Last week I had a delightful lunch with Marguerite Bottorff. I’ve known her since she was in elementary school herself and now she is an elementary school teacher. With a smile that will knock your socks off, incredible patience, and the most amazing ability to see the positive in every situation Marguerite teaches and enjoys her students. When she isn’t at school, Marguerite does culinary lifestyle training for families with young children who need to adapt to their kids dietary restrictions for GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free), celiac disease, dairy sensitivity and dairy, soy and nut allergies.
School just ended here (in Washington DC where we both live and work) and as we relaxed over mussels and creme brulee, conversation turned to something else Marguerite is great at – entertaining. She is gluten-free, having been diagnosed with celiac about 5 years ago. As we talked about partying as a gluten-free person, or “glutard” as she refers to herself, I realized how valuable her advice is for those of us who don’t live gluten-free. So without further ado…
Guest Post from Marguerite Bottorf, a Wonderful Friend and Gluten-Free Guru
As a gluten-free person, I’m used to friends asking, “What do I cook for you? What do you eat? Can you eat corn? What about potatoes? So that’s a no on the cake? What about pie? I mean, just a little bit of flour won’t hurt, right?”
What it means to live gluten-free is confusing to those who don’t have to do it. I’m talking here about the strict gluten-free diet, not the fad one involving lots of cheating.
And let’s be frank, the gluten-free regime is kind of lame in a party setting. So if you’re not gluten-free, but want to be helpful to those of us who are, I have compiled my favorite tips and hints on how to help us gluten-free folks have a great time at your party.
We “glutards” are always ready for a snack. However, with a great party comes great anxiety. We have to be on the alert for cross contamination issues and check to see if snacks are “us” friendly. Here are a few items that are delicious for all, while also being safe for us:
- Schar products
- Udi’s Bread, Buns, Crackers, Granola
- Glutino table crackers
- Vans BBQ or Cheddar crisps
- Savoy Rice Crackers (Trader Joes)
- Rice Thins
Yes, it’s true: cookies, cakes, donuts, brownies, cupcakes, lemon squares, chocolate dipped pretzels, tiramisu, cheesecake—all of these things just aren’t cool for our fragile systems. Something you should never say to a Celiac: “Can’t you just scrape it off the top?” NO, dear, sweet friend, I can’t. If you’d like to take care of me for the next week while I recover from these awful side effects and reactions, be my guest.
If you’re worried about the dessert portion of the evening, many of us glutards are ok bringing our own little slice of gluten-free heaven; if you ask nicely because you’re looking out for us, we appreciate it. Fruit is also such a lovely substitute for baked goods! As are nice chocolates—just be aware of those ingredients! Sometimes gluten is used to thicken (emulsify) or stabilize packaged foods, including chocolates, or sometimes gluten is in a flavoring. Here are some ingredients to watch out for (we can’t eat these):
- Barley/Malt Extract or syrup
- Brown Flour
- Rice Malt
- Wheat Grass
- Cereal Binding
Barbecues and Other Outdoor Food Fests
This is the easiest breeding ground for anxiety and cross contamination. There are buns, baguettes, pasta salad, and so many other treats that may tempt you, but are off-limits for us. As much of a bummer as it can be to have to have to plan ahead on the gluten-free front, it’s far better than having a gluten-free guest get sick. And they appreciate it, too! Easiest solution? Have a gluten-free bar inside so your gluten-free guests can fill their plates in a safe zone.
Many of us gluten-free folks like beer, but we have to be careful to avoid beers have gluten in them. Here are a couple of popular beers that I’ve tasted (and could safely drink):
- Bard’s Original Sorghum Malt Beer
- Redbridge (not my preference)
- O Mission pale ale, amber, and IPA (technically not gluten-free, but made with a process that removes the gluten)
- St. Peter’s G-free Beer
- Daura Damm
Most wines are considered gluten-free, as are a number of brands of cider (though you should always check specific brands, just in case).
There are so many delicious options for everyone to enjoy. This also gives you an awesome chance to flex your fabulous cooking abilities! Gluten Free and Vegan are NOT the same thing. Most of us aren’t part of that whole “let’s eat even less than we already can” movement. Baked eggplant filled with creamy ricotta spiked with Parmesan cheese, being lovingly cradled in a meaty rich red sauce…yeah, I can definitely get down with that (as long as there are no breadcrumbs). There are a billion, ok, maybe at least a million different recipes that don’t need any special adaption to be gluten-free. Here are a few of my favorite sites to guide you along:
Virtually anywhere on the web can be your friend when it comes to gluten-free dishes. Another good resource? Your gluten-free buddy, which leads me to:
The Best Tip of All
Wanna really impress your gluten-free friends? Maybe a special someone you’d like to get to know way better and want to high five after dinner? ASK them what they like to eat most. Questions are fantastic. Questions when they relate to something as vital as our allergy or disease are literally our favorite…within reason. It’s so super to hear someone say, “I know you have some restrictions, but what would you really like to eat?” AHHH, YOU ANGEL. That’ll get you a high five or more.
Being gluten-free is a bit of a hassle. But it’s also a great thing in the end. Happy party go-ers and happy friends are the key to a good evening. Happy, cautious cooking, y’all!
You can reach Marguerite at Free to Be Me Nutrition or firstname.lastname@example.org
For a few of my own gluten-free party treats, check out:
- Oranges & Clementines in Syrup
- Granita (a sweet or savory refresher that doesn’t require an ice cream maker)
- Red, White & Blue Popsicles