Preparing for Gluten-Free Get-Togethers
I think one of the hardest things as a young Celiac attending gathering (or any Celiac for that matter) is to find the balance of ensuring you get fed, while also not seeming ‘high-maintenance’ or inconveniencing the host. In my experience, most of my friends are eager to try their best to make sure I have food that is safe for me to eat yet have no idea how to do that!
This article will be somewhat of a continuation of my previous article Summer Fun for Twenty-Something Celiacs, and will delve deeper into what I expect from hosts, and how I interact with them to ensure I’m fed. This topic was inspired by a friend of mine, who was very interested in my previous article. She had enjoyed it as it gave her insight into what I usually think when I go over to her place, and what she can do as a host to ensure I have enough food! Reflecting on her comment, it made me realize how important it is to talk with the host of a gathering ahead of time
First of all, I will say that I don’t shy away from the label ‘Celiac’ (clearly – I even have this Celiac column!). Growing up, I always found it easiest if my friends knew I was Celiac. This meant whenever they would plan a gathering that involved food, they would consult with me first (before, for example, choosing a restaurant or planning a menu). I also recognize that after my diagnosis my view on food allergies and dietary restrictions has expanded! I believe I am now much more aware of other food allergies and dietary restrictions and I am more willing to go out of my way to cater to them. When I think of what I expect from a host, I also have to remind myself of this fact, and consider what I would have done for a guest before I was diagnosed and became more aware.
How food-centric the gathering will be dictates how I approach the event and the host. If it’s a more casual event, with only small appetizer-like nibbles I will generally take my chances, eat before I go, and try to set aside a small plate of gluten free offerings when I get there. However, if it’s a backyard BBQ, or group dinner, I find having a conversation with the host ahead of time to find out the menu works best. In our conversation I can usually gauge how eager the host is to cater to a Celiac – some hosts are quite worried about cross-contamination, others are too busy or just don’t know enough about dietary restrictions. At first this might seem rude to a Celiac (as it did to me), but I just remember how limited my own knowledge was about food allergies and dietary restrictions before my diagnosis and offer to bring my own plate to heat up. (I will say – I always give the host a ‘heads up’ if I do bring my own food, so they are not caught off guard!)
There are, however, some hosts who are very eager to cater to a Celiac (I usually find these hosts have a food allergy or dietary restriction themselves, or are close to someone with one – that, or they are just very courageous cooks)! Regardless of the reason, I am always eager to walk someone through the needs of a Celiac. I emphasize how many foods are naturally gluten free (veggies, most meats and cheeses, etc.) and suggest starting there – especially since a lot of gluten free versions of gluten-containing foods are quite expensive (and many of my friends are students on a budget). In my previous article I mentioned how I also offer to bring the gluten free versions of food (such as crackers, bread, etc.), as these can be quite expensive, and I usually know the best/cheapest place to get them (again, an unsponsored plug for Costco!).
Lastly, I’ll mention that if I frequent someone’s house (for example, we visit my partner’s family often), I usually keep a loaf of gluten free bread frozen in their freezer. Besides the bread, which is nice to have in a pinch, we usually eat naturally gluten free foods, and the only other thing I require when I visit is a stick of un-contaminated butter (oil would do too). And I always have snacks in the car too, just in case.
Overall, I find communication key. Reaching out to talk with the host ahead of time and being flexible have been my main tools for approaching food gatherings. In my experience, my friends and family have been more than happy to go out of their way to ensure I’m fed but are often at a loss as to how to do that. Hopefully this (and my previous) article can act as a sort of reference for them too – so please feel free to share with your gluten-eating loved ones!
- “Musings by Mia is meant to be a collection of topics that I wish had been more discussed when I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease as a teen. I will explore topics from the perspective of a young adult with Celiac Disease and share my personal experiences in these articles. As these are my own experiences, they are by no means meant to be a ‘how-to’ guide, but instead an informative glimpse into the situations a typical young adult with Celiac Disease might face.”
- If you have questions or comments, or if you have topic suggestions, Mia would be happy to hear from you. Scroll down to the comment field below or email [email protected] with your thoughts.