The food at Thanksgiving is the tradition of the holiday for many American families. But what if a new family member has diet requirements that turn your traditions on their head?
A few general guidelines:
- Ask about allergies before hand. Communicating clearly before the meal will ease everyone’s mind.
- Save all packaging and recipes used in preparation so guests with allergies can refer to them personally.
- Do not cross contaminate while cooking. Make sure you use clean measuring cups and spoons, clean cutting surfaces, and separate utensils.
- Use separate serving spoons and pie knives.
- Try not to be offended if a guest doesn’t try something you made. When you have allergies, it can be very, very hard to trust food you have not personally prepared because your health is at stake, not to mention the potential of causing a huge embarrassing scene.
- The Pregame. The safest and easiest route is to offer a fresh fruit and veggie platter, keeping dips safely distanced to avoid cross contamination. Other choices include gluten-free crackers with cheese, if there is no diary allergy. Bowls of nuts can be dangerous. Be especially careful of young allergic guests who might grab food without understanding of the consequences.
- Beverages. Make sure you have water available. Also, for adult guests, remember many alcohols are distilled from grains. So, don’t spike a whole batch of punch or cider; instead, allow guests to add alcohol to individual servings. Wine should be safe for wheat / gluten allergies, but beer is not.
- The Turkey. While not a top ten allergy, there are individuals who are allergic to meats. If your guest is not allergic to turkey, then you need to simply cook it without anything else. Cook the stuffing separately. Do not season with butter or stock without first checking for allergens; a milk allergy means you need a non-dairy butter substitute and a wheat /gluten allergy means you need to check chicken stock for wheat.
- Stuffing. This side is not a choice for those with wheat / gluten allergies. But, it also contains other allergens. First, many recipes call for nuts, which can have sever reactions. Also, another concern is diary products used in stuffing; use diary-free substitutes.
- Mashed potatoes. Like seasoning the turkey, you will need to use diary-free butter substitute for a milk allergy, and wheat / gluten-free chicken stock if there is a wheat / gluten allergy. An easy alternative is to bake a potato for guests with allergies.
- Vegetables. It is essential to have a plain side. Items like stuffing, green bean casserole, and yams dishes contain multiple ingredients and are more dangerous for guests with allergies. You can research allergen free versions, but offering one or two plain sides will give any guests with allergies a fool-proof safe choice. Plain also means butter free; offer butter on the side if a guest has a milk allergy.
- Cranberry sauce. Luckily, cranberry sauce is a pretty safe food, especially the kind in a can. Chances are your guests will all be able to eat this one.
- Gravy. Keep flour away from the rest of the food if a guest has a wheat / gluten allergy. Flour gets in the air and can settle on other food. Also, pour flour in a well ventilated room if at all possible so that it doesn’t cause a reaction from just being in the air. You can attempt gravy using a wheat / gluten free-flour such as rice flour.
- Biscuits. Biscuits are a problem for individuals with wheat / gluten, egg, and diary allergies. You can alter recipes. One option is to buy Gluten Free Bisquick and follow the directions making any other necessary egg or dairy substitutions. However, this is for overachievers! Any guest with these allergies will not be expecting to eat the biscuits.
- Pie. Pie crust is a danger for wheat / gluten allergies and potentially milk and egg allergies depending on your recipe. Like stated above, if you are making pie from scratch, you can make an allergen-free crust by starting with a Gluten Free Bisquick and make any other necessary changes for milk or egg. Or, you can make pumpkin moose or apple brown Betty that are allergen free without laboring over a crumbly crust. You could make these desserts for all, or just a small potion for your allergic guest. Also, for milk allergies, keep the whipped toppings or ice cream separate. Lastly, be extremely careful of pies with nuts, such as pecan pie.
So, what does Thanksgiving look like for me, a person with wheat, nut, and egg allergies? Turkey with no gravy, mashed potatoes, squash, steamed veggies like green beans or carrots, cranberry sauce, and maybe a piece of safe pumpkin pie.
Do you have any other helpful hints or tips to make the Thanksgiving feast more inviting for those with food allergies? Any advice for other common allergens such as soy?