December 10, 2012

Give Us This Day Our Gluten-Free Bread

This guest post was written by Lydia Evans, a pastor’s wife in Momence, Illinois. Her husband, Brent, is Patsy’s son and Megan’s brother.

What are some practical ways that we as ministry women can show hospitality to guests with dietary restrictions?

With the work that is already built into the practice of hospitality (planning, shopping, cooking, scrubbing, mopping, praying...), one might feel overwhelmed with the thought of the extra effort required to prepare a meal for guests who might be allergic to that favorite go-to dish.

Extra effort probably will be required, so let’s start with the motivation for why we would add an extra element of complexity to our already busy schedules.

At my church, I have had to make special arrangements for partaking of the Lord's Supper. Why? Because I eat a gluten-free (GF) diet and the little square of communion bread could make me sick. The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 96 says that the Lord's Supper by faith makes us "partakers of [Christ's] body and blood, with all his benefits, to [our] spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace." It’s not just about bread, it’s about soul edification. This is one example of how my dietary restriction makes me feel less-than-unified with the church body. I cannot partake of the common bread as others do.

Hospitality is another sticky subject. Some people feel overwhelmed by the prospect of feeding someone with special dietary needs, especially if they are not confident cooks. It is easy enough for me to show hospitality to others. If my guests offer to bring something, I tell them to bring a green salad (hold the croutons!) or some fruit. However, my dietary restrictions make it more difficult for my church family to feel comfortable inviting me over for a meal. This is a lonely predicament.

Ready for the practical advice? First, don't panic. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, focus on your goal: to show the love of Christ to your sister or brother in Christ; whatever their food needs may be. Second, ask your dietary-restricted guest what she can and cannot eat. Listen carefully, and take notes. After your guest tells you everything she cannot eat, ask her what she can eat. For instance, after explaining the hidden presence of gluten in many packaged products (please, read each ingredient label and look for the bold words at the end of the ingredients that list any common allergens), I give suggestions for the basic structure of a Lydia-safe meal. Meat + GF Starch (rice, potato, etc.) + Vegetable. The meal can be much more creative than this, but for those who cannot even begin to imagine not including bread, noodles, or other wheat ingredients in their food, a bare-bones meal example can be helpful.

While you are cooking, be careful about cross-contamination. For those with celiac disease, even a single crumb of gluten can cause an autoimmune reaction in their gut, breaking down the lining of their intestines over time. So: clean your cooking surface and implements thoroughly. Don't chop up the broccoli on the same cutting board that you just made your sandwich on.

With a little practice, allergen-free cooking can become a workable part of your kitchen repertoire. Remember your motivation! They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach (that's one reason why I baked Brent apple pies and chocolate cupcakes during our courtship!), but I think that adage applies more or less to the majority of us. Being on the receiving end of gluten-free hospitality makes me feel loved, accepted, and welcomed, in a way that few things can. When a friend takes the time to make me food that I can actually eat, I feel like she truly cares about me and values our friendship.

Are you full of motivation but lack recipe inspiration? Most of your everyday recipes can be adapted to replace allergens with safe substitutes. Ask your guest, what her wheat flour replacement is, or her dairy, nut, or egg replacement. Below is a list of the blogs I frequent most often for gluten-free recipes. Many of the recipes are also dairy, egg, soy, corn, and nut-free. Note: I'm interested in the "Real Food" movement, so most of the recipes emphasize organic, free-range, pastured, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) whole foods. 

Gluten-Free Goddess
Nourishing Gourmet
Real Food, Allergy Free
Keeper of the Home

Happy cooking!




  1. One way to simplify things for church potlucks is to make sure that a few people make something, like a raw vegetable tray or plain rice, which contains no dairy, soy, nuts, eggs, added sodium or gluten. Also, those who make something with hidden allergens could indicate that by a note or verbal warning.

  2. I have befriended a few gluten-free women in my lifetime, and this post also reminds me that hospitality doesn't have to include food. One GF friend used to hang out with me every Wednesday while her daughter was being tutored; we just sipped ice water, but we enjoyed some great fellowship!

  3. I eat gluten-free also and this post was very applicable to me. As a person that has to eat gluten-free, I try to make it as easy as possible on any hostess. Usually, I'll bring a couple of snacks just in case or eat something light before I go to someone's house or a church party. I have some recipes that have become staples in my home, such as Chuckwagon Soup and Spicy Peanut Chicken on Rice. Chili and baked potatoes are always nice, as long as there isn't wheat flour added to the chili. Tacos made with McCormick's seasoning work well with corn shells and all the things that go with it (watching labels, of course). Apple Nachos (sliced apples drizzled with melted peanut butter and sprinkled with chocolate chips) work well for the gluten-intolerant person. It's definitely a challenge to eat well with allergies, but I appreciate the post!! AND, I'm always looking for a new recipe to try!

  4. Thanks Lydia for your post :). I once made egg/dairy free cupcakes for my daughters birthday party of 15 girls as one of the invited girls had those life threatening allergies. NONE of the girls noticed and scoffed the lot! Another great dessert is frozen banana 'icecream' which I have used on occasions. I lack a foodprocessor so I'm unable to make some at the moment, but all it is frozen banana processed until it becomes thick and creamy! sooo good!

  5. Our new community has very different eating habits than the one from which we recently moved! I've been a little intimidated to bring foods to church gatherings or offer to take people meals, but I'm slowly learning some tricks to make things allergen-free, and our new friends are patient with me and kind to answer all my questions! I just can't stand the idea of taking food somewhere that I know some people there won't be able to eat!
    Thank you for the big picture reminder, too, for why we practice hospitality in the first place.


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