|a gluten-free cracker from the communion tray|
When I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant last October, I knew the transition would be a challenge, and it was. Today I am writing about some ways I've learned to cope.
I have learned how to cook for myself at home, which was the easiest part. Cookbooks and the Internet have plenty of recipes. I made good use of my public library as well.
Then I realized I could do myself a big favor by checking restaurant menus on-line to see if they had a gluten-free selection. To my delight, most restaurants have a gluten-free menu (unless it's a fast-food burgers-only place).
I made a mental list of eateries that can't get my food dollars any more (Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Freddies, Smashburger, Steak and Shake, etc). If they have a green salad, I can usually make it work but I have to specify no croutons, no blue cheese, and often use plain vinegar for a dressing. We GF people can't have anything that is deep-fried (French fries, for example) because of the probability the food was cooked in the same oil as breaded items (chicken nuggets, onion rings, etc). Note: gluten-free chicken nuggets can be found in the freezers at grocery stores, but seldom at restaurants.
For restaurants with a bigger menu selection, my default dinner is a green salad with grilled (not breaded) chicken, steak, or salmon.
But two challenges I did not anticipate at the beginning of this new chapter in my life was communion at church, and eating in the homes of family and friends.
What I am learning is that for those who are not gluten-free and don't have immediate family members with this issue, cooking for me can be very stressful. (I would have felt the same way before this became my necessity) Rather than giving the hostess the list of all the things I have to avoid (and it is intimidating for the uninitiated), it is simpler to just take my own food, telling them ahead of time that I have multiple food allergies.
My daughter has become very good at this and sends me her tips from time to time. It's very easy to take a salad and to just not make a big deal of the matter, changing the subject smoothly to something other than my eating habits.
My last challenging frontier has been communion at church. I struggled with taking my own cracker (a rice cracker is gluten-free), or just pretending to put to my mouth the bread that is passed to me, and even speaking to the pastor about it (which baffled him).
Imagine my delight when we recently visited a new church (new to us) and saw that gluten-free crackers were packaged individually and passed in the plate along with the usual broken cracker pieces.
I made a point to thank one of the pastors on staff for this thoughtfulness. As it turns out, there are several members of this congregation who are gluten-intolerant and some who are Celiac, so they have made sure this need is addressed.
The same day they had communion, there was also a church-wide picnic in the afternoon. A special table was set up in a separate room, with a sign on the door indicating all the food in that room was gluten-free. I took my plate in there and was delighted at the amount and variety of dishes from which to choose. As my friend Susie later commented, "Wow! That's caring for your people!"
I am learning that not only do I need to look out for my own digestive needs, but I should also be pro-active in helping others who are in a quandary about how to deal with gluten-intolerance outside the walls of their own home. I know the GF people at this church were attending to their needs, but by bringing and sharing enough of their foods for others of us, I was truly blessed and encouraged.