy switch-over but the people in the R&D department let me know it’s not an exact copy, taste-wise and smell-wise, so we’ll have to tweak it as we go here.”
The Guildford-area family’s story has made headlines across North America in recent weeks.
“It’s been amazing, and it’s good for the awareness around this subject,” Roman said about all the media attention. “There are tons of families with children and adults dealing with similar challenges, so I’m glad it’s being talked about to kind of give a voice to people dealing with it.”
People with oral aversion, like Jerico, strongly dislike or are afraid of anything touching their mouth, which can lead to a refusal to eat, drink, be touched or an overactive gag reflex.
Roman started Twitter and Facebook accounts to document the ordeal, and a GoFundMe page has raised more than $5,000 for her to buy more of the waffles and two freezers to store them for Jerico, who turns 10 in April.
The “Waffles For Jerico” Facebook page raves about Nature’s Path Organic Foods as an “amazing company that has gone above and beyond to help Jerico. Without them, I would have no direction or plan on what to do when my stock runs out. This is Jerico’s lifeline at this point in his life.”
The waffle recipe is posted on naturespath.com, along with an explanation that some of the original commercial ingredients are not available at the grocery store. “We wanted to be sure Jenna could easily find everything she needed for the recipe,” the company says. “Then the amounts had to be adjusted, but the (research & development) team was determined to get just right! Over several weeks, they repeatedly tested and tweaked the recipe and now feel they have developed a home recipe that tastes just like our commercial Cinnamon Maple Waffles.”
A single mother of three, Roman has had her hands full searching for a waffle solution.
“I’m trying to make them without Jerico knowing, at night, because he has no idea about everything that’s happening at this point,” she said. “I don’t want to create more anxiety around eating and everything about the waffles.”
On social media, Roman said she’s had to deal with some scornful people who can’t understand why Jerico won’t eat other things.
“I try not to respond,” she said, “but people don’t understand, or are even open to understanding. It’s a severe challenge, and back in the day, kids who had these challenges were institutionalized and just put away, because nobody knew how to deal with it. Some kids will starve themselves, to the point of hospitalization and needing a feeding tube.
“It’s an extreme situation that many kids, parents, adults have to struggle with,” Roman added, “and I’ve been in a situation two times where Jerico almost had to be put on a feeding tube, and that’s very hard to take as a parent. He’s been through tons of therapy and therapists, and I’m hoping that with all this attention, maybe a specialist would want to jump on board and work with Jerico on this situation. He also deals with migraines triggered by anxiety that go with feeding as well.”
— Nature's Path Foods (@NaturesPath) March 6, 2021
Waffle recipe in hand, Roman went to work making them at home.
“It’s tricky because replicating a commercial, boxed waffle like that is so much different than making waffles at home with an iron,” she elaborated. “You have to have right temperature — cool it but not too much because it’ll go soggy when you freeze it, so the timing is key too. They actually gave me two (recipes), and they said I might have to bake them as well before freezing. It’s all quite a process.”
Ultimately, she’d love for Nature’s Path to start making her son’s favourite waffles again.
“I’m hoping for that, because they’re very good waffles,” Roman said. “People don’t realize they’re not making them anymore, so hopefully the company will consider making them again. I don’t quite understand why they’re gone. It would save a lot of time and energy for me to create them, that’s for sure, and I’m just thankful they were able to go through everything and recreate the recipe because it wasn’t easy, not easy at all.”