Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Friends and the Sticky Issue of Food

Unless you're a hermit, you've probably been invited to a friend's house for dinner, lunch, party, snacks, etc. For many people, an invitation is welcomed and accepted immediately. For those of us with food restrictions, this makes things a little more sticky.

I've been in many situations over the years regarding friends and food. I've learned a few things along the way and I'd like to share them with you. If you've already come to these conclusions, then you'll understand. If you haven't gotten this far, then take it from me and learn from your experiences.

1. Never accept an invitation without asking about food accommodations. Well, I guess I should say never accept unless you intend not to eat. Then make sure you eat before you go, and make sure that by not eating, you are not insulting the host/hostess. If you accept without asking, you will have to make another inquiry later to make sure you can eat what's being served.

2. There are tactful ways of asking about what is being served. I always apologize for any inconvenience, and make sure to offer to bring my own food. If the hostess insists on preparing something for you but doesn't know what that is yet, remember to give any restrictions up front. Mention cross contamination, seasonings, soups, etc. I am a vegetarian and make sure that's mentioned also.

3. Bring your own food. Even if you have to insist, tell your host that you don't mind. And at this point, I really don't mind. I'm going to a friend's house for the company, not necessarily the food. And there will probably be something there you can eat, even salad or fruit. If you can, find out what the hostess is making and try to make a GF version of it for yourself. I've made some great GF eggplant parmesan, spaghetti, etc. There are even some great buns out there, so if you're heading to a barbecue, just marinate a portabello mushroom in some olive oil, salt and pepper. Then have the host grill it for you. Use the tomatoes, lettuce, etc. available and you've got a great sandwich. If you want, bring some balsamic dressing for the sandwich, but either way, you won't stick out as much and your host will probably be relieved since he didn't have to find something for you.

I recently asked about potatoes that were made at a gathering recently, making sure to mention the "no-gluten" requirement. The person who made the potatoes even assured me that there was no gluten and she understood since her son has Celiac. Imagine my surprise to find out that she had used a can of cream of chicken soup in the dish. Not only did it have wheat gluten in it, but also chicken.

That leads to the most important point of all:

4. Unless you know someone very well, or know that they are taking precautions, don't trust anyone. I have had "just salad" so many times I can't even count it anymore. But it's so much better than hearing later about something missed by the cook. And unfortunately, gluten is just not that understood by so many people. And since it hasn't been publicized as much, and doesn't cause a severe allergic reaction such as peanuts will do, then people just don't take it as seriously. They don't understand the gastric distress it can cause that night and for days later, depending on the contamination.

But once again, it all falls on your lap. If you are not sure, don't eat it. I have been tempted so many times to say, "What the heck" and just eat something. But I know I will pay for it later. And so far nothing has been tempting enough to put me over the edge. I know something will, some day, but for now, it's just not worth it.

Happy Eating


Nariana said...

I recently when to a friend's house for dinner. I have been over there a few times and I probably won't be returning again. First, I did end up just eating a salad because she used noodles after she said that she made everything gluten free. She said that she didn't think it would be that big of a deal if I just ate a little bit of it and she even put a serving on my plate! I just ate the salad off of the salad plate and ignored the main dish. Then, her husband started joking about food allergies. He used to work as a server at an Indian restaurant and he said that if someone asked about a food allergy and he didn't know what they were talking about, he would pretend they knew what was going on and not even check to see if the food was allergen free--and then he laughed like it was the best joke ever! Needless to say, I won't be going back there--and yes, it is difficult to go somewhere to eat, especially if they don't understand an allergy/intolerance/disease.

comma girl said...

Oh, how awful for you. And although I can believe what that guy was saying about waiters, it still really, really ticks me off. It must have been very hard not to tell him what you really thought of him...I don't know if I could have held back. Good decision not to return, you don't need the stress or contamination. Thanks for reading!

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