Educating family & friends about gluten-free

cookingstress
Holidays and special family events are supposed to be filled with fun, laughter and lightheartedness. For those of us with dietary requirements, often times it met with dread and fear - with good reason.

Easter is only one week away. In many families, this means Easter Dinner at someone's house other than your own. Oh the humanity...

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Not only was today Palm Sunday, but it was also First Communion in our church. The kitchen and fellowship hall was a-buzz with activity.

A family was holding their First Communion celebration in the fellowship hall and everyone was bringing their contributions to the feast: deviled eggs, sliced ham, calico beans, sloppy joes, cakes, pies and desserts of all types. OH MY!

As I was watching all of this food pour in, I'm thinking...OMG what a gluten-free nightmare...

Peg and I were in the kitchen cleaning up from communion, we were invited to take part in celebratory feast. A family member knows I am gluten-free and said "Oh gosh, I'm sorry, we don't have any gluten-free buns, but there's plenty of other things for you...". We politely declined, but really appreciated the heartfelt invitation.

Dining out in a restaurant is hard, but I think eating at someone's house or a hosted event is even harder. Most times the host/hostess are unfamiliar with the gluten-free diet and the concept of cross contamination. Even professionally trained chefs may not always know the ins-and-outs of a gluten-free diet.

instructor
It's all about education.

I don't blame friends, family and loved ones for not knowing about gluten-free. In fact, it's our [the gluten-free community] responsibility to impart that knowledge to them. If we don't do the education, who will?

In the end, if the people in our lives do not know how to accommodate our needs, we have no one else to blame but ourselves - to a certain degree.

Of course there are some people that just don't get it no matter how hard we try. If we've done our best to educate and it is just not sticking - at least we gave it our best shot. Sometimes family can be the hardest to get through to.

The whole education process doesn't happen overnight. Of course, we have to make allowances [bring our own food, eat before hand, etc] until we are comfortable in their knowledge and abilities. Sadly, in some cases, that day may never come, despite our best efforts.

Since 2003, I've had a lot of "educational opportunities" with our friends and family. They now know and understand cross contamination, they will verify products/ingredients with me, even save the labels for me to inspect. My family and friends have been very good about learning and making things safe for me. I connect with enough of the gluten-free community to know their behavior is not the norm. I am lucky...or...have I simply done a good job at educating them. I suspect it's a little of both.

Even though my family and friends are very good, I
always bring at least one dish that I know is safe. Often times, I'll bring a second dish of the same food just for me that won't be put out for the masses. Also, we try to host as many family events as we can so we have as much control as possible.

I'd like to share some of the tools I've used to educate my friends and family members....

Living Gluten Free for Dummies by Danna Korn - I highly recommend this book. I see this book as a continuation or update of her Wheat free Worry Free book. It also goes a bit further in depth on certain subjects. There is no need to own both. Get this one if you don't have either book. Again, a great book to loan out.

Wheat Free Worry Free by Danna Korn - I got this book shortly after I went GF. Danna has a great persona in her books. Her style is very conversational, easy to read and fun! She includes humor in her books, which I think is a great idea. This is a great book to give to friends and loved ones. Often times they have a hard time understanding what you're going thru and why you have to do it. I lent this to my Mom, after that, she seemed to "get it"...or at least stopped questioning why I couldn't have ___________ ;).

A Celiac is Coming For Dinner - This is a nice article from Caryn Taity about accommodating gluten-free guests. I have given this article to several family and friends.

Cooking for Gluten-Free Family or Friends - Amy Leger [aka The Savvy Celiac], covers some of the basics.

Gluten-Free Diet Boot Camp - I often get asked for information on celiac disease and gluten-free. Either it's someone that is just starting to investigate gluten as the source of their health issues, or it's someone that is just newly diagnosed and looking how/where to start. This is a collection of many different links.

A Guide to Gluten Cross Contamination - This guide strictly addresses areas of gluten cross contamination and how to minimize the risk.

A Day in the Life - Living in a Mixed House - This is an article I had written several years ago for this support group. It explains how we handle having gluten in the house. This is knowledge and experience I have gained over the years - much of it I've imparted to friends and family members.

So, You Want to Bake Gluten-Free Cookies - I created this for a few non-gluten-free people that wanted to bake GF cookies. We put together a GF Cookie Baking Kit: This document that included the recipes, the proper amount of GF flour for a specific amount of cookies. I cover the basics of gluten, gluten-free baking and cross contamination - enough information so they can safely make GF cookies for someone. Note: You can tell by the logo, this was done before we became a Gluten Intolerance Group branch in May 2011

Celiac Disease - Stuff you should know, but didn't know to ask - A presentation I did for our church. Since our Pastor is also gluten-free I wanted to educate the other members. This presentation covers the history of celiac disease, what it is, what is gluten, is there a safe amount of gluten, cross contamination. Our church now has a completely gluten-free communion. Since the host is gluten-free so there is no chance of cross contamination. Note: You can tell by the logo, this was done before we became a Gluten Intolerance Group branch in May 2011




Updated:
10/29/13 - Added Gluten-Free Diet Camp.
6/24/2013 - Added Guide to Gluten Cross Contamination.