We've Got "Issues": Anxious About the Holidays?
Sigh... 'Tis the Season
I dread the holidays. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, I try to take control by asking everyone in my family and my husband’s to come to our house. Since I’m gluten intolerant and my husband has trouble with dairy, it just makes sense for us to handle the meal planning and cooking. You’d think everyone would agree to this arrangement since it’s easier for them. Not so. Our parents and siblings still insist on rotating Thanksgiving and Christmas locations, so we wind up just waiting to get sick in the middle of the family celebration. Help!
‘Tis the season for family, friends—and loads of anxiety. I feel for you. I’ve been there, stressing out over my health and well-being in the middle of all of these super-fun holidays that revolve around food. Like you, I try to corral everyone to come to my gluten-free home so I can maintain food control.
Here’s the good news: It’s the holidays! It’s a special time of year when you make time to visit your loved ones, maybe exchange gifts, definitely exchange pleasantries, and have a great excuse to eat multiple (safe) desserts.
Here’s the bad news: We super-sensitive types are apt to get sick when we eat outside tried-and-true safety zones, no matter how much we just want to kick back and celebrate the season. This is why I do recommend you try to keep the mandatory cele-brations close to home. As in, your own kitchen.
Assuming there aren’t physical or financial limitations to family members showing up at your place, convince your people that they simply cannot miss Thanksgiving at your house. Whether you’re a natural in the kitchen or you need to order out, make sure your menu wows everyone on the guest list, even if it means bringing in select dishes that contain gluten and dairy. During the holidays, those who can partake in “normal” challah or full-dairy eggnog appreciate having that option. Allow someone else to handle the gluten and dairy (don’t prepare it in your own home!) and purchase disposable serving apparatus for anything that shouldn’t be in your kitchen. But bring it in so everyone will feel great about the gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie/latkes/poutine/gravy/cookies—whatever your traditions call for—that you serve.
You’ve got to give a little. Just play it safe. Pretty soon, everyone will flock to your house each holiday because you are the bomb.
And here’s some perspective: Even people who don’t have any food issues can have loads of anxiety during this time of year. At least our issues have a (seemingly) simple solution.
Mum's the Word vs. Brutal Honesty
Oh, how I just got glutened! Friends, they try. But they aren’t the ones who feel the after-effects when they accidentally use regular soy sauce or cook pasta in the same pot as my gluten-free noodles. So here’s the question: Do you tell your friends when they get it wrong as they’re trying? Or do you not say anything?
Social No More
I am not kidding when I say, this same thing just happened to me. I got up from my friends’ table, went home and was sick for two days. Although better than an “Oh my God, I’m dying!” three-week contamination nightmare, it still wasn’t pretty. I suspect that my friend’s house and the platters, grill and/or prep surface had been contaminated without it being obvious to me, the Gluten Stalker.
Here’s how I handled the situation: I didn’t say a word.
I didn’t say anything because these people know me well and they were doing everything they knew how to do to keep me safe. I was in the kitchen the whole time they were preparing the meal and they were checking ingredients with me. These are not my besties, so they aren’t privy to my grisly tales of diarrhea and such—but they know my deal. It had to have been the grill or a pan or something that had some residual gluten on it—but I never suspected at the time.
The other reason I didn’t say anything was that there wasn’t anything I could have told them to do differently, short of my cleaning their grill when I arrived and bringing my own pots and pans. They did everything in their power to keep me safe. And it was a dang good meal.
Unless your host was deliberately obtuse, there’s no need to call out a friend for a very innocent mistake. You could, however, show them this article. Next time, spend a load of time in the kitchen while the meal is being prepared so you can catch any obvious mistakes before they happen. And bring your own dish.
It’s so nice that friends try but, unfortunately for people like us, trying isn’t enough. Unless we absolutely, positively know the coast is clear (i.e., clean kitchen, counter, pan), we have to remain on our toes or stay home.
April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free.