This year, I kind of got lucky, since this is the first year that we didn’t travel back to the US for Xmas. My dad’s not super happy about it, but we’ll see him in the summer:)
I went gluten- and dairy-free (GFDF for short) a few years ago, when I realized that with my MS somehow came a sudden intolerance to all things normally considered healthy. Once I was diagnosed, I went apeshit on the health stuff. I only ate whole wheat or full-grain, only drank whole milk, lots of yogurt, etc. I did exactly what we’re told we SHOULD do, and ate what everyone SHOULD eat, in order to be healthy. And it made me miserable.
It wasn’t that I missed anything, it was that the food I was eating was making me worse. And I didn’t notice. In my mind, I was doing everything right, so this must just be the MS getting worse. Or something. I confided what was happening both inside and outside of the bathroom to a few friends, one who also had MS, and he told me to try an exclusion diet. He suggested that I exclude all gluten and then milk, and see if that helped. I was at the end of my line. I didn’t believe it would work, but I tried it. And he was right.
My world got turned upside down. I felt suddenly amazing, but I didn’t know how to function in this new world without bread and milk products. I’m ITALIAN. How was I supposed to live without pasta, foccaccia bread and mozzarella cheese? I literally had a breakdown the first time I went shopping at Whole Foods with the intention of only buying stuff that was GFDF. Thankfully, a very nice guy helped me and I went home mostly happy.
That first Christmas with my family was kind of rough. It was like being a diabetic in a candy shop. All I could eat was the mashed potatoes and the turkey. Since even I wasn’t sure how to handle being GFDF, I didn’t want to push that on my family as well.
I’m not the type of person to push my beliefs on anyone, and I hate when people try to do that to me. So I didn’t want to go to Xmas dinner and be that person who was totally offended that you, commoner, didn’t take my gluten and milk allergy into account and made the excellent crab dip anyway. My dad and stepmom are in their 50’s. They are steeped in their own traditions. I wasn’t going to try to change that or even suggest it.
I made the decision then that I’d tell everyone that I have to eat in this way, but if someone invited me over to dinner, I wasn’t going to turn down their food. I couldn’t expect the entire world to suddenly learn how to cook and bake GFDF just for me. I’d have to learn it for myself. So I went to my dad’s house and I had a little crab dip. I had a few cookies. I only ate enough to enjoy the things I missed, and not enough to hurt my stomach.
I’ve learned to live on that balance. I know that GFDF comes with a spectrum, much like Autism. You’re not always 100% allergic to everything. I have learned in the past few years that I handle processed crap the best. I can eat at McDonald’s and Burger King with no problem. But if you hand me something whole wheat, I’ll be crying in pain later. It’s the exact opposite of what we hold in our heads as ‘healthy’, but it’s what I’ve got to work with.
Once I got over here, things got simultaneously better AND worse. The Germans are far ahead of the Americans with their acceptance of food allergies, and were leading the pack in accessible gfdf food items and knowledgeable people in the stores.
I have learned that there are things I miss here. Things I may not be happy living without. The first thing I learned that I missed was fresh fish. Being landlocked has its downfalls, and this is one of them.
Other things I realized I missed were holiday foods. Like pies. The Germans have cakes galore (full of gluten and milk) but not so many pies. They also specifically don’t have pumpkin pies. So I had to learn to make pumpkin pies without canned pumpkin and with a gfdf crust. There were many trials and failures, many half-ok pie crusts. But I finally found a recipe that I’m holding onto now.
Another thing I’ve realized I miss is stuffing. Um, totally full of bread, right? Yeah. I found a great gfdf stuffing recipe, and it’s amazing. No, it doesn’t have lettuce in it.
This has gotten to be a really long post. But I’m getting to the reason I’m posting: the recipes. If you’re stumped about things to make that are GFDF for a holiday party, then I’ve got these here to help! Thankfully, meat is always GFDF, as are potatoes! But what about pie? What about stuffing? These are excellent foods that should be enjoyed by all during the festive season.
It’s really, really hard to make a new recipe for the first time WHEN YOU NEED IT, and to have it turn out successfully. Finding the right recipe takes a lot of time. So I suggest to anyone who wants to try something healthier, or better for them, that you give it a trial run first before the main event. I know we don’t have a lot of time, but this is something I’ve learned is necessary. Almost nothing works out well the first time, everything takes practice.
These holiday recipes are real winners, and I’m sharing them here with you, so you can try them too, if you happen to be GFDF or want to try it out:)
Gluten Free Stuffing!
Note: this recipe calls for corn bread as well as normal bread. If that’s not your bag, just double up the regular bread. I used the corn bread recipe from Cooking for Isaiah, which is quite honestly one of the best GFDF cookbooks I’ve ever used.
Homemade Pumpkin Pie, using a real pumkin
Note: this is a really WORDY text, but it’s totally helpful and right-on. My pumpkin pies have been amazing thanks to this lady.