The Grain Refrain: A Guide to Gluten-free Entertaining
The holiday season is approaching, and that means it’s time to entertain! Hosting any meal can be both fun and, let's face it, a little stressful. What happens when a gluten allergy is thrown into the mix? Thankfully, there's no need to panic! Many festive, classic foods are gluten-free. Turkey? Gluten-free. Winter squash? Gluten-free. Chocolate? You guessed it—gluten-free. In fact, all whole fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and rice are considered gluten-free. Traces of gluten can exist in processed foods though, so it’s good to pay close attention to labels and avoid anything you’re not sure about. Here are some simple steps you can take to be the ultimate inclusive, gluten-free-friendly host.
A little knowledge is a delicious thing
Understand your guest's intolerance or allergy. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and those that can’t tolerate it suffer abdominal pain and digestive symptoms. Does your guest have celiac disease or an allergy to wheat? There’s a difference! Learn more about gluten intolerance here. You don’t need to be an expert, but when cooking gluten-free, a little information can go a long way.
Friends who cook together stay together
Invite your guest to plan, shop or cook with you. Generally, gluten-free folks are used to guiding the preparation of their food. Invite them into the party planning process to help build the menu and shop for the right ingredients. You'll probably end up with some delicious new recipes for your cooking repertoire in the process. If you’re flying solo, shop with food allergies in mind and check labels. All packaged food labels are required by law to list if a product contains wheat, but there may be other ingredients with gluten in them—so when in doubt, ask your gluten-free friends.
Making accommodations for a guest's gluten intolerance or allergy is important, but remember to consider the larger group. There may still be a place for grains at the table. Your Aunt Sue can still enjoy her favorite bread but your gluten-free friends shouldn’t feel singled out by being provided an entirely different “special” dinner. A good menu doesn’t exclude anyone. Remember, simplicity doesn't have to be bland or boring! Begin by looking for delicious dishes. Check out this list of gluten-free recipes that everyone will enjoy. You can even whip up a fancy dessert (delicious wheat-free vanilla cupcakes, anyone?).
Taking small steps to gain awareness and learn about your friends’ dietary needs makes a huge difference. At the end of the day, successful entertaining means listening to your guests, filling bellies with good food and enjoying good company. It’s as easy as (gluten-free) pie.