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How To Be A Good Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Host AND Guest

By Jennifer A. Freeman in Food on Nov 18, 2013 7:30PM

Photo by Yooperann

While most holidays seem to revolve around food, none do so more than Thanksgiving. It's a meal traditionally made up of classic comfort foods —roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole— but when you're trying to plan a huge holiday meal for family, friends and other visitors, things are always going to be complicated.

Maybe you have to deal with your cousin's lactose intolerance or your aunt's aversion to anything with onions. Some dietary requests can be easily satisfied, but if you are trying to plan a gluten-free Thanksgiving, it's going to take a little more preparation. But don't worry! Whether you're an experienced gluten-free cook or you just want to make sure you have one or two dishes for a family member with Celiac disease, it's going to be much easier than you might think to host a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner.

Preparing a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal

Talk to your gluten-free guest. If you're the chef but not the gluten-free eater, chances are you have some questions. Talk to your guest and ask if there are any foods they really hate. Why go through the hassle of making a gluten-free green bean casserole if they're not going to touch it? They also might have a great recipe they want to contribute to the dinner.

Avoid cross contamination. This is the biggie when preparing any food for someone with any sort of food allergy. Those perfectly gluten-free mashed potatoes become filled with gluten the moment the spoon coated in gravy touches them. Plan ahead to know what has gluten in it and what doesn't. Make sure to have clean cooking and serving utensils for each dish. A helpful trick: Handle everything like it's raw chicken. Don't stick utensils in different dishes or move from handling bread to the salad without washing your hands.

Read the labels. You probably plan out your menu ahead of time and have a big grocery list, but it's important to read the labels when you're shopping for gluten-free dishes. Of course you know the bread cubes for stuffing have gluten in them but there's a lot of gluten hidden in things you might not realize. Worcestershire sauce can have gluten. As do some brands of stock, most canned soups, Bloody Mary mix and salad dressing. Processed foods can be land mines. Here are the big buzzwords to watch out for on the labels: wheat, flour, soy sauce, malt and modified food starch.

If in doubt, ask. Your guest is going to be so grateful that you are even thinking about making food they can eat that they are going to be more than happy to help you any way they can. They're probably going to bring food and will be willing to help out in the kitchen. Just make sure you don't relax too much and make the mistake of thinking, "Oh, just a little bit will be OK." If you do that, you're going to have some sick and unhappy guests on your hands.

How to be a good gluten-free guest

Offer to host. If you're an experienced gluten-free cook, it's going to be much easier for you to cook in your kitchen with your supplies and utensils than it will be anywhere else.

If hosting isn't an option make sure to help as much as you can. Offer to bring at least one or two substantial dishes. If you can't cook, offer to bring the booze. Or place an order at one of the great gluten-free bakeries in Chicago and bring dessert.

Say please and thank you. This is a holiday of thanks and we know you're already in the spirit, but show a little extra love. We're sure your mom is willing to go above and beyond for your dietary restrictions, but she appreciates an extra hug. And make sure her wine glass is always full during the day.

Do you have any tips to share on how to make sure your gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner goes off without a hitch? Throw them in the comments below. If your dinner is anything like ours, the cocktails will be flowing and no one will care if one dish doesn't turn out as planned.

Just in case you're looking for help with a vegetarian Thanksgiving, rather than a gluten-free one, check out this article.