20 November 2007

celiac thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be the most depressing holiday for a celiac. It's a whole day that centers around food. And no one wants to feel left out of the festivities. Part of being a celiac isn't just the food, it's the psychology of standing out in a crowd or having to worry about every bite. I've found that I hate standing out with the "special meal." I want to fit in and eat the same food as everyone else. Thus, the most comforting thing for me is being invited to the home of someone who is aware of the simple steps that can be taken to make a gluten-free Thanksgiving that's delicious for everyone.

Turkey. Make sure it's gluten-free. It seems like a no-brainer, but some turkeys are injected with, I don't know, delicious turkey flavor I guess. Whatever it is, some of those injection juices contain gluten, so check the ingredients on the turkey before you buy it.

Stuffing. If you absolutely must serve grandma's traditional bread stuffing, bake it on the side rather than in the turkey. Gluten can be transferred. If you want to stuff the bird, use a rice stuffing or a pure cornbread stuffing. Check those packages of cornbread mix--some add regular flour. Make sure the cornbread is made from pure cornmeal or corn flour. If you add sausage to the stuffing, make sure it's a GF sausage. Sometimes wheat is used as a filler. MSG is okay, though. It's not gluten, it's a corn-based additive.

Gravy. Use cornstarch instead of regular flour.

Potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. They are inherently gluten-free. If you're adding sour cream or cream cheese to mashed potatoes, though, check to make sure modified food starch is not on the ingredients list.

Cranberry sauce. Check the cans and tubs for wheat, modified food starch, or suspicious "natural flavoring".

Rolls and bread. These can be tricky because most GF bread just isn't as good as the regular stuff. (Although in my family those terrible, tasteless snowflake rolls were always served. I've learned to just skip the rolls altogether.) It's one thing I'd rather politely decline than eat a GF substitute.

Dessert. Traditional pies take a little effort. But I think it's worth it. The celiac doesn't want to be eating plain old GF cookies while everyone else digs in to pumpkin pie. At Whole Foods and many other specialty health food stores you can buy GF pies frozen. Some health food stores also contract with local bakeries for fresh pies. GF pie crust mixes and recipes are readily available if you want to bake your own.

Appetizers/snacks. Corn chips are safe as well as vegetable crudites. Make sure dips are free of modified food starch and wheat. Have two cheese plates: one with GF crackers and one with regular crackers.

If the celiac or the parents of the celiac are making the bulk of the meal, I'm sure you'll be making it gluten-free and none of the non-GF guests will even notice. If you are inviting celiac guests and they ask if they can bring something, tell them "Yes!" Celiacs need to be assured that we have control over some of our food.

This year I've been asked to bring a dessert and I think I'll go with my carrot cake. The cream cheese icing is so sweet and decadant! I know that GF crackers will be present and the stuffing will be rice. (I'm not a huge gravy fan, but I know it will be made with cornstarch anyway.)

I give thanks to my friends and family members who help make my life a little easier when it comes to eating.

(Cross-posted at Where in the World Am I?

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