GFAF, a Complaint

One of the reasons I love cooking is because I’m good at it. It’s easy for me, another language like writing and music through which I communicate to people I love. I’ve long had recipes memorized like sheet music to favorite songs, selections to whip up when a child is sick and needs a hot bowl of soup, or a pot luck requires a tray of brownies, or I have an unquenchable thirst for shortbread.

Tim has long been my biggest culinary fan, encouraging both volume and diversity in our kitchen. One of our kids has a peanut allergy, and Tim’s allergic to seafood, so I became adept at managing around those foods that could kill them (yay me!), and we developed an arsenal of dishes almost everyone likes.

Only Sophia likes Brussels sprouts with me, but I am glad I don’t have to share those with anyone else.

Tim’s recent switch to a gluten-and-dairy-free diet has resulted in serious changes in the household. His mood is visibly and consistently different. I’ve gone gluten-free with him, as it’s ridiculously more economical to manage our food budget on one set of rules. My dairy diet was already limited, and Tim doesn’t like Greek yogurt or extra sharp cheddar anyway, so I proceed happily dairy-adjacent as before. But nary a crumb or a slice or a cracker has passed my lips in over six weeks, and that suits me just fine.

But Thanksgiving has been stalking me like a shadow this year, peering out around the corner weeks ago, with its gluten-centric traditional dishes passed down on my family line; Yum Yum (pecan) Coffeecake in the morning, and white-bread dense sausage/sage stuffing, sweet-potato casserole, mashed potatoes with plenty of heavy cream, pecan or pumpkin/praline or apple pie and cookies for dessert. I’ve long complained of the lack of chocolate at Thanksgiving (unless you’re Moonstruck, and you create this awesome/terrifying poultry centerpiece).

But Thanksgiving has gluten-a-plenty, gluten-a-extra, gluten-a-overboard, and I found myself at a loss as to how to prepare for this feast.

Yes, I know there are PA-LENTY of gluten-free options, but I was on auto-pilot for creating reliably spectacular food. And the layer of dairy-free on top of gluten-free is, not surprisingly, way more complicated than JUST avoiding wheat. Now I have to THINK. Now I have to PLAN. 

And, if you’re a follower of this blog, you know I’m conflicted about the whole “cooking for the family” business now. It was my job. My task. My responsibility. My identity for alllll those years, and I’m kinda done.

Just when I’m about to retire, to hang up my cleats, now I have to become a switch-hitter? Not only do I have the responsibility of creating the food in the house because otherwise, we would eat Tim’s gluten-free morning oatmeal at every meal; I ALSO have to figure out a day-long feast of alternatives to some of our favorite food on the planet.

I mean, sure, we could skip the Thanksgiving food. We could skip it and just have other stuff we like. But for the last couple of days, amid the inundation of holiday info on social media, I’ve found some fun dinner hacks I’m using on the family. I’ll “spatchcock” the turkey (lay it flat) and cook it that way–which doesn’t affect gluten or dairy, but it’s fun to say. Spatchcock. And I’ll be making mashed potatoes with chicken stock and Ghee (also fun to say.) Our stuffing will be wild rice (LOVE) and all the other stuffingy stuff we already stuff stuffing with.

I still don’t know where to look when someone’s taking my picture. I used to be so good at that. I look like I’m tracking a fly ball in center field.

And we’re going to put the stuffing in THIS PUMPKIN that I grew in my garden this summer. It’s the only pumpkin that survived. It’s the gourd that lived.

In the oven right now is an apple pie on crust made from a mix (A MIX I TELL YOU. THE HORROR) from Bob’s Red Mill, who has a huge assortment of GF (look at me being hip with the lingo) options.

But yes, I am conflicted. I was the chef supreme, the reigning queen of my family’s tastebuds, and now I’m just another mix-using near-food approximater of the taste of Thanksgiving. I’m one of THOSE people.

Healthy. Food conscious. Dietary restrictions. Shopping in the vegan refrigerated section for some semblance of cheese for my husband. Spending twice as much on gluten-free flours.

This is, I know–I KNOW, stop nagging–the best course of action. I enjoy Tim’s renewed Timness so much, I never want him to revert to Gluten Tim, the Fun Sucker. And he’s lost weight without trying, and I’ve lost weight without measuring. Our energy is good and we enjoy finding work-arounds. This is a puzzle for us, and we do enjoy a puzzle. We’re good at working together on solutions.

It’s this one day. This super-gluteny-day of culinary debauchery that makes me kick rocks. Christmas is way easier; we do a crown roast with Hasslebeck potatoes and whatever major vegetable we feel like doing, plus homemade marshmallows and hard candy. *I* can still have chocolate. It doesn’t seem quite so onerous. Thanksgiving, I am finding out the hard way, is glutenous AF.

I will miss my flawless pie crusts, the ones I can mix up in 10 minutes, press into the pan without rolling, and have come out flaky and buttery and divine. I will miss the sweet potato casserole so full of butter and cream and sugar that it might as well be dessert. I will miss–oh how I will miss–the McArdle stuffing, my grandfather’s recipe, sturdy and hearty, like him, that Mack truck of a Chicagoan.

But it’s one day. It’s one day on which my husband and I will enjoy a peaceful morning wandering in the misty woods, talking about plans and news and ideas. And it will be sweet and close, like all of our days are now, and that’s so much better than pie. Way better.

That’s a pretty great trade off.

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