Nothing can be more stressful than the holidays. Add dietary restrictions to the list and it turns into a hot mess, enough to cause James Bond to lose his cool. Trust me, I know. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease eight years ago and I understand how impossible it can be avoiding foods that make you stay in the bathroom all night.
I cringe when friends suggest holding a cookie exchange instead of giving gifts. "Really, guys? You don't get enough cookies at Christmas? Wouldn't you rather have socks because I certainly would. Why don't we have a sock exchange?"
And all the parties. I love people and food but when the only option is eating the picked-at veggie tray while drooling at my friends' plate, I'd rather not even go. The struggles are real. A plus is that you have an excuse to avoid the dreaded fruitcake your grandma always tries to toss on your plate.
Now that I am accustomed to the GF lifestyle the holidays are smooth sailing. It wasn't easy though — the first couple years are often challenging but I'm here to help you out because food should be enjoyed, not cause you stress. Here is a guide to help anybody just trying to avoid getting sick from the season of cookies, breads, and casseroles ahead.
One of the worst parts is having to explain to everyone that I can't eat gluten—explaining what gluten is (some people find gluten a very difficult concept to process), that I'm not on the diet because Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed it, and no, I do not starve. Repeating these same statements over, and over, and over again is beyond exhausting. So unless someone asks or my health is at risk, I keep my mouth shut.
That being said, if the event you are going to is being catered or created by the host, ask what is on the menu and make it known that you have dietary restrictions. This is always the awkward part. If a majority of the food is gluten-free and you feel like you could satiate yourself with the foods offered, perfect.
If not, offer to bring your own meal or contribute GF dishes to the meal. I always feel like I am inconveniencing the host but this will make the celebration so much more enjoyable. Potlucks are my favorite because you can secretly bring your own delicious treats to hoard for yourself or to share (it is the season of giving after all).
No one has to know that your decadent peppermint brownies are GF. The best is when the people who think gluten-free food is atrocious begin to rave about your GF peppermint brownies, completely unaware that they lack their coveted gluten.
This makes it a great time to experiment in the kitchen. After exams are over, I basically live in my kitchen at home until January. If you're in a hurry or lack culinary skills Namaste's brownie mix is delicious and Glutino pretzels are an easy snack to bring to group gatherings.
Thankfully, I have been blessed with supportive friends and family that understand my dietary issues and are beyond accommodating. For Thanksgiving we always bring gluten-free pumpkin and pecan pies as well as stuffing. My aunts have adopted using cornstarch instead of flour as a thickener in the gravy.For Christmas, I make the Christmas cake (I switch it up every year) and bread the day before to be enjoyed by everyone. We usually make this Hawaiian Sweet Bread and it is always a crowd pleaser. If there is any leftover, this bread makes perfect French toast for the morning after Christmas.
The holiday season is a time for thanksgiving and celebration. Worry and stress about food intolerances should not get in the way of spending and enjoying time with your loved ones. Just take a deep breath. And remember, wine is GF. Cheers!