The Politics Of A Dinner Party Invite …And The Need To Eat Gluten-Free

If eating in a restaurant feels challenging, how does it feel to be invited to someone’s house for dinner, and how do you end up with a meal that is gluten-free?  How can this feat be accomplished politely?  How can it be actualized at all if the person does not understand your disease?  Many hurdles are presented when eating at another’s table.  Food related as well as socially related challenges pop up with regard to the etiquette of conveying your needs for ‘safe’ food.

I am lucky to have caring friends and even some family members that go all out to provide a gluten-free meal for me.

Sometimes though, I will cross paths with a person that believes that my diet is a fad, or just not that big of a deal if I just have a little bit of flour.   I love that during these times, when I am left speechless, my husband steps in to explain, “if someone is allergic to shell-fish, or nuts, that person can not tolerate just a little bit of shellfish or nuts, that person gets  very ill from the minute exposure, celiac disease is very similar”.  It is a very strong point that he makes, and usually people can relate to his analogy.

I suppose that there are a couple of ways to handle dining in someone else’s house safely. And please feel free to share the ways that you have smoothly negotiated the transaction of dining as a guest in a new setting with the need to be 100% gluten-free!

Often times, depending on who the host is, I  tell my friends or family that I will bring my own food.  I must disclose here, that many times people would attempt to make a gluten-free meal for me, and later, I would discover that they accidentally had added some ingredient that had hidden gluten within it (like soy sauce for example); so, it just seemed easier to suggest that I bring my own dish.  If the person hosting the dinner insisted on making something gluten-free for me, I would ask for a salad with balsamic vinegar, and gently remind them to leave out the croutons.

One way to approach the dilemma,  I would explain, or depending on the situation, perhaps insist, that it would just be easier for us both if they would let me bring a contribution to the meal that I knew was safe for me to eat.  I often take the blame for not knowing exactly how to explain the hidden ingredients that contain gluten, explaining also; how guilty I feel for putting them out of their way for my special diet: blame it on me, but let me bring some gluten-free food.

Another way to handle eating at someone’s home;  it is not beyond me to pack a small lunch; like and apple and maybe a condiment size peanut butter, perhaps a pack of nuts, and have it in my purse, a back up plan that can be eaten in hiding, or on the drive home, again, depending on the host. I don’t enjoy being hungry!  And, I consider myself quite the foodie, so believe me when I say that I relate to the disappointment of eating another salad whilst everyone else is feasting!  But, let’s face it;  eating at someone’s house can be stressful; depending on the situation, the host, and the level of gluten-free knowledge the host possess.  By the way, I don’t want to put down salads!  I have learned to make some really delicious varieties of salads, that are very fulfilling.

Recently, a kind friend invited me to dinner.  She asked what to avoid in making a meat centered dinner; I let her know: flour, soy sauce, soup broth etc…  She made a lovely meal, and right before we sat to eat, she mentioned that she had added beer to the meat.  I didn’t say a word, I just ate salad, and vegetables.  What to do?  We can’t let it ruin our night, or quit socializing because of our diet!

Gradually, many friends and family members have educated themselves about cooking gluten-free.  My in-laws come up with some of the best new gluten-free breads and gluten-free deserts.  More than a few people are becoming ‘certifiable’ gluten-free chefs in my circle of friends and family!  Just give it time, and it will happen for you too!

I can say on average; that most dinners that I am invited to, I insist on bringing a gluten-free dish.  Or, sometimes; I say nothing and bring it anyways!  Hey, a girl’s got to eat!  When appropriate, I call the host ahead of time and I say something like: “I have a very difficult and tricky diet.  I am grateful for the invitation, and look forward to coming, I would like to bring something for myself to eat that is gluten-free, I was thinking of a quinoa salad, would you like me to make it as a side dish for everyone?  Or, is there something else that better compliments your meal that I could make instead?  I feel like this is an easier solution than asking the host, to learn a new nutritional chapter in gluten-free diets in the next few days! Hee Hee.  What do you think as the host?”

For the record, I do not go to many formal dinner parties, so with that in mind, I think the recommendations here work well with most host’s.  I understand that there will be circumstances (formal dinner party, a host that we don’t know, or barely know) where bringing quinoa salad to the dinner party is out of the question.  Even in this instance, it depends on the host.  On an occasion that I found myself in this position, I called a friend of the  host, explained that I was a celiac disease sufferer and that I was very limited on my dining choices.  Could she please clue me in to the menu, and if it was not gluten-free, that I would come to the party on a full stomach.  The friend understood that I was just trying to be the least amount of trouble and made and effort to discover the menu plan for the evening.

It gets easier as time goes on.  You get better at knowing what to say and ask.  Your friends and family get better at working with you.  And, you will get better at packing a secret lunch for those dinner parties that you must attend, but are not gluten-free friendly!

Please take a moment to check out the dinner party that I was invited to recently:  (I told my friend that I would bring my own food and she insisted  “No way, I am making a gluten-free pasta dish, no cross contamination, no problem!”, thanks my friend!  Look what she did for me!

Gluten-Free  Pasta Dinner before baking.

Asparagus Sans Gluten

Gluten-Free Pasta After Baking!  Mmmmmm

The Dish-Up Of My Gluten-Free Pasta Dinner!  And, It Was Delicious!

The Dinner Party (Mine Is Gluten-Free)

Gluten-Free Desert

May I take a minute to give a shout out to the people in my life, friends, family, neighbors, that make an effort to feed me gluten-free!  Thank you, THANK YOU!

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2 Comments

  1. WC

    I enjoy how cooking gluten-free makes you explore your creative side by making things you wouldn’t have thought of or modifying a dish to make it gluten-free. The best part about cooking is getting to know your ingredients and becoming knowledgable as to what is actually in it. Honestly when you cook gluten-free you generally end up with high quality products and phenomenal tasting food. So when you have the opportunity to cook something Sans Gluten jump on the chance to learn more about the food you eat.

  2. Joanne K.

    LOL! You’re welcome my Marge. You’re so easy to please. Making GF is easy. It’s not hard to make everything separately and keep the same menu and be diligent about non cross contamination. Especially for you.

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