The Evolution of a Gluten-free Thanksgiving

This is the week of food posts, no? This is also the first time I’ve had any real interest in the actual meal part of Thanksgiving in years. We’re hosting it, and even before we pick up the turkey and other fresh ingredients next week our pantry and refrigerator are already getting full…and I’m really excited to prepare it all.

Honestly, not being able to eat a lot of traditional holiday dishes has never been a big deal to me. I ate my plain turkey, my peas, and called it a day. I didn’t compare gluten-free stuffing recipes or gluten-free pie ingredients, and I didn’t ask for or expect special dishes. The stuffed mushrooms I always make happen to be gluten-free, and even though I’m now dairy-free and they’re no longer safe for me, I make them anyway—they are a crowd favorite.

From feedback I’ve heard from other celiacs, it seems like the hardest Thanksgiving meal is the first one after diagnosis when you’re still getting used to the gluten-free diet and missing favorite foods. I got diagnosed right before Christmas and spent that Christmas in the hospital, so I didn’t have option of acclimating my condition to holiday traditions—clear liquids are neither festive nor gluten-y. By the time the next Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, I was so focused on keeping my lungs stable and my body out of the hospital that what I ate seemed inconsequential. I get the frustration or even anger people may feel when they need to give up certain foods, but for better or worse, that hasn’t been my experience.

Besides, going GF made me feel a lot better, and that trade-off was always worth it.

And in a way, not much has changed. Considering last Thanksgiving my jaw was frozen shut with an infection and I could only have broth through a straw, I’m happy just to be able to chew this year. I’ve always been a lean protein and green vegetables kind of girl, and that remains true on Thanksgiving. I know there are all sorts of approaches in terms of eating gluten-free and it’s just a matter of preference. Mine has always been to focus on what is naturally gluten-free and explore those possibilities. It’s not the only way, but it’s my way, and that’s the spin we’re adding to the traditional family menu this year.

I want my mother’s famous stuffing at our table, just like I want the derby pie my husband loves, the ricotta pie my grandmother makes, and the buttery potatoes my brother considers a deal-breaker. I want everyone to have their favorite things.

But I’ve started to make an effort to have my favorites, too. I don’t miss or resent what I can’t have but I do want to share what I can have, so we’re adding small touches to the meal. We’re making the roasted Brussels sprout hash we both love, and we’re adding cranberries and toasted almonds. We’re making naturally GF cornbread to go along with the rolls. There will be no GF dessert option because I don’t eat dessert, but there will be plenty of coffee and perhaps the port that several of us like to drink.

At the end of the day, what I can or can’t eat is much less important to me than being healthy enough to be at the table and enjoy my family. I said it last year but it’s just as true for me this year—it’s the people at the table who create holiday memories, not the food.

(I do hope they like the roasted Brussels sprouts, though!)

Looking for ways to customize your gluten-free Thanksgiving? I’m not much of a baker so don’t listen to me. Trust Shauna at Gluten-free Girl, who has compiled a list of sure-fire recipes.

Celiacs aren’t the only ones who face challenges in the holiday season—diabetics and people with other conditions that mean dietary restrictions have a lot to juggle, too. There are several people with diabetes in my family and lots of friends with food restrictions, and I know it can be a tricky time for them, too. Check out the holiday sweepstakesover at Diabetesmine.com. Share your diabetic holiday tips and strategies and you could win a ton of cool prizes.

Stay tuned for a post that’s less about what we eat and more about the giving thanks part of Thanksgiving…

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5 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Gluten-free Thanksgiving

  1. Can you post the recipe for the roasted brussel sprout hash? It sounds really good! I’m gluten free too and I was also diagnosed right around Christmas time. I’ve been GF for a few years now and I’m still adjusting. This year will be easier cause I’ve adapted a lot of recipes to fit my diet restrictions! Good luck with your GF Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi Em,

    Hope you had a nice meal! The recipe is really simple, so thought I’d post it here.

    Preheat the oven to 425 and whil it’s pre-heating, lightly toast 3/4 cup raw slivered almonds on a cookie sheet. Basically, you take fresh Brussels sprouts (however many you want for the crowd size, I don’t measure) and put them and a clove of garlic in a food processor after you slice the bottoms off them. You can quarter them if you don’t have a processor. Add olive oil to the almonds (enough to lightly coat most of the sheet) and start adding in the sprouts so that they all get some olive oil. Add in 1/2 dried cranberries and a dash of sea salt and put in oven for approx 10-15 mins, mixing occasionally so everything browns a bit.

    I know this isn’t too specific, but we make a lot or a little depending on the meal, and never measure. The sprouts do shrink down when roasted!

  3. I started making roasted brussel sprouts as a Thanksgiving staple when I went vegan… this year, I had to forgo them, because my parents hate the smell. Bah! I’m jealous of your brussel sprouts. :)

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