by Sue Newell
For someone with celiac disease, a food allergy or a food sensitivity, a holiday built around parties and food can be a real-life nightmare. There are so many unknowns: Can I eat that? Did she use the ingredient brands I asked? Were those vegetables cut on the same board used for the bread? How many people have dragged something with gluten through that dip? What do I do – he put my gluten-free crackers on the same plate as the rest of the crackers? What do I say to Aunt Mary who just offered me her special Fluffernutter Cookies?
If you try to make everything perfect, odds are you will have a meltdown long before Christmas dinner and will want to hide in a closet until it is all over.
So here is my suggestion: figure out what things are the most important to you, and let everything just happen. I’m not suggesting that you don’t pay attention to what you are eating; I’m suggesting you make sure you have something tasty to eat at those events, but don’t fret if it is not the same as everyone else. Bring you own food if you need to, but spend a minimal amount of energy fussing about it. If someone asks about it, say “I cannot eat wheat, rye and barley and I brought my own food so I could spend time with everyone, rather than worrying about safe food.” If that isn’t enough for them, too bad; don’t argue, start a conversation with someone else.
For the important things, find the key elements and make sure they work for you. One of our Facebook members mentioned that everyone in the family gets to eat their favourite cereal on Christmas morning, even the sugary-sweet ones that are not on the table through the year. She knew that Chex wasn’t going to do it for her, so she asked for suggestions from the group. Forty responses later, she had a long list to consider including some with no nutritional value (the exact definition of a Christmas treat!). In my family, I missed having scones for Christmas lunch, but a batch of gluten-free biscuits (Nova Scotia style) satisfied my needs and gave another option to the other people at the table.
If a turkey dinner is not complete without stuffing, focus your energy on making sure there is safe stuffing (and an un-stuffed turkey) and don’t worry about the rolls and vegetable casserole with those little crunchy onions on them. If your absolutely favourite square or cookie is available, does it really matter that there is a plate of cookies you cannot eat?
This probably requires some thinking on your part, and the first time you take your own food to a party, you will be very nervous, but press through and I bet you will realize that it wasn’t so bad after all.
I know it isn’t easy, especially if it is your child who needs the gluten-free food. Make sure you discuss the situation in advance so your child knows what is going to happen and that his or her food is going to be safe. Keep an eye out that they are not being pressured to eat something that is not safe by well-meaning relatives.
Depending on the type of party, it is probably worth speaking with the host before you arrive to let them know what you will be doing. This is especially important for events planned around a menu. Be clear and be firm – you are not trying to insult them, this is what you need to do to keep healthy.
Christmas Treats and Treasures
If you are still looking for Christmas cookies, try these options from Gluten Free on a Shoestring, Food.com and The Roasted Root.
Some of these recipes may require a few clicks to find the instructions and when you see “oats” mentally substitute it with “pure uncontaminated oats”, but with 92 choices, at least one should call your name. I want to make the Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Christmas Trees.
Christmas is often a time for making special ornaments with your children or grandchildren. some craft materials may contain gluten but you can make ornaments from cinnamon and applesauce, or salt, water and cornstarch, or even cornstarch and baking soda with some glitter thrown in for effect.