If you’re hosting any holiday gatherings this season, there’s a good chance you’ll have a gluten-free guest at your table. And if you’re a bit lost as to how to handle a special diet, read ahead, and hopefully I can offer some guidance so that everyone leaves your table with a full belly.
1. Never inquire why someone stays away from gluten. Most holiday activities are centered around food, and reasons for not eating gluten are just not suitable table talk. Someone might have an auto-immune disease, they might have eczema, or they might have Celiac disease. I guarantee you don’t want to hear about their symptoms following a stomach full of gluten. It’s really not your business unless they offer this information, and nobody should be made to feel that they have to justify their diet choices by sharing their past medical history. Just accept that your guest needs to eat gluten free.
2. They need to know what ingredients are in their food. Just because you think that one tablespoon of flour isn’t a big deal, it very well could be to your guest. If someone is allergic to gluten, a tiny amount can do damage to the intestines and cause pain for weeks. Gluten can hide in terms like “artificial flavor, vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, and modified starch.” If your guests ask to see ingredient labels, don’t be offended. And if you’re really trying to cook gluten-free foods, it’s best if you only buy items with basic whole food (not the store) ingredients, not chemistry terms.
3. Everyone is different. Sure, your aunt’s daughter’s best friend may get sick from being in a room where flour was spilled on the counter two weeks ago, but not everyone reacts the same way to gluten. Some people get sick from being near gluten, some get sick from crumbs, and some get sick only if they eat something that contains a large amount of gluten (and a million variations in between). Every body is different, and all you can do is trust that your gf guest knows what’s best for their own body. If you’re really feeling hospitable, you may ask how serious the allergy is, and I’m sure your guest will know and be happy to educate you.
4. They are not perfect. People slip. Until my tastes completely changed, I would still cave every once and a while and eat the little cookies that come with the coffee at Empire Cafe. Be supportive of your loved ones trying to eat gluten free. They might take a bite of pie, but then encourage them to get back on track.
5. They still like to eat. People who eat a gluten-free diet have the same appetites as other humans. Rice is a super easy filler. Pamela’s Products offers tons of easy recipes on the back of the packages and on their website. If you only serve regular bread, you can count on the gluten-free person to eat twice as much of the veggies (and maybe meat) because they won’t be getting full on the bread. And if you go out of your way to offer gluten-free options (+ desserts!), I promise your diner will be so appreciative and grateful.
A few easily forgettable things to note:
- Wooden cutting boards should not be shared between regular bread and gluten-free bread. If you need to cut gluten-free bread, cut it on a clean plastic cutting board with a clean knife.
- It’s simple to substitute Pamela’s Baking Mix when the recipe calls for a couple tablespoons of flour, i.e., for a roux. Nobody will know the difference, and your gluten-free guest will be able to eat the dish as well! I also love the Tinkyada brown rice pasta. That’s what everyone in my family eats now.
- If you’re going out to eat, see if you can find a gluten-free friendly restaurant ahead of time. There are now lots of restaurants jumping on this train, so with a little research, your guest won’t be starving or sick all night. Places to look for: upper-scale establishments with fresh, grilled options. Fried/bar foods are out.
Did this help? If you have any other questions or helpful tips of your own, please leave a comment below.