A Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing (Amelia Clute / Assistant Dining Editor).

November 21, 2021

Guide to a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

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The smells, sights, tastes and drunk uncles of Thanksgiving make it the national holiday that we know and love. Turkey drowned in gravy and cranberry sauce, cornbread that crumbles in your mouth and heaping plates of mashed potatoes all come to mind as Thanksgiving classics. Sadly, much of this delicious nourishment contains gluten. 

Celiac disease, a disease in which the small intestine is unable to process wheat, rye and barley, affects about 1% of the population, including myself. As the holiday season nears, I often get asked, “What do you even eat?” and “Wait, you can’t have bread?” followed by a look of astonishment. To give non-celiac individuals a look into my holiday rituals, I’ve composed a brief guide to a gluten free Thanksgiving. 

  1. Go crazy on the cranberry sauce 

This step is relatively easy, as everyone loves cranberry sauce. Sadly, as someone with celiac, the thick, savory goodness of gravy is not an option. Gravy, made largely with flour, can be made gluten free — but much like bagels, it’s really not the same. Therefore, I’ve learned to apply a heavy layer of cranberry sauce over my entire plate to ensure I can still add moisture to my turkey when gravy isn’t an option.

  1. Make the turkey your friend

Regardless of your dietary restrictions, the Thanksgiving turkey is always a fan favorite once dinner time rolls around. I often take more than my fair share of the turkey not only so I can fall asleep by the time my cousins bring up politics, but because I know I can depend on it. Unlike many Thanksgiving classics, turkey is naturally gluten free. Dedicating a large portion of your plate to poultry eliminates many worries of cross contamination with gluten. Bonus points if you get enough so that you always have your mouth full when your aunts and uncles ask you how school is going.

  1. Cornbread is very possible

One baked good that I have seen successfully replicated gluten free is cornbread. This is a miracle, as Thanksgiving without cornbread is like frats without gross beer — it just doesn’t feel right. Wegmans and most grocery stores have a substantial selection of gluten free cornbread mixes. All of the ones I have tried have been tasty enough to make the Thanksgiving table. Plus, if you’re the only gluten free person in your family, you can get the entire box to yourself.

  1. Drinks are almost all viable 

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without some refreshments to wash your turkey down. Whether it’s water, sparkling soda or the Jack Daniels that your cousin you barely know brought, most table drinks are safe for the gluten free community. However, the one big drink we have to stay away from is beer. This means that unless your family Thanksgiving involves yelling drunk slurs at NFL refs, you should be in the clear. Drinks can be a good opportunity to be on par with everyone else at the table, as you don’t need your own special gluten free water pitcher or soda can.

  1. DON’T save room for dessert

Due to the harsh reality that flour is slightly important in the production of baked goods, most of the steaming baked goods that line the Thanksgiving table are off limits. Unless you have a nice aunt or uncle who will make a cake or pie that only you can eat, I would recommend eating enough turkey that you feel sick once the pumpkin pie and carrot cake emerge.

  1. Take it easy during cleanup

Assuming your family is not filled with absolute monsters, they should pity you as you longingly gaze at all the food you can’t have. Shed a silent tear or two as they are divvying up the apple pie, and that should be enough for your cousin to clear your plate for you. Then use the best part of your Celiac status to escape the clean up and collapse on the couch where grandpa is taking an open mouth nap. Happy Thanksgiving, Celiacs!

Jimmy Cawley is a first-year in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]