Tag Archives: gluten free diet

How To Get The Most Out Of Your GF or Celiac Support Group

22 Apr

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You may have heard of them,  you may have even been to them but are you making the most out of them?  Gluten free support groups can be very useful and a great addition to your gluten free lifestyle.  The trick is knowing how to make the most of them.  Support group meetings can vary in terms of structure and content.  All of the group meetings I have been to have consisted of an informative guest speaker, usually a leader in the GF community, informal mingling with other attendees and samples from a GF food vendor.

Are there certain things you should keep in mind in order to maximize the benefits of  attending?  Absolutely!

Here are my suggestions that I hope you adopt before attending your next, or first, GF support group meeting.

1. Bring business cards – one of the biggest emotional challenges of having Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is the inevitable, yet probably only occasional, sense of being alone.  Finding a gluten free support group will show you that you are not alone.  Seeing it is not enough though, you need to feel it.  To do this, make some gluten free friends!  Bringing business cards to meetings makes it very easy for you to exchange contact information with the other attendees.Typically, the mingling at meetings is very informal.  You are unlikely to have a table to write on or pens and paper for trading contact info.  In addition to lack of resources, you may not have the time to have the exchange of contact information in the brief minutes allotted to mingling, especially if you have somewhere you need to be after the meeting.  Business cards are quick, to the point and a great way to help you remember someone!  If you don’t have business cards, get some personal contact cards made!  They are very inexpensive to order and super fun to design at www.vistaprint.com

2. Ask the right questions – at many GF support group meetings, group leaders schedule a guest speaker to come educate the group about various aspects of the gluten free diet.  At the Oakland Celiac Support Group I have heard from speakers such as Dr. Emily Nock, a primary care physician and Celiac Advocate at Kaiser Permanente, and Ann Whelan, the Editor-in-Chief of Gluten Free Living magazine. You want to capitalize on your opportunity to ask questions, especially considering how incredibly talented and qualified the sources at meetings tend to be.  But, what to ask?  Avoid overly personal medical questions.  Though the speaker may be a physician,they aren’t going to be able to give you solid medical advice based on one question in the middle of a group lecture.  In addition, asking personal medical questions takes away from the group’s ability to benefit from the speakers advice.  Ask more general questions that aren’t overly specific to your personal medical status.  For example, don’t ask a 3-4 minute long question that requires you reciting your medical history. Instead, ask questions like “what is the possibility of people finding a cure for Celiacs? What would a cure look like?” or “What is the current status on GF labeling laws and how do you think they will impact my health?”

3. Get to know at least one person really well each time – This goes along with the idea of bringing business cards to the meetings.  Try and establish a genuine connection with at least person at each meeting.  Of course, you won’t have time to get to know everyone which is why having business cards on hand is very helpful.  Try chatting with the person sitting next to you.  Try looking for someone who has a similar lifestyle of life context as you do. For example, if you are the mom of a Celiac kid then look for another Celiac parent to get to know.  If you are a very busy, fast paced business person look for someone who has a similar job or similar job demands.

4. Introduce yourself to the guest speaker -At the time when I heard Dr. Emily Nock speak at the Oakland Celiac Support Group, I was just beginning to consider the medical field as a potential career goal.  After her presentation, I introduced myself and asked her if I could shadow her medical practice.  Although I did not have a personal contact card, Dr. Nock took down my contact information.  I shadowed Dr. Nock for a full semester while at Cal and two years later, Dr. Nock is both my friend and my mentor.  Never miss an opportunity to network with people in the gluten see community, especially GF leaders.

5. Follow up – This is my biggest piece of advice.  Follow up with the people that you meet at these meetings. Shoot them an email or give them a call next Saturday morning.  Make sure that these connections don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of  your life.  The friendships and connections you make at these meetings can really improve your gluten free lifestyle.  There are a ton of different ways you can follow up with people: Linked In, Twitter, Facbeook, email etc.  Choose whichever one is best for you!

If you don’t have a GF support group, I highly suggest finding one!  There are a ton of resources for you on the web.  Check out the Celiac Disease Foundation’s extensive list of GF support groups across the nation.  National Foundation for Celiac Awareness also has a database dedicated to this topic.  For more support group options try signing up for www.meetup.com.  This website is a social media site where people can form and search for groups based on their interests.  In addition to these resources you can always google your city and “gluten free support group” to find contact information for a group in your area.

Hope these tips make your next GF support group an invaluable and rewarding gluten free experience.
-CC

A Local GF Evolution

21 Mar

When I first moved the Berkeley I struggled to find places that offered gluten free options.  Despite being a foodie town, Berkeley has struggled to get on the gluten free bandwagon.  The enthusiasm was, and is, there but the necessary education and safe kitchen practices were simply missing…until now.

Four years later, I am pleased to report that Berkeley is impressively gluten free friendly, improving at an almost exponential rate.  I feel a sense personal responsibility for Berkeley’s improvement, though not sole responsibility. Berkeley’s success is a result of the collective efforts of individual students, community members and nonprofit organizations that work to promote Celiac awareness. In June, I am moving to Washington DC.  I hope to witness and contribute to this, in a sense, evolutionary phenomenom once again.

My father came to visit me last week and I made it a point to take him to as many  GFF (gluten free friendly) restaurants as possible during his stay. It was during this visit when I realized how much Berkeley has changed in the past four years.

La Mediterranee

I always order the same thing at La Med: pomegranate chicken with hummus and chopped veggies. Although my entree option is delicious, I always feel a twinge of jealously towards the people ordering the Tabbouleh, a Greek dish traditionally made with Bulgur Wheat.  Despite having dined at this restaurant over a dozen times, it wasn’t until this most recent trip that La Med told me that they just began offering a GF Tabbouleh, with quinoa serving as a substitute.  I made sure to ask my waitress to let the manager and chef know how much the GF option was appreciated!

Cream

If you visit Berkeley, students will almost invariably point you towards Cream for dessert, an ice-cream sandwich shop that always has a line out the door.  Despite only opening a year or so ago, Cream realized that there is a demand for GF options and began serving GF ice cream sandwiches.  I went to see how they handled cross-contamination and, to my surprise, they did quite well!  Cream keeps the GF cookies on a shelf above the gluten-containing cookies and toasts them on a designated and elevated rack in the oven. The elevation is particularly important because it protects the gluten free cookies from cross contamination via gravity, the last thing you want are little crumbs of gluten falling onto the designated GF oven rack!

Kirala

Arguably the best sushi restaurant in Berkeley, Kirala offers GF soy sauce to customers who ask for it!  The waitstaff is very educated about what the gluten free diet is and what kind of people will want GF soy sauce.  The first time I dined at Kirala, my waiter noticed my packet of Tamari soy sauce and immediately brought me a crystal bottle filled with GF soy sauce.

Filippo’s

It is rare that I find an Italian restaurant that has a GF option.  Filippo’s on College Ave. in Berkeley offers a GF gnocchi.  Unfortunately they used to cook this GF entree in contaminated pasta water!  I found this out the hard way but used my negative experience to improve my community’s GF options.  I wrote a letter to the manager explaining what was wrong with their kitchen practice and he followed up with me in person to show me the improvements the restaurant had made for GF customers. Click here to view sample letters to restaurants about cross contamination concerns. When I talked to Filipo’s about cross-contaomination they had no problem making a change and seemed genuinely glad for the feedback.

These are just a couple of examples of how restaurants can make small changes to their establishments to accommodate GF customers.  Have GF soy sauce in the back, designate oven racks for GF foods, these are cost-free, low maintenance changes that restaurants can make but, despite being a small change, can make a big difference for many customers.

If you have a local restaurant that you used to love before being diagnosed try talking to them about becoming gluten free friendly!

If the restaurant seems very interested in catering to the gluten free population tell them about GREAT Kitchens, an official gluten free training program for restaurant kitchens.  There is no harm in asking! At worst, you educate a restaurant and get gluten/allergens on their minds and at best you get your favorite restaurant back onto your list of dinner options!

-CC

Gluten Free Sandwich…from a Deli!

13 Feb

I have a hard time trusting non-gluten free restaurants, specifically pizza and sandwich places, that try and serve gluten free foods.  The risk of cross-contamination is so great that the uncertainty drives me nuts.  Not only is there an excessive amount of gluten ingredients floating around but also, I can’t watch the kitchen staff handle my order.  Honestly, it feels like a sick form of gambling, a Celiac version of Russian roulette, if you will.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effort that restaurants are making to provide food to GF customers, but I feel that they are targeting the gluten intolerant as opposed to Celiacs, which can be confusing and dangerous for consumers.

Despite my hesitations, I recently dined at a sandwich shop that offered gluten free bread.  Luckily, the sandwiches at this establishment are assembled within view of the customers so I had the opportunity to watch how they handled making a gluten free sandwich amongst a sea of gluten sandwiches!

As a UC Berkeley Bear, it is much to my dismay that my fabulous experience at the sandwich shop happened at Stanford University’s CoHo Cafe.  Here is what I observed:

First, when I ordered the sandwich, I told the cashier that my reaction to gluten is severe and that my sandwich “could not come into contact with any utensils or products that have been touching wheat.”  Similarly to how I sometimes describe a Celiac as being “functionally allergic to gluten,” I did not use the phrase “cross-contamination” so as to avoid confusion over jargon.

You should always remind waitstaff and/or chefs at restaurants offering GF products about cross-contamination.  Some places start offering GF products before they do the necessary research about safe kitchen practices.

After placing my order I watched as the person constructing the sandwiches read my order.  She promptly removed her gloves and took a few knives and a cutting board to a sink to wash them with soap and water. Next, she put on a new pair of gloves and grabbed a package of Udi’s bread from a cabinet.  Interestingly, these were the largest slices of Udi’s bread I have ever seen, they must have been special ordered.

The woman toasted the bread in a designated panini press.  While they were toasting, she went into a back room and brought out a small assortment of condiments that had never been used on wheat products.  She assembled the sandwich on the clean cutting board and cut it in half with the newly washed knife.

It was so great to watch such efficient and proper protocol!  I think Subway could learn a lot from this tiny sandwich shop!  Check out this youtube video of a gluten free customer at Subway checking for cross-contamination.  I also think that college campuses should try to catch up with Stanford’s quality service (I am cringing while typing this).  I had  a meal plan at UC Berkeley for a year and the sandwich station in the dining hall was 100% off limits for me.  Not only was there an unreliable supply of gluten free bread but the staff was simply unaware about cross-contamination and how to avoid it. You know someone has fantastic service when a Bear is willing to compliment the actions of anyone or anything even remotely related to Stanford, let alone a Cafe on their campus.

My sandwich was delicious.  Since my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I have been craving a deli-made sandwich.  I don’t know why, but there is something special about a sandwich made by a deli…for some reason my sandwiches at home simply aren’t the same.

It is important that restaurants offering GF meals are aware about cross contamination!  Next time you dine out, try talking to your server or the chef about how the food is prepared. California Pizza Kitchen had trouble with cross contamination when they tried to offer  a GF pizza crust. How did they figure out there was a problem?  A pro-active Celiac spoke up.  Now, CPK is working with GIG to develop safe kitchen protocol for their GF products.

Cross-contamination is a serious issue.  You do not have to be an expert, you simply need to advocate for yourself, in order to help a restaurant improve their GF service.

-CC

So You Want To Take A Cooking Class…

2 Feb

Cooking at home makes being gluten free so much easier.  Dining at restaurants is stressful, uncomfortable, not to mention, kind of dangerous!  Don’t get me wrong, I love going out to eat, but I have to admit that it is oftentimes a somewhat draining experience.  Having the option of dining in provides a nice sense of security.  There is only one problem….you don’t know how to cook.

Being diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten intolerance requires that you change many, many aspects of your life.  I know for me, learning how to cook was a necessity.  My culinary knowledge was limited to spaghetti and Mac N’ Cheese before I was diagnosed with Celiacs. Without those two dishes, my culinary chops were null.

Knowing how to cook has many benefits for someone who cannot eat gluten.  For one thing, you can host dinner parties (instead of trying to find a safe restaurant to go out with your friends or family).  Stressed about attending someone else’s dinner party? Afraid there won’t be anything you can eat?  Well, fear not, because if you know how to cook, you can bring a side dish to share at the party. In addition to these social benefits, knwoing how to prepare GF dishes at home will help you minimize the costs of the gluten free diet.  Let’s be honest, substitution foods, both at grocery stores and offered at restaurants, are really expensive.  A package of my favorite gluten free spaghetti costs around $6 while a typical pack of gluten spaghetti (I won’t call it “normal spaghetti”) costs only ~$1.20.  Developing skills in the kitchen will expand your food options, allowing you to use less expensive, naturally gluten free foods!  For example, learning how to cook with quinoa or make delicious rice dishes are ways to cut down on costs.

So, I think every Celiac should have the skills to cook GF at home…now the question is, where do we get those skills?

You can find a few gluten free specialty cooking classes in big cities but they are few and far between.  Most gluten free cooking classes that I have heard about only teach you how to make substitution foods (GF bread, cookies, cakes etc.) but never cover the basics of cooking.  How does a Celiac learn the ABC’s of cooking?  Are there any cooking classes out there that are naturally gluten free? Honestly, probably not. Chefs love flour.  The French, the Italians, the English…everyone loves flour!  The use of flour is prominent in all types of cooking, not simply baking.  Dredging meats in flour before pan-searing is very common.  Developing a roux for a sauce or soup, creating a batter or breading for a dish is also a popular culinary trick.

Here is what I did: I found a local cooking series in Berkeley at a place called Kitchen On Fire.  The class is a 12 week course that covers the fundamentals of cooking.  Although the class was not gluten free there were some steps that I took that helped make the class enjoyable, educational and safe.  For one thing, I did not attend the baking classes.  Being in a room full of dry flour is very dangerous for a Celiac.  Check out this post about air-borne flour.  Other than the two baking classes, I was able to attend and participate in every other class.  The class was comprised of a short lecture followed by cooking.  We were set up at cooking stations that fit 4 people. I took the class with a friend which made insisting on a gluten free cooking station much easier. We would tell the other people at our stations that we did not eat gluten and that we could not share ingredients, knives, or cooking supplies with them and also let them know we couldn’t taste their creations.  The people at our table knew not to dip tasting spoons into our dishes.  Everything went fairly smoothly.   On days where we worked with batters, dredging or frying, I used GF flour and worked at a table away from my classmates.

The class was a great learning experience.  I was grateful for the opportunity to learn to cook and found the class mostly enjoyable.  Of course, it was stressful at times.  I had to exercise constant vigilance, keeping a close eye on what I was cooking while simultaneously keeping an eye on what everyone else was doing.  Did someone throw bread onto the shared grilled?  Did anyone use the shared fryer yet with breaded foods?  Taking a class not meant to be gluten free was exhausting yet rewarding.

Here are some GF cooking classes that I have heard about, but have not taken:

Spork Foodsteaches mostly vegan cooking but specifies when a class will be gluten free

Sur La Table: offers GF cooking classes from time to time so keep an eye out for a class at your local Sur La Table.

Hipp Kitchen: Bay Area company that offers GF cooking classes in addition to nutrition advice and consultations.

Check in with local GF bakeries, GF restaurants or GF support groups to find out more information about available cooking classes in your area.

-CC

Friends or Foes?

16 Jan

“We have to be careful that [the diet’s growing popularity] doesn’t negate the seriousness of the situation for people with celiac disease.”

Carol Shilson, executive director of the Celiac Disease Research Center at the University of Chicago

People who follow the gluten free diet but are not gluten intolerant, gluten sensitive or Celiac are a double edged swords when it comes to awareness.  As a Celiac, I both greatly appreciate and yet resent the people who jumped on the gluten free fad diet band wagon.  So, gluten free fad dieters…friends or foes?

Friends

Despite great improvements in the past ten years, awareness efforts have a long way to go.  Nonprofits have a natural audience consisting of Celiac patients and the medical community but do not have easy access to the general population.  Typically, people are not interested in things that do not specifically concern them.  Why would the average Joe care about an autoimmune disease that he did not have?  Awareness efforts are challenged by the fact that a substantial amount of people do not relate to the issue at hand: gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease.

Fortunately, the gluten free diet eventually caught the attention of health experts and dieters across the nation, sparking a new “fad diet.”  Consumers started asking more and more about gluten free options.  The word “gluten,” usually missing from the vocabulary of your average diner, is now becoming quite common.

When experts and dietitians started remarking about the health benefits of the gluten free diet, it made the gluten free diet relatable and relevant to the general population. The unintended consequence was a huge increase in the level of awareness in the general population, maybe not about Celiac Disease, but certainly about what gluten is.

Foes

Although the fad dieters made “gluten” a much more common utterance in restaurants, they have also morphed the reputation of gluten free people.  I tell people at restaurants to think of my gluten free diet like a nut allergy: even a trace will be terrible for my health.  I want people to group Celiacs with the anaphylactic allergies because, despite their physiological and definitional differences, it is a way for chefs and waiters to understand the seriousness of cross-contamination and double checking ingredients.

Now many people think of being gluten free  as simply a dietary preference or fad diet which changes the perception people have of those on a GF diet.  This means that chefs at restaurants are way less likely to avoid cross-contamination because they think of the GF diner as someone on Atkins or Weight Watchers.

I am grateful that so many people now know what gluten is but I am also very frustrated that the gluten free diet is being viewed as a weight loss tool or dietary preference instead of a medical treatment plan.

Implications?

I went to the Farmers Market in Santa Monica last weekend and witnessed the difference between catering to a gluten free dieter and catering to a Celiac.  One food stand advertised that they made “Buttermilk Pancakes” and “Buckwheat Pancakes.”  They did not say “gluten free” anywhere on the menu or on their stand’s sign.  The Buckwheat pancake ingredients are gluten free but they are cooked on the same griddle as the buttermilk pancakes.  They were catering to people who wanted gluten free food but did not need to be gluten free.

There is a difference between following a gluten free diet and being gluten free.

The stand adjacent to this one advertised breakfast burritos with etiher a whole wheat tortilla or a “Gluten-Free Brown Rice Wrap.”  Despite using the phrase “gluten free,” the wraps were heated and cut on the same surfaces as the whole wheat tortillas.  The cross-contamination was blatantly apparent!  I asked the cook if he used the same knives and cutting board for the GF option and he said “Ya..why?”

**I have already written a letter to this restaurant company explaining the problem with calling their menu item “gluten free.”  Check out the importance of letters and how you can make a difference!

Despite the knowledge of gluten in food, issues like cross-contamination still remain a barrier to health for people with Celiacs.  Make sure you are ever diligent in restaurants.  Ask your questions!  Just because a menu says “gluten free” doesn’t mean it is safe. There may cross-contamination issues that can be easily averted if you make sure to speak up for yourself while ordering.

While I appreciate the way gluten free dieters have contributed to the widespread promotion of information about  what gluten is, I am disappointed that the nuances of Celiac Disease and the gluten free diet have been muddled.  The point is…let go of any resentment you may feel towards people who consider the GF diet a fad and simply be grateful that they know what gluten is.  It isn’t perfect and it isn’t our desired endpoint but it is a step in the right direction. I hope that a deeper understanding of its importance will accompany the ever-growing popularity of the gluten free diet.

-CC

Gluten Free New Year’s Resolutions

30 Dec

New Year’s Resolutions typically focus on self-improvement: a new diet, more exercise, waking up earlier etc.  Although we all work incredibly hard to adhere to the gluten free diet, there is always room for improvement! Making a New Year’s Resolution focusing on improving your gluten free diet is a great way to improve your health and happiness in 2012.

I hate when I get “glutened.”  I find it so discouraging and depressing, not to mention the fact that I am in physical pain as well.  There are steps we can take, rules we can follow, that will decrease the likelihood of getting sick at a restaurant.  The steps aren’t fun…that is why I advise that you take this GF challenge as your New Year’s Resolution.

#1 New Year’s Resolution: Be Gluten Free.

What am I talking about?  I’m already gluten free!!  What I mean is, be extremely gluten free.  I sometimes find myself experiencing this at restaurants: I am fairly confident that a dish on the menu is gluten free but I just want to double-check, only to discover that my waiter has NO idea what I am talking about and can’t answer a single question. Despite my diminished confidence in the dish, I order it anyways.  I sometimes find myself experiencing this at friends houses: someone offers me something to eat that they have made but they have no idea what gluten is and stare at me with their eyes glazed over as I try to ask what ingredients they used, but I eat it anyways.

Many times, I feel so frustrated when I am almost certain, but want confirmation that something is GF that I just give up trying to communicate and just eat whatever the food in question is. My New Year’s Resolution is to stop doing this.

At restaurants, order things that are naturally gluten free (still double-check for cross-contamination though).  Instead of asking questions about a chicken dish that may or may not be dredged in flour, order a salad without croutons or dressing.  Instead of ordering a soup that may or may not be thickened with flour order a hamburger patty without the bun.  DO NOT order french fries at restaurants.  They can be coated with a beer batter, coated in a wheat paste and/or fried in contaminated oil, all scenarios that a waiter is unlikely to know about.  Don’t try to “beat the system,” instead, proudly embrace being gluten free.

Being truly gluten free means giving up uncertainty.  If you are unsure, do not eat it.  I find that erring on the side of caution is better for my health but is difficult to do because of social pressure to be less “picky” about food.

My New Year’s Resolution is to be truly gluten free by giving up uncertainty and erring on the side of caution.

#2 New Year’s Resolution

My second New Year’s Res is to become more informed by following some gluten free blogs and twitter accounts.  This may sound funny, as I am a blogger but I am not very involved in the gluten free blogging world as a reader!  My goal is to find some GF blogs that I find helpful/interesting and that are updated regularly and follow them.  Of course, you can always start off the New Year by following my blog, CC Gluten Freed.  In the future I will post some of the GF blogs that I have started following as part of my New Year’s Resolution.

Following blogs is a great way to get new information that will motivate you to continue on the gluten free diet but if you aren’t in the mood to sit down and read a long post, I suggest finding some GF twitter accounts to follow.  Twitter is a forum that lets you absorb a lot of information very quickly.  I have a twitter account that I update whenever I am out and about and have an interesting gluten free experience.  Look to the right of this post and you will see a few of my tweets!  Follow me at http://twitter.com/#!/CcGlutenFreed

You can search #glutenfree or #celiac to see relevant tweets about being gluten free.

#3 New Year’s Resolution

My third GF New Year’s Resolution only applies to people with “smart phones” and it is to start using the phone to help with the gluten free diet.  How?  Download apps like “Find Me Gluten Free,” an app that takes your current location and gives you a list of GF restaurants near you.  The app provides info about the restaurants, their GF menu, phone number, address and directions.

Other useful phones apps are “scanner apps,” like Celiaccess, that allow you to scan the bar code of a product at a grocery store and the app will tell you if it is GF.  This means you no longer have to strain your eyes reading the teeny tiny text of the ingredients.

I also suggest downloading a News Widget set to update you on any news about gluten.  Set gluten as the key word and everyday you will have new articles about gluten from all over the world right on your phone.

I hope the New Year is filled with health and gluten free food!  Good luck with whatever you decide to do for your New Year’s Resolution!  If you have anymore GF Resolution ideas post a comment.

Happy New Year

-Cc

Tradition

19 Dec

When you are diagnosed with Celiacs you say goodbye to many things. You must say goodbye to  bread, to pasta and to easy, stress-free dining. On the other hand you also say goodbye  to poor health, to weakness and to pain.  Is family tradition amongst this list?  How hard should you work to sustain tradition despite the gluten-free diet or should you simply let go of old traditions and make new ones?  The issue of traditions conflicting with the gluten-free diet seems most pertinent during the Holidays.  What does your family do for Christmas dinner and does it support your gluten-free diet?  Here is my story.

I come from an incredibly family oriented Italian background.  At some point during every Holiday season the family gets together and spends hours in the kitchen making ravioli for our Christmas dinner.  The recipe and process are part of a very old family tradition that brings Bonaduces from across the country together.  When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the summer of 2008, we were so busy trying to figure out how to be gluten-free on a daily basis that we didn’t think much about my gluten-free future. My first Celiac Christmas there wasn’t much for me to eat, it was as if our family ravioli recipe should somehow be exempt from my GF diet and we didn’t plan ahead.

In the following years we tried many alternatives that would accommodate me while still preserving the family tradition: a side of GF gnocchi (failed), separate GF ravioli (failed) etc..  Eventually we found that the easiest solution, one that tasted good and completely avoided cross contamination, was to make GF lasagna a day before we made the ravioli.

Although this solution is fairly satisfactory there are still some issues at hand.  For one, we make the ravioli at my parent’s house which is where I stay during the Holidays.  This means that the house is filled with flour, the kitchen is completely dredged in flour and must be cleaned thoroughly  to the extreme and the air is a potential contamination risk for days.  Secondly, I am excluded from the family gathering.  I can’t be around people cooking with flour, check out this post for more information about the dangers of air-bourne gluten!  The family gets together and bonds over the process and reminisce about family stories while I have to go keep myself busy outside.

Should gluten-free people impose their lifestyle on the family to the point of altering time-honored tradition? In a way, it makes very little sense for a Celiac to continue a gluten-based tradition because Celiacs is genetic! The family is biologically unfit to have such traditions!  Where do you draw the line between science and sentiment?

I don’t know the answer to this problem.  The best way to sort through the issue of tradition and Celiac Disease is to speak openly and honestly with your family.  I know that my family would be terribly sad if we stopped with the ravioli tradition, I understand that and so for now I am happy to make GF lasagna on a separate day, in a separate kitchen to protect both myself and the family tradition.  Despite my spoken pragmatism, I do hope that one day we can change the family tradition to something that I can take part in.

As always, I hope everyone has an enjoyable and relaxing Holiday season!  The key to holidays and being gluten-free is staying calm and communicating your needs to your family.  There is no clear nor easy answer when it comes to deciding what to do about gluteny traditions when a family member is diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten intolerance. Try not to get upset about the things you miss and, instead, get excited for the new things you can bring to the Holiday season like delicious GF lasagna, GF gingerbread etc etc!  Take pride in your ability to make the holiday gluten-free and show off your culinary work to the extended family during the holidays! They will both be impressed by your work and will slowly come to better understand your needs as a Celiac.

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