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Revamping tradition

It’s tough to maintain a celiac diet over so many holiday dinners. (Bryn Karcha photo)
It’s tough to maintain a celiac diet over so many holiday dinners. (Bryn Karcha photo)

The first of November to the beginning of January has always been my favourite time of the year. This is the one time when everyone stops caring about what they are eating and I have every excuse to sit inside my house all day in my pajamas watching movies. My childhood was filled with my nanny bringing cookies to our house and decorating the Christmas tree with my brother and mother, while dancing around to her favourite Kenny and Dolly CD.

This past summer my mother learned that she can’t eat gluten. This didn’t seem like a big deal at first. She was already trying to eat healthier; sticking to fruits and vegetables had become a habit in her daily life. However, we quickly learned that eating gluten-free was not only more difficult during the holidays—it was costly as well.

Our first roadblock came when we had to figure out how to make stuffing. Of course we could make it out of gluten free bread, but that would cost us a crisp $20 bill for just two loaves. Chocolates and cookies were out of the question too, as the cheap but delicious advent calendars bought every year turned out to contain more wheat than anything. A feeling of guilt washes over me as I eat my gingerbread men and realize that even though my mother loves them, she can’t bite their heads off with me.

With the holidays being a time of celebration we tend to eat out more than we normally would. While some restaurants offer gluten-free menus, this doesn’t mean that the food marked as such isn’t coming into contact with gluten. It was during a trip to one of these restaurants that we found out about my mother’s intolerance—after a 12-hour trip to the ER.

While a few places offer gluten-free foods, the rest of the time you are basically stuck with a fruit tray (another problem for my family given my brother’s life-threatening kiwi allergy). Fruit may be good for you, but nothing beats Christmas dinner.

Gluten free eating in Halifax is more difficult than it has to be. With just a few precautions taken within restaurant kitchens, family members with dietary restrictions wouldn’t have to plan their outings around whether they might be able to eat with their family or not. That is what the holiday season really comes down to: spending time with your family. We need that time to spend together, even if it is only once a year.


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