This is my second major holiday of my gluten-free life. There really are only three a year: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I tackled Easter by avoiding my family and having dinner with friends, and the friend who cooked made everything completely gluten-free (and mostly vegetarian).
I did have a big family dinner back in May, which I cooked, and made completely gluten-free. (That family was just my parents, siblings and SO's.)
But this time, we had a big family dinner. My grandparents, their children, their children, and all the SO's involved. Oh, and one great-grandchild. In years past, we would all gather for Christmas at my grandparents' and do a gift exchange. It was our family tradition. In the past five or so years, my grandparents bought an RV and started driving south to Arizona every fall. They come back up in the spring, and completely miss Christmas (and, of course, all of the snow).
So this year, my aunt hosted Thanksgiving, we did a gift exchange, and my grandparents hit the highway as soon as dinner was over. They're probably already across the border.
When my mom first informed me, and asked if M and I would go, I had miniature panic attacks. My grandmother is not what you would call easy-going, or very accepting. I really don't want her to know I have Celiac disease. I really don't want to deal with whatever her reaction to me eating gluten-free would be.
So how do I go to a large dinner, and eat safely, without tipping off my family members? My mom told me to get ahold of my aunt, find out what she was making, and work with her. But I really didn't want to bother with any of that. So instead I went out right beforehand, and bought a box of crackers, a couple pudding cups, and a canned bean salad to throw in my purse. I figured I was pretty covered. I also made Chex mix and brought it (because my aunt is the type who never shows up empty-handed, so I figured I better follow suit).
I walked in the door, and hugged my aunt, and then pulled out the Chex mix. She immediately said, "Can you eat that?" And then launched into a description of everything for dinner, checked what I could and couldn't eat, informed me that she'd read the ingredients of the sauces. She walked me through the serving table, and basically planned out my dinner. When it was time for everyone to dish up, she made sure I got through the line first. I made sure to fill up my plate so I wouldn't need to go back for seconds.
I was pretty impressed with it all. I'm guessing my mother tipped off my aunt, which is fine by me. I didn't make a stink, and I didn't have to touch any of the back-ups in my purse. I wasn't hungry afterwards, but I also wasn't stuffed. And I didn't eat any turkey, because it was (stuffed, I mean). I had ham. The ham was real ham, not the processed stuff, and my aunt didn't put any sauce on it, because she checked the sauce. I had potatoes, yams, peas, carrots, fresh veggies, and ham. It was all really good.
Oh, and my darling mother made a gluten-free cake (from a mix) just for me. Everyone else had pumpkin pie (which I was never a fan of) and I had a cake, all to myself. It was maple something-or-rather, and thoroughly enjoyed by one.
The gathering of family itself was pretty nuts. I mean, you put 18 people in a room, no way is everyone going to get along. Not that there were any out-and-out spats, but if you have a large family, I'm sure you know what I mean.
My sister and I went shopping for our gifts together, and I mentioned maybe buying something a bit younger for our seven-year-old second cousin. The next youngest would be my little sister, at thirteen. I knew that all the adults would buy adult-y presents, and that's no fun for the only child present. So we each bought something for the gift exchange, and then bought something just for our little cousin. I don't really know her, at all, we've never spent much time with her or her mom, and I have no idea what she's into, or what she needs. So we went halfsies on a cheap little jewelry box from Wal-Mart, guessing that every little girl loves jewelery boxes (I remember being totally psyched when I got my first one), and that it doesn't have to be all that expensive.
When it came time for the gift exchange, I came to the realization that my aunt (my little cousin's grandmother) hadn't planned for her to be apart of it. So we told her about the special present, she set it aside, made sure the little girl had the very last number, and when it came time for her turn, she got to open her present, and she felt like she was part of the gift exchange, while still ending up with an age-appropriate gift. It worked out really well. Oh, and she was totally psyched. I think she felt the same way I did when I got my first jewelry box. She ran straight to her room and put her jewelry in it. Her mom thought it was totally awesome, and her grandmother thanked both my sister and I.
I dearly love being able to do things like that, whether or not I'm related to them. It really just makes my day to make somebody grin from ear to ear.
So that was a successful Thanksgiving/Christmas.
Oh... Except the one moment my mom and I were discussing something about gluten-free and my grandmother overheard. I don't know if she knows that I eat gluten-free, or even if she knows anything about it. She went off about (and I've heard this before) how "gluten-free doesn't always mean gluten-free. It could say gluten-free and still have wheat in it. It has to say gluten-free, wheat-free. And sometimes things say gluten-free and then have oats, and oats have gluten in them. It's not about gluten, it's about what bothers you, so you have to really check."
I wanted to say, "Look, we live in Canada. Food labeling is really strict. If it says gluten-free, it is free of gluten. It has to be. Wheat always has gluten, so if it says gluten-free, it is wheat-free. Always. STFU." But I didn't. I didn't say anything. I nodded, smiled, waited until she was done and then moved on. Because that is how I deal with my family. There's no changing her mind.