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Cari Lyn

Dealing With Family That Wont Except What I Can't Eat Gluten

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Had Thanksmas (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with my family yesterday and I made a big deal about me going first so that I could make my sure not to get any cross contamination. My aunt and cousin were like a little it Thanksmas.... this food doesn't count. Most of my family has diabetes; my cousin proceeds to say that everyone will end up with Diabetes so it doesn't matter what you eat. I tried to explain to them that Celiac is different, but they wouldn't listen... anyone have any advise on how to explain it to them??

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I went through a similar ordeal with my in-laws 5 1/2 years ago. Let the experts explain it to them. I sent them links if they were online and printed stuff out for those who were not. All the celiac organizations - GIG, CSA, etc. - have fliers you can print or that they can mail you on what celiac is and that the only treatment is a life-long completely gluten-free diet. If that doesn't work, next time bring your own plate of food to let them know you are serious about not being contaminated no matter what the occasion.

For me, my family was easy, but all the effort was almost useless with my husband's family for a long time. His sister has been celiac for a 40+ years, but does not follow a gluten-free diet, so I got arguments and snide comments for the first 3 or 4 years from my mother-in-law like "Jenny has celiac and she can eat that..." "Well, no she can't but she does" and "I don't care what Jenny eats that she shouldn't, I follow the prescribed diet for all celiacs" became set comments for every family gathering. When my father-in-law passed away 3 1/2 years ago, my hubby's family was all gathered at my MIL's house. We got there and she directed us to the kitchen because my sister-in-law had made their favorite meal and we should get some. It was chicken and rice with cream of mushroom soup. I said I'd have to pass and my MIL started in on "It has rice, not noodles. Jenny makes it all the time and can eat it. So can you." I opened the trash can, dug out the Campbell's soup can and asked her how it is gluten-free when wheat flour is at the top of the ingredient list. Later that night, our nephew (celiac SIL's son) made chocolate chip cookies from the Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough. I declined when he brought the plate around noting that celiacs can not eat them because they are made with wheat flour and barley malt. To this day, when my mother-in-law mentions something like "Jenny found a really good gluten-free bakery in Denver..." I want to ask her why. Does she buy gluten-free bread to eat with her gluten-filled chicken, rice and cream of mushroom soup dinner? We call her "selectively gluten-free" which has no medical benefit at all.

At this point, I guess my MIL must have gotten tired of harping on me or maybe finally read and figured it out over the years. Now she accepts that I just can't eat any gluten and doesn't push it. After my body started absorbing what I was eating, other allergies/intolerances surfaced too and my daughter is also gluten-free now in addition to her corn allergy. When we go to my MIL's, she knows we will bring certain things as substitutes and I even heard her tell someone at a family event recently that we can't eat many things because of medical problems. The going first in line to prevent cross-contamination is still a hard sell though. At the very least, my daughter and I wash our hands or use hand sanitizer after we dish up our foods and if we aren't first through the line, we avoid anything that could have been contaminated - like the veggie tray or anything else where people use their hands to serve it. Last Thanksgiving, I moved the mashed potatoes away from the stuffing dish on the buffet line without being noticed, but gravy got dropped into the potatoes at some point anyway so we went potato-less.

Hopefully it won't take years with your family like it did for my husband's family. Just know you are not alone!


Western Washington State

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I typically bring my own food similar to what is being served, but in situations where I am comfortable eating the same as the group, I serve myself onto a plastic wrapped plate tucked discretely in the corner of the kitchen as each dish is prepared. For example, if Aunt Franny is making green bean cassarole, I grab a spoonful of beans onto my plate before she opens the soup or onions. I cut off a chunk of meat and wrap it in foil as mom pulls burger out for making hamburger patties. I steal a bunch of grapes during the preparations for fruit salad. Everything gets tucked onto my plate and out of the way. When I'm at the house of someone with memory problems, I write my name and do not open on the top in Sharpie. Although it appears I am helping in the kitchen, I find I really spend most of the time snatching and prepping my own food to keep it safe. In between, I stir gravy and check cassaroles for the main dish.

Then when dinner is called, I get in line like everyone else, pick up my silverware napkin, drink and already prepared dish. Toss the plastic wrap and sit down next to whomever does not have flying crumbs without a fuss. It feels graceful. It also helps that mom supports me and can keep an eye out for the right moment to steal strawberries before the sponge cake is opened.

Best wishes navigating the family. they can be the hardest.

Oh, this works because I'm a woman and my family cooks along gender lines. It wouldn't work in my family if you were a man and didn't have a woman you could trust to prepare your plate.

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