Eating Gluten Free at Family and Friends…Yes it is Do-able!

I am just back from a week in New England visiting friends and my two sisters. Ate lots of gf food, most of it very yummy and only felt mildly ill once.  I ate at both my sister’s houses and at four friends.  One friend just gave me a GF snack bar and herbal ice tea, easily safe.  I was only there for a short visit as I returned to Pennsylvania so she was off the meal hook!

The other three were a contrast in attitudes and meals.  My friend up in New Hampshire made bbq’s pork ribs and potato salad.  He did not listen to my repeated advice to avoid spice mixtures.  He used a famous chef’s blend on the ribs which were slow cooked right on the grill grate.  As they smelled fantastic when I got there, tired from driving all the way up from PA, I bit the bullet and just ate some. I had brought the ingredients for a green salad including a zuke from my garden.  So I know that was safe! He was very relaxed about it and acted unconcerned about whether the food was safe for me although he claimed to understand the gluten free concept.  Luckily I did not suffer any ill effects from that supper.  Another spice blend might have made me sick and the labels are very iffy.  Best method is to make your own spice blend.

Another friend, Debra, in northern Massachusetts made a bbq meal too; this was late in my trip. She was very concerned and confessed to being stressed out before my arrival as to the safety of her food. She used a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and virtually no spices.  She put aluminum foil on her grill grates to make sure they were not going to contaminate my meal with gluten from old bbqs.  Debra made a table groaning with yummy food with some help from me.  She had several kids and a husband to feed and still there were leftovers, it was quite a feast.  She tried very hard to make a memorable meal and I really appreciate all her efforts.

My dear friend Beth’s house is in Wellesley where I enjoyed some cold lemonade and homemade gf chocolate chip cookies.  A perfect snack.  But I know she was very concerned about contamination and that she went to great lengths to ensure the safety of the cookies as she made them.  She used a gf sugar cookie box mix to which she added chocolate chips.  Some of the best cookies I have eaten in the past year and a half.

My sister Elaine washed all the pots and pans in her dishwasher on the heavy cycle as did Beth. Not sure if anyone else did that.  Beth baked her cookies on parchment paper to ensure they didn’t get any wheat residue on them.

I helped make a big meal for family at Elaine’s. I made some French bread that was very well received; looked like a recipe picture from a cookbook when the loaves came out of the oven.  I also whipped up some deviled eggs and chilly cucumber soup. We had fabulous farmed Canadian salmon with a divine roasted grape tomato sauce.  I got to eat a big slice of her renowned pavlova topped with fresh strawberries.  There was no pavlova left on the plate when we were done!

My other remaining sister, Karen, made a wonderful Spanish stew with chorizo sausage and chicken breast as well as saffron and fresh spinach.  We debated the safety of that sausage after reading the label but I ate it and it was yummy.  Sometimes packaging says “spices” and that can be iffy…. I didn’t feel any ill effects.

I really appreciated all the culinary efforts of my friends and family.  They tried very hard to make my meals safe and they succeeded.  It was interesting how their attitudes differed.  From the very worried to the carefree and several stages in between!  I just wish the labels on foods were less ambiguous; food starch, spices, seasonings, natural flavor are all code words which often mean wheat flour.  Not acceptable or safe for me.  I am sure it is tough to have to read all the labels.  I do it myself every shopping trip. 

You can eat safely at someone’s home while you are on vacation if you pre-educate your friends/family on your dietary needs. My final point is that making a gluten free meal for a friend with celiac is quite doable and there are lots of food options for a tasty meal.  Thank goodness my friends were willing to try and each was successful using a different meal approach.

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