As people with food issues, we start to stress about the holidays early. Some are even starting to stress out about Thanksgiving – IN 6+ WEEKS! Thanksgiving is a big eating holiday and you have every reason to be stressed. Let’s talk about some options starting now. This will be a series of articles as Thanksgiving gets closer.
But first, let’s start thinking about how to handle Thanksgiving to be safe and enjoy the day stress free.
First, where to have Thanksgiving – some people have a choice here and some don’t. For us, we travel for Thanksgiving and it is ALWAYS stressful. I’m not at home. I have no control over the kitchen or menu. It’s hard.
If you can have Thanksgiving at your gluten free home, do it. Problem solved. I’ll talk about all of the issues that go along with that in another article.
If you are going to be eating somewhere else, probably family, start talking about it now. Don’t wait until the last minute. Planning early and talking to the host allows you time to work out details and concerns.
Talk about the menu. Understand that everything at the table will not be gluten free and that’s okay. If you know what is and what isn’t, you will be able to either bring a gluten free alternative or avoid the dish all together.
The turkey – many turkeys are injected with broth or water to fatten up the turkey. Butterball turkeys are gluten free – I just looked it up. They are easy to obtain, relatively inexpensive, and safe. Fresh herbs or citrus can be stuffed into the turkey to add flavor for roasting and ta-da you have a gluten free turkey. If frying, normally you would just use salt and pepper to season, so you are safe there too.
Mashed potatoes – typically potatoes, cream/milk, butter, and salt. You should be good there. If not, Bob Evans premade mashed potatoes are gluten free. I just looked it up.
Stuffings of any type – you have to make a decision here. Stuffing is going to be inherently gluten containing. I would not push on this one but that’s just my advice. I would offer to bring a gluten free alternative – note I said alternative and not replacement. People get weird about stuffing and typically won’t that one go. Don’t fight a losing battle. Just bring your own or go without, but don’t expect people to give up their stuffing. If you have an exceptionally supportive family, they might replace their current stuffing and if so, you have an awesome group of folks!
Other casseroles – See stuffing above.
Vegetables – Find a lovely recipe for your favorite fall vegetable and make it for the group. A roasted squash, butternut or apricot, is lovely. Roasted brussel sprouts with bacon are always a hit. Get creative here and wow them with your simple, yet awesome vegetable.
Cranberry sauce – the stuff in the can is gluten free. Or make fresh by buying fresh cranberries and following the recipe on the back of the package. It is head and shoulders above the canned stuff. But again, if there is a debate, you can relent on this one.
Breads – See stuffing above.
Dessert – This is where you can shine!!! I’m not sure about other places, but pumpkin or pecan pie are standard here in the south. You can do a twist on these desserts with any of 100’s of gluten free recipes all over the internet. I personally like a pumpkin cake, but that’s just me. I like a sweet roasted pecan or a pecan praline.
One final tidbit- if going someplace with gluten and non-gluten items where cross contamination may be an issue, ask to get your plate made first. If it is a buffet, the celiac goes first. If it is more family-style, ask to make your plate in the kitchen before everyone sits down. You will have a plate full of food while the family is passing, but it will keep you safe.
My point to this is – you need to start talking to your host early. Hopefully, they will show you the recipes they are using and you can offer gluten-free substitutions in the recipe or provide a list of gluten free products for them to use. Remember, the gluten free substitutions might be more expensive than what they are used to – offer to provide something to help the host offset the additional cost.
Thanksgiving might not be the best time to demand everything be gluten free. Food has a lot of emotion tied to it, especially around the holidays. It is hard for us, but we don’t have a choice in the matter. Those without celiac do have a choice on what to eat. They deserve to eat a meal that satisfies them as much as we deserve to have a safe meal. This might be a time for compromise and grace rather than a time to plant your gluten free flag.
Bottom line is that an ounce of prevention is worth not spending the night in bathroom being sick. Let your host know your concerns and offer to help. Let them understand that you want to enjoy their company while eating a safe meal and not taking away their ability to eat the foods they enjoy as well.
PS – If they won’t talk to you about your concerns or are mean, you can just not go. You are far enough out to decline the invitation without too many repercussions! We will talk about that in another article too!