Tailgating at football games is an age long tradition, especially here in the south, aka home of the SEC. Fans come from far and near to enjoy and participate in huge pre-game parties of various sizes known as tailgating.
For most, game day is eagerly anticipated with the promise of light banter and camaraderie with friends—and just maybe with a few friendly foes. Coolers, grills and makeshift camp sites litter the landscape along with folks clad in pom-poms and spirit garb galore.
Team supporters of all ages from the tiniest arm babies to the oldest cheerleader graze their way through nibbles usually prepared by a whole bunch of friends partying together. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but beer flows like ice water in paper cups.
For those with Celiac disease or those who are gluten intolerant, the party scene can suddenly look pretty darn dim. The youngest party goers have parents to navigate the gluten infested waters of tailgating for them, but the older ones are pretty much left to their own devices.
Hey, let’s be honest here. Most of us associate hotdogs, hamburgers, chili dogs, chips, store bought dips, cookies, cakes and more with a tailgate feast. Those of college age and older have been known to consume tons of beer while attending this age old tradition. So, what’s wrong with this picture?
First, beer is off limits to those suffering from Celiac disease or who are gluten intolerant because beer is made with barley malt. Barley contains gluten.
Second, all the common basics such as hamburger buns, hotdog buns, glazes, and so much more contain gluten. Unless someone understands this huge problem, everything available to eat may literally contain gluten, holding the key to the ruin of an otherwise terrific day.
Third, cross contamination is a huge problem. Even though the Celiac or gluten intolerant may bring gluten free foods, if these foods are served on the same table with gluten laden foods, the risk of cross contamination is extremely high. Only a crumb of an item containing gluten drops into a gluten free food is enough to make some very, very sick. I am giving you permission to be selfish, keeping your food to yourself.
So, what how can the person with Celiac disease or who is gluten intolerant protect him/herself and still participate in the festivities of pre-game partying safely? Fear not! I have several ideas to keep these folks safe.
1. Begin planning with lots of time to spare. Waiting until the last minute to prepare gluten free tailgate food does not necessarily give you enough time to adequately ensure a safe game day.
2. Decide on a plan of action. Think portable such as gluten free chips, dip and granola bars, naturally gluten free foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and homemade gluten free fair such as cookies, cracker jacks and more.
3. Bring your own equipment. YES! Your own stuff. A small grill dedicated to preparing your own foods and your own cooking utensils will help make your day so much better.
4. Bring tons of spare paper plates, napkins and disposable eating utensils. I like to use chinette serving pieces. With all of these items, when in doubt, throw it out.
Following these few tips will keep you safe so that you can unleash the party animal in you just waiting to get out. Happy tailgating!