Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Place at the Table: Christmas 2010

While at my mom's house for the holidays, eating my leftovers (chicken, potato, and squash that she made in advance with the forethought of feeding me), I stumbled upon this Dear Abby article in her local paper.

I am lucky.

This sentence made me want to vomit:
After your column ran, my father called to tell me that holiday dinners would no longer accommodate my daughter’s celiac disease. She’s 9 and struggles with being “different.”

I am appalled by some people's insensitivity towards food allergies and intolerances. The original question is about a vegan Thanksgiving. T
here is being super accommodating/bend over backwards approach , such as making an entire vegan Thanksgiving for a room full of carnivores with one lone vegan. Or there is the considerate host approach: make sure that your guest with different dietary restrictions feels welcome and well fed. For Thanksgiving, it would be painless to mash potatoes with rice milk or coat vegetables with olive oil rather than butter and hold the bacon. And of course, there are many degrees of considerate host and hostesses in between.

But to tell a nine-year-old girl that her needs would no longer be accommodated? Is grandpa planning on only serving wheat pasta or sandwiches on Wonder Bread? Too bad for the kid who would have been happy with a baked potato or some rice and veggies that are naturally safe for her to eat? Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are lifelong dietary restrictions. I feel sorry for the mother who wrote the letter and her daughter. There are many people who are able to accommodate dietary restrictions in their parties and family meals with grace and good nature.

I survived a Christmas Eve brunch and a Christmas dinner without being glutenized. I am super sensitive, so the smallest amount of gluten can quickly make me sick. I had to turn down using a well seasoned cast iron pan and remind my uncle that he can’t add a bottle of beer to the ham he made sure was gluten free. My family is VERY accommodating and for that, I am extremely grateful. My aunt brought over green beans and a small bag of beets without butter so I could take out my portion before she finished preparing them for the buffet. Little things like that go a long way. I had a full plate of food this year.

For Christmas Eve brunch at my dad’s, we had French Toast with breakfast sausage, bacon, and plenty of fresh fruit. Everyone had stuffed French Toast and I made my Udi’s French Toast with soy butter and rice milk. This is one of those same-but-different ideas. My sister tasted a piece of my toast and she liked it. It may be awhile before a gluten free item trumps its gluten counterpart (mostly due to cost effectiveness), but it is getting there.On Christmas Day, my mom’s side of the family was coming over for a Polish feast. There were potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, cabbage with bacon, green beans, applesauce, beets, ham, Polish sausage, four kinds of perogies mushroom soup, corn, and plenty of rolls (and defrosted Udi’s bread for me). Majority of the food was dairy and gluten free. I missed out on the perogies and Polish sausage the most, but the gluten free perogie recipe is for another day (I received a perogie/ravioli maker for Christmas) and there was no label on the Polish sausage so did not want to risk ruining my otherwise very safe meal with this (delicious) meat. My brother and I made the potato pancakes using rice flour earlier in the day. He peeled potatoes, I grated them in the food processor and we both had griddles fired up to cook the pancakes. This is what the holidays are truly about: people coming together to create and share something wonderful.

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful holiday and that there is always a place for you at the table.

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