Living with Celiacs is a bitch, sorry. And the holidays do nothing to make it any better. Here are some (hopefully) helpful tips and tricks to get through the meals to come without getting sick or making somebody else sick.
If You are a Guest with Celiacs
It’s not all about you – It’s Celiacs, not cancer. Everybody’s got issues, and the last thing you or anyone else wants to do is spend the holiday worrying your host or discussing the current state of your GI tract.
The single best thing you can do is to clearly communicate your dietary needs with your host, privately and quietly, well beforehand. I send out the Cooking Gluten-Free for Celiac Family or Friends? Please read this first! post to all of our friends and relatives before the holiday season. It helps put everyone at ease and takes the focus off you.
It is all about you – It’s your job to take care of yourself and keep healthy. Ask questions, stick with foods you know are safe, and don’t be afraid to bring foods you know you can have.
I typically ask if I can bring at least one side dish (usually something that’s tough for most folks to make gluten-free), bring my own GF bread, and squirrel away some GF snacks that can get me by if there’s really nothing safe to eat.
If You are Hosting a Guest with Celiacs
Do your best – Celiacs is complicated (even for the folks who are living with it), and gluten can show up in damn near anything. Communicate, try to understand the issue, and minimize any chance of contamination.
Just to be safe, double clean all your cooking tools, cutting boards, and prep area. If you think your ingredients may be contaminated, replace them or have a new one on hand to use for your guest. My mom, for example, loves to make peanut butter cookies. She keeps a jar of peanut butter for me and one for the grandkids, so if they stick a knife in it, it’s not an issue for me.
Look for recipes that are naturally gluten-free. The fewer ingredients the better. If you are uncertain, provide an ingredient list for your recipes or, better yet, send the recipes you’re thinking of making to your guest ahead of time to check. My dear wife always offers to bring any GF items needed to make the dish work. Sometimes the ingredients can be hard to find and they’re always expensive, so this way everyone wins.
If you buy or make a GF dish, make sure it stays GF by keeping it covered, moving it away from any gluten-containing foods, and by using dedicated utensils. Do encourage everyone to use the spoons that come with the dish or dip, not to be “fancy” but swiping a wheat cracker through the spinach dip is not pretty, especially if the person with Celiacs doesn’t see it to know that it’s been contaminated. If you have the space and are serving buffet style, consider having a dedicated GF area, perhaps on a different colored table cloth, so that folks are more aware.
Don’t be afraid – The last thing any host needs is more stress for the holidays. If you don’t get the whole Celiacs thing or aren’t comfortable making GF dishes, just let us know in advance so we can be prepared. Most folks with Celiacs are used to making the best of it and working around the issues.
For Hosts and Guests
Forgive, forget, and move on – Accidents happen. Aunt Bertha may not like you, but she probably wasn’t really trying to kill you with the flour that she forgot was in the scalloped potatoes. By the same token, if a guest gets sick, don’t blame them. Nobody chooses to have Celiacs, and the reaction they are having is not a comment on your cooking. Treat it like any other sickness and give them the space, time, and privacy to recover.
Wishing everyone happy (and safe) holidays!