What’s the best time of year to be gluten-free? You tell me!

Many folk singers, including the late great Pete Seeger, have told us that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Much of the song is paraphrased from Ecclesiastes in the Bible, which goes to show how old the sentiment is. However, though there may indeed be a time to be born, a time to die, a time to dance, a time to mourn, a time to reap, a time to sow, and so forth, for many of us, it’s never time to eat gluten.

Still, as winter waned, spring started and stopped, and my second gluten-free year got well underway, I began pondering whether there’s a best time to be gluten-free. Spring flicked by too fast, the weather settled in to what is unmistakably New York in summer (complete with everyone’s favorite smell of trash in the streets and non-air-conditioned 1 trains), and I made my plans for yet another move* (my fourth in three years, not counting sublets)—and I kept wondering.

I’ve tried to answer this important question by listing a few pros and cons for each season, and I hope you’ll chime in, too.

Spring

  • PRO: The first hints of warmth get everyone out of the house and luxuriating in the sun, happy to do activities besides sit inside and snack.
  • CON: Often enough people really just want to sit outside and snack.
  • PRO: May is Celiac Awareness Month, infusing the entire season with a sense of our own visibility and significance.
  • CON: That sense might be a teeny bit inflated.
  • CON?: St. Patrick’s Day is not so good in its focus on beer, and Irish soda bread needs a makeover, but at least potatoes are gluten-free.
  • PRO?: We’ve already talked about Easter and Passover (both obviously super gluten-free); and Lent, immediately preceding Easter, is fine for those who observe it because gluten-free folks are adept at giving stuff up.
  • PRO: My birthday is in May! That’s relevant because a slightly disproportionate number of us have birthdays in the spring and summer. Birthdays are a good reason to make everyone eat gluten-free cake with you.
  • PRO: Fresh produce is naturally gluten-free! Go to a farmers market!
  • CON: Farmers markets all have baked goods that you can’t eat, too. But hey, you’re being healthy.

Summer

  • PRO: Lots of ice cream brands are gluten-free, and there are new dairy-free, etcetera-free options popping up all the time.
  • CON: There’s no con related to ice cream (as long as you aren’t asking your waistline).
  • PRO: It’s too hot to eat anything besides ice cream anyway, right?
  • CON: Wrong.
  • PRO: There aren’t a lot of holidays to worry about (that I can think of).
  • CON: The holidays that do occur are celebrated via cookout, which can be okay, sure, but often leave this celiac vegetarian eating chips and salsa.
  • CON: You have to move*! In the summer heat! From one fourth-floor walkup to another! Why, oh why did you buy so many kitchen appliances and bulk boxes of Bob’s Red Mill pantry staples?
  • PRO: The above con miiiight only apply to me.

Fall

  • PRO: It’s the perfect time of year to visit the approximately infinite number of gluten-free bakeries that are appearing right and left (at least in the New York metro area).
  • CON?: This doesn’t actually affect me anymore (boohoo), but I imagine that for gluten-free students and their parents, back-to-school time—with its return to school cafeterias, class parties, and 504 plans—is more a con than a pro.
  • PRO: Pumpkin is the gluten-free and vegetarian gods’ gift to the world, and you can put it in everything without being judged in October.
  • CON?: Serious holiday season is starting again. That said, Halloween doesn’t have to be so bad, considering that most candy is straight sugar and fat, no gluten required. And Thanksgiving…well, I’m sure you’ll be so busy being thankful for all the good stuff you’ll hardly even notice your chronic illness.

Winter

  • PRO: Everyone goes straight from home to work/school back home. It’s too cold to socialize, so who cares what you can or can’t eat?
  • CON: Even gluten-free people get lonely.
  • PRO: Hot chocolate doesn’t need gluten to be good.
  • CON: Some sneaky manufacturers put it in anyway.
  • PRO: Snow is gluten-free. (Probably.)
  • CON?: Did I say fall was serious holiday season? Scratch that, winter is. But you can still have a great holiday season and be gluten-free as long as you take proper precautions and avoid spilling any of your tear drops on the “real” sugar cookies.
  • PRO: Soup! Every! Day! I miss it already.

Whether you’ve been eating a special diet for decades or days, when do YOU think it’s easiest, most satisfying, least painful, and/or particularly delicious?

*Yes, you heard right: I’m leaving one gluten-free apartment for another, and Sprue Jr and I are parting ways: she to the Bronx, and I to the Upper East Side. It’s ostensibly to make both of our commutes better, but calling her Sprue Jr all the time might have contributed. By the way, I’m looking for a GF subletter in one of my two bedrooms for July and August, so if you know someone looking, send ’em my way. It’s a walkup, yes, but it’s a great spot near the park (good for those summer picnics) and has two bathrooms.

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12 thoughts on “What’s the best time of year to be gluten-free? You tell me!

  1. I love your humor, Molly! I’m not sure there is a best time, but I’m leaning toward spring, no major holidays (except spring but thank goodness for jelly belly brand and peeps). Summer is good too, but the ever present ice cream carts (hello contamination) at all the playgrounds makes it tough on my kids. Grrr.

    Good luck with your move! My first apartment was on the UES so I’ll always have a soft spot for the neighborhood 🙂
    -Dana

    • Molly says:

      Thanks, Dana! I can see why the ice cream carts would be tough on the kiddos (considering that I always feel a sudden hankering for ice cream when walking by them, and I’m apparently a grownup). I’m looking forward to the new place—it’ll be fun to explore a whole new neighborhood after spending most of my time in either Washington Heights or Brooklyn.

  2. Sharone says:

    Molly, I’m a Jew, and this past Passover I blogged about how my favorite holiday has become my permanent holiday… woo hoo! Much of the food is gf, unless it includes matzoh meal. And it’s pretty carefully labeled. So now I celebrate Permover. Cuz it will NEVER PASS.. (At least not until there’s a cure). I vote for spring.

  3. Stay Strong, Travel Light says:

    My first NYC apartment was also on the UES so it holds a special place in my heart. 🙂 I’d vote that winter is the hardest season to be gluten free simply because of the holidays and all the parties. I think summer is the easiest just because I don’t eat as much and can stick to snacks like fresh fruit without being too obvious about my ‘allergy.’

  4. Vik says:

    All the same to me. Depends on how I’m looking at it. It’s all equally easy, or all equally a pain in the ass :-).

  5. Laurie C says:

    Two bathrooms sounds luxurious! I think summer’s easiest, too, because of all the salad meals that seem perfectly reasonable in the summer and taste so good made with fresh veggies and herbs. Margaritas, mojitos, and daiquiris are also gluten-free, are they not?

  6. Mary Kate says:

    Seems to me that you’re missing a majorly big pro for spring and summer (and maybe fall): fresh produce. Green stuff, then all the many colors of summer, then squashes. Fresh stuff, plus stuff you can eat without cooking (both because it’s fresh and tasty and because it’s too hot to cook) is a HUGE plus.

    And so far, I think barbeques are pretty easy, but then I’m not a vegetarian. BUT vegetarians have some awesome BBQ options, too — portabella mushrooms and eggplant are both hearty main dish stuff, and almost everything can be grilled (Denise and I discovered that grilled carrots with hot sauce are *amazing.*)

    Worst season is winter. Nothing is fresh, nothing is warm enough. Although there is soup. I do love soup.

    • Molly says:

      I hear you on the fresh produce, for sure. At least in winter there are still potatoes. (And soup. Though, truth be told, my personal feeling is that it’s never really too hot to eat soup.)

      I keep meaning to try this grilled carrot thing! I saw someone else prepare it just like a hot dog in a bun and all, which actually looked surprisingly delicious.

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