So now that the holiday season is in full swing, I've been thinking about the many little things that happen during this time, that can make the life of someone who is living gluten free, pretty annoyed and/or depressed. Things like there are cookies in the breakroom at work every other day that are not gluten free, and work lunch celebrations at places that don't offer gluten free menus or any gluten free food besides a bland salad. Here is what I suggest you do, to keep from feeling left out of all the holiday cheer and gluten filled gluttony. Think about what treats you enjoy and then make several things to keep in the freezer, to be plucked out on your way to work when you know there will be something going there - for which no food will be provided for you. This could be brownies, fudge, a cake, cookies - whatever you like! If you don't bake, then get some ready made gluten free things like Whole Foods GF Bakehouse chocolate chip cookies or even one of their pies. My husband who can eat gluten if he wants to, is addicted to their gingersnap cookies! I don't even like this type of cookie but I think the gluten free version is fabulous. The important thing is you need to have something tasty ready to grab, in case you feel left out in any given social situation, this holiday season.
If you're going shopping with friends, remember to pack snacks in your purse. When they want to stop for coffee and grab a cinnamon bun, you'll be able to enjoy right along with them. Of course, this is a rule I follow all year long - not just during the holidays. I wouldn't dream of meeting my gluten eating friends for coffee without packing a scrumptious treat in my bag. I actually rarely even eat what I bring - but it's knowing that it's there, in case I want it, that's important.
I was at a holiday business lunch today and had a little homemade fudge with some hot tea after the meal. I never order dessert at lunch but my fudge was left over from Thanksgiving weekend and it was the perfect end to my meal. Some people are too timid to take food into restaurants, worrying that the staff or Chef will be offended. Here is what I have to say about that - when they start offering me more than ice cream or sorbet for dessert, and gluten free bread or crackers - then and only then will I stop taking food into their establishments.
Did you know that in many restaurants in Ireland have you two types of bread? Yes - they offer you gluten free or regular bread....just like servers here offer you water in a restaurant. Also, in Sweeden, some places have separate pastry cases for their gluten free goodies. When we had Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester Hotel in London last year, the sandwiches were made with homemade gluten free bread that I've yet to find anything like in the states. The bread was so good that we were sure it wasn't gluten free - but it was. This is just simply not okay with me and the other several million gluten free people in the US. Until things change over here, our community is not going to stop pushing for change.
Okay - back to the holidays and navigating them safely gluten free. When you're invited to parties, ask the hosts in advance what is being served. If there isn't going to be much, or anything for you to eat, let them know you'll be bringing your own food. Then share your food with others unless you have way more than you need to get full on yourself. Remember most of the other guests will have plenty to nibble on. And don't put your dish on the main table or others will get crumbs in it, rendering it unsafe for you to eat from again. I usually find there is a cheese tray so if I take my own crackers - if the gluten crackers are in a separate basket of course. If you are worried about offending your hosts with your specials requests, all I can say is don't be. If people really want me at their party, they will do a little something to accomodate me or I won't go - it's that simple. I would do it for them and if they don't feel the same way - I probably shouldn't be spending time with them in the first place. Life is too short to hang out with people who aren't considerate of your needs....way too short.
Attending the company holiday party....oh how stressful this can be. Last year was my first gluten free holiday season so I had to ask HR at my husband's work if any of the food served at the holiday party was gluten free. Luckily Wolfgang Puck Catering does the party food at the GA Aquarium and they had plenty of great food for me to eat. I had to skip the pasta bar and rolls, but I had chicken, beef, shrimp, rice, salad a few other things. They didn't have much in the way of gluten free desserts (only ice cream or sorbet) so I snuck in a little chocolate pecan bark I'd made the night before. My husband was thought the chocolate was going to be confiscated but apparently the metal detector didn't have a chocolate x-ray coponent to it...lol!
In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the party including the food, and I must say that seeing the Aquarium at night without a zillion kids running around was THE WAY to see it! I have to admit that I found it quite hilarious that with about 2200 people at the party, I was the only one who inquired about the gluten status of the food. I felt really lucky since about 22 of those other attendees have Celiac and just don't know it yet. And that's not counting the gluten intolerant set. If you add them in, you might be looking at almost 50 people....all eating gluten at a party and some of them going home and not feeling well and not knowing why. And many others are 'silent' Celiacs. They have no outwward symptoms - they are the ones I really feel sorry for. They have no way of knowing what damage they are doing to their bodies every day, unless they get an intestinal cancer that their Celiac caused. Hopefully one day routine Celiac testing will be the norm here, like it is in many countries.
I'll admit that this is the season of a lot of gluten, but if you take the time to plan accordingly, you can enjoy yourself and a lot of gluten free treats as well. And sometimes it's nice to eat something decadent and not share it with others. Let someone else see how it feels to do without for a change. Heck - it might even do them good. Most people don't mean to be inconsiderate - they just don't go around thinking about our food intolerances, just like we didn't do that when we ate gluten. But if you're lucky like me, and have friends that go out of their way to accomodate your dietary needs - well those are the friends you want to keep close to your heart. Those friends are 'keepers'!
Happy holidays everyone - and good luck staying gluten free in this gluten filled world of ours!