“Thou shalt not be a pain in the ass.” This is the 11th Commandment as stated by the apostle Greg. “Wait, what?” you ask, “There’s an 11th Commandment? And an apostle named Greg?” Okay, I made that up. Actually, Greg, my late step-father made this up a few years ago. What precipitated this new decree was due to my mother’s inconsolable crying as a result of a call she got from a close family member on the eve of Thanksgiving letting her know what things his family couldn’t eat: gluten, salt, sugar, the thigh meat of animals smaller than an ostrich, the testicles of water mammals. Okay, again, I made that up, but only the last two. She called me, bereft. “What do I do?! I’ve bought all the ingredients days ago for the meal!” she cried. “They can bring their own food,” I stated simply. As any good hostess would do she altered her recipes as much as she could. Salt was absent from every dish (no biggie, we could add it), the stuffing was cooked out of the bird (as it should be), but the full-of-gluten pies, unfortunately, were already made. C’est la vie. I don’t mean to call out my dear family (I so hope they’re not reading this), but as we approach the holidays I think it’s an important lesson in imposition, or as Greg called it, “being a pain in the ass.” Let it be noted that these were self-imposed restrictions, not doctor’s orders. I get that, I’ve gone off certain foods before without any input from a healthcare professional. Barnaby and I “go vegan” from time to time, especially after a particularly gluttonous vacation, until we feel normal again. But if we’re invited to a friend’s home for dinner and there’s a cheese spread and meat as the main course, we dig in graciously and happily, then resume our diet back home. The 11th Commandment is easy for me because I have absolutely zero will-power. “Diet? What diet? Pass the Cheetos, please!”
I’m now confronted with what to do when invited to a home for a meal, especially during the holidays. Since my celiac diagnosis, the thought of going to a restaurant, let alone someone’s house for dinner, makes my stomach do flip-flops and my heart race. Why? I'm still afraid of cross-contamination, but mostly I just don’t want to be a pain in the ass. I know, I know, I’ve got a medical reason for voicing my dietary restriction, but still…I just want to eat normally like everyone else. Oh, how I’d love to be a glutinous glutton during the holidays!
As we approach the holiday season, I started thinking about Greg (may he rest in peace) and his 11th Commandment, and reminding myself of the basic rules around being decorous. My mother always taught me that it’s just as important to be a gracious host as it is to be a gracious guest. As a host, always ask guests if they have any special dietary restrictions, and do your best to accommodate. As a guest, especially one with a medical reason for avoiding a food, tactfully let the host know of your dietary needs and offer to bring something you and everyone else can enjoy (even packing some of your own stash is a good idea). If you don’t have a medical reason for not eating or drinking something? Well, remember the 11th Commandment and enjoy the holidays. I'll be living vicariously through you!
Gluten-Free Apple, Cranberry, and Sausage Stuffing
Adapted from Tamie Hoffman, Empire Baking Company
16 cups gluten free bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (2 small)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning blend
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, seasonings , salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.
In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.
Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.