Surviving Holiday Gifts and Treats

Sitting on the island in my kitchen is a box filled with homemade traditional cookies. By traditional, I mean wheat flour-based. I can’t eat them. Next to the box of cookies is a bag of store-bought cookies my in-laws picked up and brought to Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t eat them…though I think, I hope!, I’ve finally made progress in helping the in-laws understand what it means to be gluten-free.

I got the first cookies via a fundraiser at the office. When I was hit up for the donation, my co-worker frowned as she scanned the list, noting, “You can’t eat any of this stuff.” True, but my book club can, so I cheerfully made the donation, knowing I’d be serving those cookies at our upcoming meeting. The store-bought cookies will probably suffer the same fate. Sitting safely in their containers, those cookies won’t hurt me at all.

Receiving Gifts

Throughout the rest of December, I’ll be encountering cookies and other gluten-filled treats everywhere I go. This means I’ll be saying “No, thank you” a lot as people pass treats around the office. And, yeah, I’ll be extra-vigilant when I use the communal kitchen because there will be more gluten hanging around than usual.

I can almost guarantee that someone will give me a gift I can’t eat. Maybe that person knows I’m gluten-free, maybe that person doesn’t. Hey, they’ve baked cookies for the whole office! You gotta appreciate that someone spent so much time doing something wonderful for their co-workers. I think it’s so lovely when someone cares enough to do that much work.

One thing I will not do is take that moment to explain to the giver why their gift isn’t right for me. There is a time and place to talk about your issues with gluten; when you’re receiving a gift is not one of them. Most people do not fully understand what our lives are like, and, if they ask, I might share stories, but mostly I’ll be gracious about the gift.

I’m pretty sure I’ve given many gifts over the course of my life that the recipient found equally wrong.

The truth is that I’m not tempted by foods containing gluten. Oh, I miss certain things, I won’t lie. But I am not, ever once, tempted to pick up a gluten-filled cookie. That cookie might be delicious, but it’s not worth the aftermath. Early on in your gluten-free life, it’s going to be a temptation. It gets easier to resist, I promise.

I don’t feel like I’m left out, missing something, or different.

Here’s why. First off, I’m happy about how I feel. Second off, I’m not alone. Let me explain. There is one other GF person on my floor, in a different department. So, I’m not really able to look to him for support. But, but, but…I’m not the only one with dietary restrictions. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll realize lots of people are working around their own issues.

If someone gives me the gift of their super-special pancake mix, I just thank them. Then I figure out who in my world would be the perfect person for re-gifting. Seriously, we think this all the time for other things; it’s no different for food, except there is often an “expire by” date. Someone I know will appreciate that gift, and I will appreciate the fact that someone thought of me.

Giving Gifts

Though I am not much of a baker (my sister got that gene!), I do try. One year, I made incredible cookies with almond flour. It was fun, and while I didn’t give them as gifts, I brought leftovers to the office. Imagine my surprise when I chanced upon co-workers discussing how delicious they were! If only I could remember where I tucked that recipe.

(While I’m looking through my stack of magazine recipes, this article might inspire you to make cookies with almond flour.)

This year, I’m giving homemade caramels. My friend and I made three kinds — yes, we were giddy when we realized our first attempt at these treats worked exactly as planned and made way too many. We’ve already lined up our plans for next year’s batches, and I think I’ll need to get larger gift boxes because our taste testers made it clear you can’t eat just a few of these.

I love giving homemade gifts like these. And, if I may get political, I think giving delicious gluten-free treats helps highlight something we all know: gluten-free doesn’t mean taste free! There is a lot of misunderstanding about living a gluten-free life. Showing its best side is a great thing.

By way, if you are shopping for me, wine almost always comes in my size!

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