Friday, August 6, 2010

Surviving the Summer Buffet: A Few Gluten Free Tips

Lucky for me I got to go to Idaho this summer. And I'm not even being sarcastic! We had such a lovely time up on the farms, and I got to slow down, relax, and soak in the views, like this:

And this:

And this:

And see some of these:
My husband's extended family lives there and every few years we get together for a family reunion. It's about a four hour drive there, and we usually eat lunch and play together and then have a barbecue somewhere that night. It is so relaxing and rejuvenating to visit with the good people who live there. Aren't family reunions the best? I can't say I've ever had a bad time at one. Needless to say, eating when you are with a big group like that can seem overwhelming. There are so many homemade dishes there that you can't be sure what's in any of them unless you ask the sweet auntie who brought it, and you risk offending her if you tell her you can't eat it. So here's what to do when you find yourself here:
1.The first rule is always, always, always bring something yourself that you absolutely know is gluten free. For me, I brought a spinach salad that I love that was easy to put together and looked beautiful on the disposable foil pan I used to serve it in. *Aluminum foil=classy*
2. Stick to the foods you can recognize. I'm talking sauceless fruits, fresh raw vegetables, hamburger patties, hot dogs, and safe gluten free chips.

3.I have never ever seen a gluten free dessert at a family gathering. It's just too difficult to bring chocolate covered strawberries for 150 people, so no one does it. Keep a stash of something sweet and gluten free, like Glutino Wafer Cookies, or some homemade gluten free cookies or treats in your car, so that while everyone's noshing on the brownies you can sneak off and grab a quick sugar rush and not feel left out.

4. If there's something you really want to try (hint: it's pink and fluffy up in that photo), kindly ask who brought that lovely fluffy salad and when the culprit confesses, ask them how they made it. What makes it pink, how do you make it set up, wow is it ever beautiful, stuff like that. Almost always you can get a pretty clear picture of what's in it and judge whether or not you can eat it. (You can eat jello-fluff salad with cottage cheese and blue marshmallows in it. I'm here to tell you.) Just approach the chef with appreciation and compliments and usually they'll be happy to share the ingredient list with you.

5. Lastly, take a chill pill and relax already. I guarantee you will find enough calories to survive until your next meal at a family buffet. It's just food. And if it's your own family, chances are they know about your condition and try to make at least a few concessions for you. Think of it this way: the less time you spend stuffing yourself with food, the more time you'll have to visit with your lovely family. If you can't have that asian cabbage-ramen salad or the beautiful bundt cake, no worries. It'll just be one more thing you can try to recreate at home, in your gluten free kitchen. And then you can bring it to the reunion yourself next time!
Happy eating!

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