Delightful dinners demand delegation when living with CAD

Planning ahead is key to hosting and preparing holiday meals

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by Mary Lott |

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“Mike, please come and hold the pan for me while I pour the batter in.” I wiped the sweat away from my forehead as I stood next to the large pot of boiling water. I know there are machines that make knöpfli, a dumpling-like food that reveals my Swiss ancestry. But I prefer to force the batter through a pan and press it with a wooden spoon into the water, just like my mother taught me. Knöpfli is a traditional staple on our Alabama table at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A table is set for Thanksgiving dinner. Atop a white tablecloth are festive plates, silverware, and glasses, and there are flowers and decor arranged at the center. Two tall, gold candles sit atop glass holders. It's dark outside, and low lighting makes the scene look cozy.

Our table is prepped for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo by Mary Lott)

I love the way our family celebrates these two holidays. The table is set with our best service. There are flowers fresh from our garden. Traditional foods, as well as more elaborate dishes, are prepared. The decorations are all appropriate for the holiday. It’s a dressy, formal occasion.

These dinners take work. Decorations and meal prep are time-consuming. Those of us with cold agglutinin disease (CAD), a rare autoimmune disorder in which self-targeting antibodies attack and destroy red blood cells at low temperatures, find ourselves becoming tired easily. Our tiredness often results in brain fog and difficulty concentrating on the task at hand. This condition can be fatal to banquet preparations.

I’ve developed some strategies that keep these banquets bountiful instead of burdensome. It calls for cooperation within the family, but all the work comes together and adds to the specialness of the day.

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My tips for a successful feast

Start planning early. Create the menu with early preparation in mind. Rolls can be made early, frozen before baking, and then added to the oven while the turkey is resting before it’s carved. Most vegetables can be prepared a few days ahead. The trick with many dishes is not to finish the cooking process before storage.

On the day of the festivities, you only have to finish the cooking. Your food will be fresh, and it’ll seem as if you’ve been slaving all day. One step I take is mixing and storing the onion-and-sage dressing ahead of time. It only needs to be added to the turkey before roasting and thus requires little work.

I also delegate a lot of my meal prep. I’m no longer the person who prepares the knöpfli. Someone else does it at their house and brings it with them, either before dinner so we keep it warm, or hot and ready to be served.

Finally, I prep and reheat many of our courses. Our appetizers are all done a day or two before, as well. The desserts are done the week prior. With careful planning, this CADdy, as we with CAD often call ourselves, doesn’t agonize over getting a meal finished on time.

Someone once told me that food presentation makes the dinner tastier. I find that’s true. So an effort is put into setting the stage: the table, centerpieces, and serving locations. Many in the family gather together two days prior to set the tables and ensure everything is sparkling. I don’t have to do it alone. A family dinner is a group occasion.

A wide-angle photo shows three tables set up for Christmas dinner in what appears to be someone's home. All are set with white tablecloths and festive dinnerware.

At Christmas one year, we had a larger group and needed three tables. (Photo by Mary Lott)

Like many families, ours cooks a lot of food for Thanksgiving, and we do it again for Christmas. If the weather is cold enough, we use our “outdoor storage facility,” also known as a table on our back porch, for this purpose. I decorate it and we graze from there, while the main meal is served at another location. Our appetizers are served from midmorning onward, until dinner is served.

We take a break after dinner to organize the evening activities. That’s when leftovers are set out as a come-and-go buffet and desserts are eaten as we watch the Egg Bowl, play games, or perform Christmas carols on our musical instruments. We’ve been known to do all three some years.

It takes a lot of stamina to present a banquet, and it can be even more challenging when coping with CAD. At the end of the day, I fall into bed, tired and achy. But with my family helping, I am “happy-tired.”

I’ve learned to loosen my grip on the organization of our family meals as I adjust to what’s happening with my body. This year, I wasn’t even the hostess of the main Thanksgiving event. The purpose of these dinners is to enjoy the people around me, my family. I’m still able to do that, even while living with CAD.

Note: Cold Agglutinin Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cold Agglutinin Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cold agglutinin disease.