In retrospect, the blog post I wrote last month about being sensitive and hospitable to gluten-free guests seems incredibly naïve.
We had some great responses to our request for gluten-free recipes and tips for church dinners, which I will share here shortly. However, I learned it’s not always practical or realistic to expect to cook for people with food allergies, unless you are very careful, experienced, and informed.
“I have a wheat allergy,” one pastor told me. “I rarely eat potluck these days, and most of us with allergies avoid church gatherings for that reason.”
People with food allergies wrote to me about their fears of cross-contamination (exposing gluten-free foods to gluten-containing foods by accidentally using the same utensils, for example). I heard that if you cook with regular wheat flour and then switch to a gluten-free recipe, the gluten could remain in the air for a while or even cling to a pan or spatula, even if you scrubbed it down.
In a nutshell, a person with celiac disease or other food allergies might not be safe eating at most church dinners, no matter how hard the cooks might try. “Having two to three people who know how to safely cook gluten free and serve it on a separate table is key,” the pastor with food allergies said.
The average well-intentioned church cook might be able to provide food options for a guest who’s not allergic but gluten sensitive, however. I still believe it’s important to at least show an effort and perhaps let your gluten-free guests educate you about what to do.
“It is such a lifestyle change, particularly for the church where the shared table is such a prominent symbol,” said Julie King, whose family members have food allergies. “I appreciate the inclusion and listening ears willing to allow us to share.”
Now, here are some tips from our readers:
Brooke Atchley suggested taco soup as a safe bet for church suppers, allowing gluten-free guests to eat what everyone else is eating:
“Ground beef with Old El Paso taco seasoning, green pepper, onion, corn, diced tomatoes, and black beans. Cook in a crockpot. Serve with corn tortilla chips (Tostitos are gluten-free), cheese and sour cream,” Brooke said.
Stephanie Parrott says she uses King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Muffin Mix for church dinners as well as communion bread. “I will say Schar Gluten-Free Ciabatta Rolls also make great communion bread,” she said.
When the youth at Chilhowie United Methodist Church had a bake sale recently, Jennifer Jolliffe helped them bake gluten-free cookies using a mix from the grocery store (such as Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix).
Jennifer said her own daughter has food allergies — as do other members in the church — so she and few others have educated themselves on what to do.
“If we are doing a pancake breakfast, we have some pancakes made with gluten-free mix,” Jennifer said. “At a recent breakfast we hosted for the local schools, we made sure to have gluten-free donuts, breads, and quiches so the gluten-free students could be able to have enough to eat as well.”
Finally, Karla Kurtz wrote to us about a dinner party she once hosted where the guests included one dairy-free diner, one vegetarian, two gluten-free eaters, and one guest allergic to cats.
“We had to eat outside,” she said. “It was a challenge. We had salad, fruit, veggies, pasta, and barbecue chicken. For dessert, I found a great pumpkin mousse dessert recipe that everyone could eat.”
The recipe is “very easy,” she said. “It’s really good and basically a crust-less pumpkin pie. You can add whipped cream or just do the crushed gingerbread cookies alone.”
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