Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Gluten-Intolerant Family Member and Holiday Food Traditions

One of the hardest things about taking control of your own health is that it often requires that you eat much differently than the way most Americans eat.  It can be extremely isolating, especially when it comes to family traditions, gluten intolerant family members, and celebrating the holidays.

Sharing a meal together is one of the primary ways we celebrate community.  So I have favored ditching old family favorite foods and replacing them with something that everyone can eat and enjoy.

For example, my family, both nuclear and extended, always expected to have a Buttermilk Pound Cake at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Unfortunately, it requires white flour to make it.  This ingredient has been stricken from our kitchen since we learned six years ago this month that Emma is allergic to it.  A couple of months later we learned that she had to strictly avoid corn and rice as well.

Now, the Lighter Than Air Chocolate Cake has replaced the Buttermilk Pound Cake as our go-to celebratory cake.  Everyone loves it, and it is completely flourless.

Just so you know, I have tried baking with white flour for other family members, but the stuff goes everywhere.  You open the container and scoop, and a cloud rises up and dissipates on countertops and appliances.   Trying to clean everything perfectly afterwards to prevent cross-contamination is time consuming and stressful.   And you are expending more precious energy cooking twice.  I finally decided it just was not worth it.  Family members who want to eat white flour have endless opportunities to do so when they are not at home, whereas Emma can eat at very few places away from home with peace of mind.

If there is one place where a person with food allergies should feel safe and supported, it is in their own kitchen.

Believe me, the support is incredibly important, because many folks think that gluten-intolerant people are just selfish troublemakers who want attention.  And they let you know it by their expressions.  The nay-sayers fail to realize that gluten-intolerant people would like nothing more than to be able to eat the white flour with no concern for the consequences!  Giving it up is hard, but being able to function normally on a day-to-day basis makes it worth it.

I believe that a lot of people who are gluten-intolerant don't even know it.  My neighbor down the road stopped in yesterday with his wife to tell me that he had found enormous relief for his interstitial cystitis since I recommended to him that he do a Whole 30 elimination diet.  He had struggled with it for years under the care of urologists, had undergone surgery seeking relief, and had to take early retirement because of it.  I gave him the original Whole 30 book and a companion recipe volume last month, and he told me yesterday, "I absolutely did not believe that this would work, but I was so desperate for pain relief that I started it the day you gave me the books."  He took out his phone and showed me his log of taking serious prescription pain medications and how over the course of the 30 days it diminished to none.  He also explained that his energy has returned.  He is able to work on building his house again, and is now going to drive to his daughter's house in San Antonio for Christmas, a trip he could not make prior to the Whole 30.  His wife is amazed at the change in him.  She is going to do a Whole 30 herself starting in January.

So I encourage you to adapt your celebratory foods to ones that everybody can enjoy together.  Make new traditions.   The family celebrating together is more important than the individual menu items.

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