They Love Me, They Really Love Me: How Friends & Family are Adapting to My Gluten Intolerance

I couldn’t resist misquoting “The Mask” who misquoted Sally Fields’ 1985 Oscar Acceptance speech. I thought it was fitting, because my family and friends obviously love me enough to put up with and cater to my gluten intolerance.

Here are a few examples:

  • If I’m dropping my Guy to work and as he’s about to give me a kiss as he exits the car, he’ll shout “Wait, I just ate a glutenous breakfast sandwich!!” as he turns to kiss me on the cheek instead.
  • They call me up to check on items before using it in dishes if I am heading to their house for a meal.
  • For those who now have a good handle on what naturally has gluten and what doesn’t, their attention has now shifted to ways in which cross-contamination can occur in prep.
  • They tell me about, send me links to, pick me up a sample of any new gluten free products that they see.
  • They forward me gluten-free recipes, or even surprise me with gluten free cookbooks.
  • They have started modifying their naturally containing gluten recipes so that I don’t feel left out!
  • They keep their cupboards stocked with gluten free snacks (in the event that I pop by and I’m hungry).
  • They offer to let me pick a place that they know that I can get good gluten-free options at when we dine out.

The biggest challenge has been for my family back home in my small rural hometown, Twillingate (which had a rough population of just over 2400 people as of 2006). Because it’s a small town, there’s not a lot of options when looking for food alternatives and often food has to be bought at the closest “large centre” (i.e. Gander, with a population of roughly 11,000 in 2011), which is roughly a hour and a half drive away. So, this year when I travelled home for Christmas, I came bearing my own bag of gluten-free goodies: canned soup, wraps, Nourish bread & bagels, toaster-bags, Cashew Lärabars, Kind Fruit & Nut bars, plus additional supplies to make gluten-free cookies during my visit.

The first night that I arrived I asked my mom what was for supper and she was so proud that she had made a separate Mac & Cheese without the Ritz Crackers. When I asked her where she picked up the gluten-free pasta she looked at me with the most mortified look and said “But, you can eat macaroni ….. !? ….. I’ve heard you say a dozen times that you’ve had pasta for supper” and I smiled as I looked to her and said “I can eat gluten-free macaroni”. Poor Mom was devastated that she had been so careful to make my meal safe for me to eat, only to discover that it was completely made of gluten. She said that she figured that it would probably take her all of Christmas to get over the fact that she didn’t have a safe meal for me when I got home that night. I told her that I had brought some gluten free groceries with me and that I could very quickly open and warm a can of soup. After supper she scored brownie-points when she broke out some Chocolate Mice (cookies) that she had made for me (not sure what they are? Check out this recipe on Rock Recipes). She had picked up some Gluten Free Rice Krispies, had checked the chocolate chips and other ingredients for sources of gluten, and even had went so far to buy a brand new jar of peanut butter so that she didn’t have to worry about glutenous crumb-contamination in the jar!) They were delicious and I probably ate 7 (no joke!) that first night!! Mom also had my Aunt G pick up a package of President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies when she was in Gander so I also gorged myself on those as well over the holiday when everyone else was eating homemade cookies.  The next day my mom made a delicious pot of homemade soup which fed me for several meals while I was home – Mom’s homemade soup is one of my favourites! I thought that I had left a pack of Glutino table crackers to go with the soup but I must have finished them off the last time I was out or brought them back to the city with me. I will have to remember for the next time I pack my GF grocery bag! 🙂

When I stopped by my mom-in-law’s the next day I discovered, that she had discovered, that one of the local grocery stories starting stocking Udi’s gluten-free products in its freezer section. She had picked up Udi’s GF white sandwich bread (which I actually hadn’t tried up until this point because we never really did buy much bread before I went gluten-free), Udi’s GF Cinnamon Rolls (which I also hadn’t tried up until this point), and also had picked up a pack of gluten-free flour when she was in Gander earlier that month.

One night my Aunt G had invited us up for supper. She made ham, baked and scalloped potatoes, as well as marinated carrots. My aunt remembered that the tomato soup in her recipe for marinated carrots contained gluten so she made me a version that she substituted with ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. She also remembered to take out some scalloped potatoes before she added the cream of mushroom soup which contains gluten (she had no idea that you can get gluten-free cream of mushroom soup in St. John’s, so for the next time that I’m out and she makes it, I’ll be sending her out some GF Cream of Mushroom Soup so that she can make one casserole dish of gluten-free scalloped potatoes instead of fooling around to make different versions). And to top it all off, Aunt G had also picked up President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for me as well!

I was so excited to see my family finding ways to accommodate my intolerance. Both my mom, aunt, and mom-in-law pride themselves on making our favourite meals when we come home and they finally felt like they could cook for me again 🙂

My mom-in-law (or “Mama Sheila” as I like to refer to her) used the gluten free flour to make Homemade Stew with “Baked Pudding”. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to when I say Baked Pudding, I stumbled upon this recipe (we call it baked pudding but she calls it a biscuit/pastry).

Mama Sheila didn’t use these exact recipes but I assume that they were very similar. I’m pretty sure that she substituted the gluten-free flour for the regular wheat flour in the baked pudding. Normally when you make something with gluten-free flour you add a binding agent (such as guar gum, among others), but the like-for-like substitution seemed to work out just as good. Generally we lay the baked pudding on a plate, and then pour the stew over the baked pudding and let the gravy soak into the pudding. Veggies, gravy, baked pudding …. what more could a girl ask for?

One of our Christmas traditions that we’ve established over the past 5+ years is that we (my Guy and I) will open Christmas presents at my house first thing on Christmas morning and then we drive on over (to the opposite side of the harbour) to open presents with his parents. A few years back (several before I went gluten free), Mama Sheila made a “Breakfast Strata” for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!! The Breakfast Strata has since become a part of our Christmas morning tradition, and so she was able to use the Udi’s GF bread and the GF Rice Krispies to make me my very one Gluten Free version. Basically it’s bread, eggs, ham, peppers, cheese, a few seasonings and topped with Rice Krispies. We’ve agreed to only have it on Christmas day so that it remains extra special!

Breakfast Strata

Can you say Om Nom Nom!?

Unfortunately Mama Doreen (i.e. my mom) had to work most of the time that I was home for the holiday. So, where I could, I stayed at her place to maximize my time with her before she headed to, or after she got home from, work. On the mornings that she had to get up early and head to work, I ended up having breakfast (or in some cases, brunch) at Mama Sheila’s. One morning my dad-in-law, or Papa Garry as I like to refer to him as, made me Gluten Free French Toast using the Udi’s bread. One morning I had a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, greek yogurt and Udi’s toast. The final brunch was a huge family effort. If there’s one thing that the Guy family are good at – it’s brunch! Gluten-Free pancakes, turkey bacon, hash brown patties, and Mama Sheila even discovered some gluten free maple sausages that were delicious!! 🙂

Xmas Breakfast

Christmas was a gluten free success but our trip was short. My Guy had to head back to work on the 27th so we were on the road again on Boxing Day to head back into town. I had a few days to get ready for the arrival of my BFF, Jenny, from Toronto who came baring gluten-free chocolates … which included two boxes of Coco Mira Crunch in Mocha Latte and Dark Chocolate flavours … That girl knows that way to my heart!!

My guy’s Aunt Marguerite has been making lovely gift baskets ever year and we she always gives us an awesome one every year for Christmas. Throughout the year she’ll collect things that are of interest to us (some examples: BBQing or meal prep gear for Rob, cake decorating or gluten-free items for me) and in the Fall she’ll arrange them all to make a fantastic basket! This year she had a box of President’s Choice Gluten-Free The Smart Cookie, a box of Chocolate Chip Quinoa cookies and Cinnamon Quinoa Crunchies from GoGo Quinoa. Other goodies included chocolate, homemade pickles, homemade jams, as well as some non-GF items for my guy and a pack of dog treats for our Lakeland Terrier, Jax.

Christmas Basket

Aunt Marguerite also invited us over for a meal during Christmas while her daughter Corinne and family were still visiting from Calgary. Not long after I went gluten free back in 2011, I found out that Aunt Marguerite’s other daughter, Renee had also went gluten-free. As a result, Aunt Marguerite has become very knowledgable in preparing gluten-free meals. When we went for supper I discovered that she had made a roast with gravy made from cornstarch in lieu of regular flour; had made baby carrots and peas which were naturally gluten-free; a creamy mashed potato dish in which she checked all the ingredients to ensure that they were gluten-free; a broccoli casserole in which she grated up Udi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns to use as a crust; and to top it all off she made me a big batch of gluten-free chocolate cookies (which I am still enjoying as of today)! It was a fabulous meal 🙂

Dinner at Aunt Marguerites

Rob won a turkey at his curling club and decided to give it to our good friends Darren and Tracey to smoke on their Big Green Egg. Sadly, like many of the other meals that we had over the holidays, I forgot to get a photo of the smoked bird before Darren carved it. Rob made a gluten free dressing using Udi’s white bread and I had made asparagus and “turnip fries” to bring out as well. When we arrived to Darren & Tracey’s we found that Mitch and Felicia were also there and Felicia was busy peeling carrots and potatoes which we quickly boiled as Tracey made gravy using corn starch (as I had forgotten to bring out some gluten free flour with me). The meal turned out lovely and Darren & Tracey were awesome enough to smoke the turkey and have us out for supper, despite the fact that they were recovering from colds. Such troopers!! 🙂

New Years Dinner

This was only my second Gluten-Free Christmas, and I have to say that it was incredibly delicious and absolutely perfect thanks to my super-awesome family & friends! xoxo

Care to share any ways that your friends and family have successfully adapted to your gluten-free or food allergy-free lifestyle?

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