Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gluten Free for the Holidays?

I'm getting nervous about the upcoming holidays.  I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity early in 2011.  Easter was shortly after my diagnosis, and I felt loved and cared for when most of the menu at our family gathering was naturally gluten free.

But somehow an Easter menu seems more flexible than the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas foods.  What will be safe for me to eat at family gatherings this season?  Normally meat, fruits and vegetables are my go-to parts of the meal ... but as the article 10 Ways to Accidentally Gluten Yourself at Thanksgiving reminded me, the "richer" and more "decadent" preparations of meat, fruits and vegetables at these fall and winter holiday meals often include wheat flour as a thickening agent or barley malt as a flavoring agent.

In a way, this blog is me grieving in advance that I won't be able to eat traditional foods prepared in traditional ways.  I have to recognize the reality of the loss before I can process it and move on to solutions.

I found another blog that puts some of those feelings of loss into words very well, if a little melodramatically:

What is it about going gluten-free that is so hard? 
Answer: it’s everywhere.
And not just at restaurants and potlucks and school cafeterias.  It’s not just in innocent invitations to lunch or grabbing a beer after work.  It’s not just in the business traveler’s trip to a conference at a hotel that might not be accommodating.  No…gluten is not just in your present physical environment.  Gluten is firmly embedded in your soul, your memories, and your connections to the past that you had hoped to connect to your future.
Gluten is the smell of Grandma’s bread, Mom’s pie, and those rolls in a tube that you have every Thanksgiving.  Gluten is the tradition of hot dogs at a ball game, funnel cakes at the state fair, pizza and a beer for the Super Bowl.  Gluten is not just a highly addictive grain that civilization has cultivated and consumed for thousands of years; it is not “just one” of many foods.  It’s not about the food, never has been, and never will be.  There are plenty of other foods to eat, that’s not the point. 
Gluten is part of your soul, and every time you smell fried chicken or baked bread, every time you find yourself at an event with gluten as an ingredient in a traditional meal, every time you have to decline an invitation or move heaven and earth to participate, you are giving up part of your soul.  You are reminded that not only is the current world not designed for you, but that so much of your fondly remembered past was not designed for you either.  And then you become overwhelmed considering a future as an alien, a stranger in the world without anchor or reprieve…

Some may wonder, "What's the big deal? Why not cheat for just this one (or two) day(s)?"

The problem is, that at this point I'm not just putting my own health at risk.  I'll be 10 weeks pregnant on Sunday.  The second trimester starts at the end of November.  There have been studies that connect gluten consumption in the sensitive/celiac to neural tube defects and other birth defects, low birth weight and increased rates of miscarriage and stillbirth.  I don't know exactly how sensitive I am, but it is not a gamble I am willing to make.

So I need to find another solution.

One I've thought of is to volunteer to do more of the cooking so I can make sure there are enough "safe" dishes on the table that I can relax and enjoy the family gatherings without feeling deprived or left out.  Another solution could be to just prepare special food for myself, but I think the fellowship and shared experience that comes from sharing the same (or most of the same) food is important.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same issue with sugar. As I had the GD stamp with the last pregnancy, I'm avoiding refined sugars like crap, and I find myself reading labels... all the time. ANd it's everywhere too!! No wonder so many people end up with diabetes.


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