October, November and December are all about events. October is about Halloween parties, November has the big (and sometimes ominous) Thanksgiving, and December is about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and others. Parties galore!
For the last few years around Christmas, I’ve struggled. With Celiac Disease and other food allergies (especially milk and corn!), most holiday goodies are on my “bad” list. Bowls of candy set around the room? Nope. If they don’t have milk, they have corn syrup. (Candy canes, anyone?) Corn chips and salsa? Nope. Most baked goods (that I’m not bringing myself) have gluten in them. I’m having a tough time coming up with things to list here since I’m so used to not having them.
When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was self-conscious about letting people cook or bake for me, for two main reasons. 1- It’s very difficult to do gluten-free cooking and baking correctly, without any cross contact and 2- I hate putting people out. Ever since the other food allergies made themselves known, I’ve just assumed that any party I go to won’t be able to accommodate me, so I eat beforehand. It’s habit, now.
The holidays are especially difficult because it seems that all of a sudden, people are very emotionally tied to their food! People usually have at least one dish, without which, it wouldn’t be Christmas or Thanksgiving or what-have-you. It also can’t be just any rendition of the dish, it has to be Grandma’s recipe. (This is true for my family and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.) It also seems to suddenly be that if a food is eaten, then the maker of the dish understands that you like it, and that you appreciate their efforts. Not eating someone’s dish is just not okay!
To help everyone understand each other a little better, I’ve come up with a few suggestions. The level to which these work is dependent on how well the host and guest know each other, so please adapt accordingly.
* Guest: Please don’t be offended if your host doesn’t accommodate your food issues. If they haven’t had to deal with any, they might be intimidated at the thought of attempting something and then having you get sick anyway. If they’re going to try, and you’re comfortable with their efforts, consider it a gift.
* Host: If the guest says they’ll eat beforehand, please don’t be offended. They’re looking out for their health, not condemning everything you cook or will have at the event. Take it as a BIG compliment that they’re willing to come, even though they won’t be able to eat anything.
* Guest: Don’t try something you know isn’t safe for you just because you’re feeling pressured to do so. Getting sick isn’t worth it. Just politely decline and mention you have food allergies. In my experience, people are pretty understanding.
* Host: If your guest is more comfortable eating beforehand, don’t force the issue. It’s not code for “please try harder.” It usually means that they don’t want to put you out, and would rather make food a non-issue.
* Guest: Understand that your host and the other guests mean well, even if you’re uncomfortable. Most people care very much, but aren’t used to dealing with food issues, and may not be aware if they’re saying something insensitive. It’s also been my experience that most people are seeking to understand something they’re unfamiliar with. If you’re comfortable, be willing to talk about your food issues. We can increase understanding in others if we are willing to talk about food in a calm and positive way.
In this season of holidays, parties and events, may we all be more considerate and deferential to each other. May we find ways to love each other and to appreciate the people who care for us. May we especially be kinder to ourselves.