On Thanksgiving, is it easier to be a gluten-free guest or a gluten-free host?

Each comes with a unique set of questions. As a guest, how much do you trust your hosts to make safe food? As the host, how much gluten do you allow into your home in the name of tradition?

Even though the goal of Thanksgiving is to happily spend time with your loved ones, it’s no secret that family and stress are sometimes synonymous. The balance between family peace and personal safety can be precarious – especially in the first few gluten-free years.

lego thanksgiving

The good news is twofold. Firstly – it gets easier! Just as the gluten-free day-to-day gets easier as you learn more, so do gluten-free holidays. As time goes by, you’ll need to explain your predicament to fewer and fewer people: they’ll remember from holidays past.

This brings me to the second bit of good news: if you take a few precautions now, you can be sitting pretty by the time the big day itself rolls around:

Communicate early and thoroughly. I sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress this one enough. Giving people information ahead of time allows them to respond appropriately.

  • Aunt Rose normally fills the bird with her famous pumpernickel stuffing? Don’t spring it on her day-of that she’s keeping you from the turkey unless she finds room in the oven for a separate dish.
  • Don’t ask Grandma Sophia if her teriyaki-yam casserole was made with gluten-free tamari as she’s walking in the door. How could she possibly remember?
  • If you have no intention of letting gluten into your house, tell Cousin Blanche before she shows up with a surprise rhubarb pie.

Fill the gaps in your family’s knowledge. While people will understand, “no bread, no pie crust, no stuffing,” they won’t necessarily extend that to, “no shared knives, no gluten-containing bouillon cubes, and no, you can’t just pick out nuts from the snack mix.” The gluten-free dining cards offer a good checklist for the home cook. They may be worth sharing with anyone helping to feed the Thanksgiving crowd, beforehand and on Thanksgiving itself.

Prepare safe foods that you can eat. A dish that everyone can share is good, true. For other foods, or in other homes, it will only be important that you have enough to feed the gluten-free folks – a few dinner rolls, or a sleeve of gluten-free crackers. Sometimes, there’s no need for everyone’s everything to be gluten-free.

Verify ingredients beforehand. Keep a copy of the gluten-free grocery guide and a copy of your favorite gluten-free cookbook near the phone, and encourage people to call you. You’re now the expert, after all – don’t leave people stranded with questions like, “I usually use XYZ-brand sausage…can you eat that?” or, “If I just use rice flour instead of wheat flour in the pie crust, it’ll be fine, right?”

A seemingly minor thing: if this year’s Thanksgiving is going to require extra serving spoons for all the gluten-free items, offer to bring them. This will lessen the chances of Uncle Stan accidentally double dipping and contaminating something safe.

What precautions do you take to make sure your Thanksgiving is safe for everyone?