Gluten Free Grandparenting 101

There is nothing like being a grandparent, from what I have heard….

My kids  (and my parents) remind me of that EVERYDAY. See – I live in a multi-generational home.  My house consists of my parents, my husband, my two daughters and a pet frog, Harry.

To me, this seems normal. When I was a child, we lived with my grandmother. My other grandmother liked the independence of living on her own – but she would visit regularly and often stayed for months at a time. (And for the record my grandmother lived on her own until she was 101 years old.) My husband, being from Europe, it was much more common and expected for grandparents to be part of the home. Each set of his grandparents lived with one of their children and grandchildren.

There are many great things about my children growing up with grandma and grandpa. They see grandpa every morning before going to school. (Grandma is NOT a morning person, so we all let her sleep.) They see grandma after-school every afternoon (Grandpa takes a nap at that time – since he has been up since 5am.) And they eat dinner together almost every night of the week.

There are of course many little perks that we all take for granted. My youngest can stay home with her grandparents, if I need to take my older daughter somewhere. If I am running late, there is always someone there to meet the bus or drive to school. In turn, I am known to be a great chauffeur for long trips or health crisis coordinator.

One of our most complex areas we have to come to terms with is food. Living together has created compromises on both sides of the table. My folks cooking and tastes differ from my husband and my tastes.  My folks are also on a no sugar (but use sugar substitute) no salt, no spice diet. My dad’s palate didn’t include rice until their 10th year of marriage. To add to the mix, we are gluten free. We have to keep the kitchen gluten free for health reasons, so we have to be 100% sure there is no cross contamination.

When we moved in together, we did not know that being strictly gluten free was on the horizon. As we navigated that start-up phase, it took a little getting used to on all sides of the kitchen table.

Even if there are no grandparents living in your house, as long as they are visitors –  you will encounter the discussion of food.

For all those that this hits home – here are some helpful lessons we learned:

Weekly Meal Plan: On Sundays, my folks know our schedule for the week and what we plan to eat for dinner. This gives everyone the freedom to chose whether or not we eat together or find alternative options.

Coming to Agreements: We came to an agreement early on – that the priority is everyone’s health. We made the kitchen a gluten free zone, this meant removing all storage or cooking materials that might not usable again due to gluten contamination. (And that went for the beautiful Italian Pasta Maker my mother bought my husband for the holidays that year – only used 3 times before we discovered the health issue.)

Gluten Zone: I admit it – Grandpa is allowed his bagel. And every once in a while my folks get take out from Neal’s Deli. For these gluten treats, they eat from the garden view. Basically, they eat their sandwich in their living room on a little table where they have for afternoon tea or play cards with friends.  There is a gluten toaster that is on a tray away from everything else. Any kitchen items used like a plate or knife must be washed immediately and put in the dishwasher. Any food item that is touched must be eaten at that same time or kept in glass clearly marked. An example would be if he used cream cheese and double dipped the knife – that would need to be used at that seating or placed in a marked glass bowl to avoid cross contamination. A cloth is used to wash the area and placed in the washing machine right after one use.  (OH yeah – we are all that strict.)  To be honest, overtime, we have found enough meals and food to keep in the house that there is little to no need for this. If my folks are going to enjoy gluten – it is 99% of the time done at a restaurant.

Restaurants: We all like to go out to eat together.  My folks like to take the girls out. To reduce the stress, we all have found several restaurants that all 6 of us like, can find options and it is gluten free savvy. (Venable Bistro, Med Deli, Alfredo’s Pizza, Refectory and Jason’s Deli) My folks have not been to Primal yet- but they will soon. We are starting with their brunch!

Modify Favorite Recipes: With three generations in the house, we all have our favorite recipes. Several are passed down from my grandmother’s recipe box. Over the years, my mother had cut or found alternatives to the salt and sugar required. And so, the tradition continues, we have revised all our family favorites to  be gluten free.

It is OK Not to Eat: Initially, my parents thought it was essential they eat every meal with us and show the girls that they are supporting our gluten free life. The truth is, there were meals before and after this change, that my parents are not going to enjoy. Once we all came to terms with that,  we could make alternatives. Sometimes, my folks will eat with us, but eat something else. Other times, they will take note of a particular dish they are not fans of and make arrangements to join friends at a restaurant (and usually, one of their favorites that the girls cannot go to).

Treats: Many grandparents love to treat their grandchildren with a little surprise here and there. My parents are no different. Particularly, on days when they are alone with the girls, they like to spoil them with a little treat. We worked together and came up with some basics, that they know are safe. Here are some of the grandparents favorite gluten free treats for the girls.


And finally…

Go With the Flow: I say we have a weekly meal plan – and we mostly keep to it. There will be those nights, where someone is running late or something has come up. We always have that emergency meal that we can whip up and everyone can be satisfied. For us it is gluten free pasta and tomato sauce. The main thing I can tell you is we are all together. Life in a multigenerational home has its ups and downs and many more topics beyond food. I would say there are many more ups then downs living with my parents. (And I think my folks would agree.) If you asked my kids, they would tell you there is nothing better! And to me, that is the best reason.



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