My (Celiac) Thanksgiving

Holiday potlucks can be tricky for anyone but they’re especially tough when you have Celiac. My family is relatively small and our holidays are typically spent with just my parents, siblings and our significant others. We can all sit around one table comfortably which means that by the time our meal is ready, I know what’s in every dish because we’ve all been in the kitchen cooking it together!

This Thanksgiving however, the tables were turned. When a wonderful friend of mine invited us to join her and her fiancé’s large Columbian family we jumped at the chance. She shared that it would actually be a small intimate gathering of mostly her fiancé’s family so we planned a few side dishes to bring and looked forward to the date.

When we arrived however, the street in front of her house was lined with cars and people were streaming into her home like shoppers into a Target on Black Friday. We walked in cautiously with our dishes in hand and received a warm welcome with an explanation that “so and so” had invited “so and so” and the intimate gathering had turned into a full on party with at least 40 or 50 guests.

I had a slight moment of panic. With this many people, I would never insist on going through the line first (to eat from dishes before they were cross contaminated) but I also would never be able to eat once others had made their way through and serving spoons were spread haphazardly on tables - freely mixed between ones I could and couldn’t have. I decided I would eat at home, my fail safe back up plan anytime I can’t safely eat out.

But, I should’ve known better. This friend of mine as I mentioned is not only an amazing woman but she’s a stand up friend who’s supported me through my  diagnosis, asking questions to fully understand Celiac, all the way to being one of the first to buy shirts when I started Celiac Cutie. While guests milled about loudly, laughing and talking together, she pulled me aside. “I have two color serving spoons, one for dishes you can eat and one for dishes you can’t. Let’s go through what you brought and what I made and mark the safe dishes before anyone gets started.” I couldn’t believe the thoughtfulness she had put into her planning. Next, she broke through the din of noise and announced food was ready. But before allowing anyone to dig in, she made an announcement. “Some of us here have food allergies and it’s very important that you use the spoon that’s in the dish for only that dish. No moving them around, let’s keep everyone safe.” And so began the start of an incredible Thanksgiving meal.

I share this story for a few reasons.

1. Let’s be real. Most people are not going to do this for you and that’s ok. I didn’t know how serious Celiac was until I had it. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was! Not everyone will take the time to understand so DO always have a backup plan (bring your own dish, pack snacks, eat before, etc).

2. DON’T stop looking for a support team. It may be your family, a significant other you just started dating, a friend, etc. I have been very blessed to have a lot of support and it makes all the difference. Believe me, I’ve been humiliated, called out and made to feel pretty awful for having a disease I have no control over but that’s ok. I don’t have to spend my life around those people! And you don’t either – you deserve people who have your back and I promise you, they’re out there.

3. To those of you that don’t have Celiac but know someone who does, DO try to support them. When you take the time to try to understand, it’s amazing. I promise we notice it, we appreciate it and we love you all the more for it.