Jump to content
  • Sign Up
  • Join our community!

    Do you have questions about celiac disease or the gluten-free diet?

  • Latest Topics

  • 6 6

    Surmounting Social Situations Encountered by those with Celiac Disease and/or Food Allergies

    Jean Duane
    • Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Summer 2018 Issue

    Surmounting Social Situations Encountered by those with Celiac Disease and/or Food Allergies
    Caption: Image: CC--Christian Scheja

    Celiac.com 07/13/2018 - I went to a friend’s home for dinner.  A few days before, she called and asked me what I could eat.  I asked her what she was planning to make, and she said she was grilling meats with side dishes.  I said, “Great.  Please just grill a piece of chicken for me with salt and pepper, and I’ll be happy to bring a side.” She said, “No need to bring a side.  I’ve got this.” When I arrived, she greeted me and said, “I spent all day cooking tonight’s dinner so you can eat it. Hey would you just check this salad dressing to see if it is OK for you?” I looked at the ingredients and it contained gluten and dairy, both of which I cannot eat.  Then I glanced around the kitchen and saw evidence of wheat cross-contamination, including buns being toasted on the grill, and gluten-containing barbeque sauce spilling on the grill where my “clean” chicken was cooking. She had other guests to tend to, and I couldn’t offer instruction or read the ingredients of everything she used in the meal. 

    At social gatherings, I’ve been challenged too by those who ask if I am really “allergic,” or just eating gluten free as a “fad.” I’ve been told many times by hosts and hostesses that, “a little won’t hurt you,” or “everything in moderation,” or “if it is made with loving hands, it is good for you to eat.”  Of course, all of this is bunk for those with food allergies or celiac disease.  A little bit may kill us, and whether made with loving hands or not, it will certainly make us sick. 

    Those of us with food allergies and/or celiac disease walk a tightrope with friends and relatives. The old rules of etiquette just don’t work anymore.  We don’t want to insult anybody, we don’t want to be isolated, and we also don’t want to risk our health by eating foods that may contain ingredients we cannot tolerate.  So what do we do? 

    Etiquette books advise us to eat what is put in front of us when we are guests in someone’s home. They caution us at all costs not to insult our hostess. Rather, we are instructed to compliment the hostess on her good cooking, flavor combinations, and food choices.  But when foods are prepared in a cross-contaminated environment with ingredients we are allergic to, we cannot follow the old social constructs that do not serve us.  We need to work together to rewrite the rules, so that we can be included in social gatherings without fear of cross-contamination, and without offending anyone.

    Let’s figure out how to surmount these social situations together.  

    Each edition of this column will present a scenario, and together, we’ll determine appropriate, polite, and most importantly, safe ways to navigate this tricky gluten-free/food allergies lifestyle in a graceful way.  If someone disagrees with our new behavior patterns, we can refer them to this column and say, “Here are the new rules for those of us with food allergies or celiac disease.”  When we are guests in someone’s home, we can give them links to this column so they understand the plight we are faced with, bite after bite. Perhaps this will help those of us living with us to understand, be more compassionate, and accepting of our adaptations to keep ourselves safe. 

    This column will present a scenario such as the one above, and ask that you comment on how you would navigate it. Let’s talk about it. Let’s share ideas.  Using the example above, here’s the scenario for this issue:

    What would you do?
    Your kind-hearted friend invites you to dinner and insists on cooking for you.  You arrive and the first thing she says is, “I’ve spent all day making this for you. Oh, I bought this salad dressing for you, but you might want to read the ingredients first.”  You do, and it contains malt vinegar.  You look around the kitchen and notice evidence of cross-contamination in the rest of the meal.  What do you do? 

    Please comment below and feel free to share the tricky scenarios that you’ve encountered too.  Let’s discuss how to surmount these social situations.  What would you do?


    6 6


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    For me, the best way to deal with this is to avoid it.  I tell my friends that I will eat before I come or bring a side that will be my meal (often I bring my portion in a separate container).  I tell them it is just so complex to get safe food for me, and I just want to enjoy the company and wine..... yeah they know there needs to be wine!  ?

    When I get there, sometimes there is a happy surprise I can feel safe eating - Like chips and salsa set on a table away from all the other food - or the open bag of chips on a side counter I can serve myself from.  Maybe a big fruit plate or a watermelon that I can grab before anyone else messes with it.  I went to one party where they put the fruit and the carrot sticks on one table away from everything else - the dips were with the main food.  they wanted to keep that table free of gluten and dairy and meat for people with  various health and religious reasons.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I will sometimes ask what they are cooking and make my own version that is safe. Other times I will eat before hand. BUT my most preferred thing is actually being the host and cooking foods I know are safe and inviting others to come join me.

    I always keep emergency meal bars, nuts, seeds that are safe or a MRE meal when I head out.

    -_- I do not trust anything not cooked in a 100% gluten free kitchen anymore, or even cut up....I have had knife contamination of Gluten free foods. Got to admit eating with my family this year and cooking with my mother is something I have been able to do again since I invite them over and get all the required gluten free foods for a meal.

    • Like 1

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Jenn

    Posted

    I've started suggesting that the host not worry about feeding me and to focus on the rest of the party. Then I reassure them that I appreciate all of their efforts to feed me but I'm just too paranoid by other past incidents to feel comfortable eating food that I didn't personally make. 

    If that individual is insulted by my need to keep safe I try to reassure them that it isn't about them at all but is my own burden to carry.  If they still aren't having that answer I stop accepting invitations from them.  This includes a larger portion of my family than I'd like but they seem to feel it is a personal challenge to them when I decline their lasagna, cake, or crouton laden salad.

    That leads to the isolation issue and at this point I am rocking the hermit lifestyle on a fairly regular basis.  Better that than eating poison and then having to apologize for the results.  I'm over that game in a huge way.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Meal Planning Mastermind

    Posted

    I've been glutened by well-meaning family members and friends. I have celiac disease and other allergies, and my son has different allergies than I do. Oh yeah, and my husband is a vegetarian. Whenever we are invited somewhere, I just tell the hostess that we will bring our own food. It's awkward, and I'm probably making people feel bad and/or uncomfortable, but it's honestly the best thing I've come up with. Because my son's and my allergies are so different, no one can truly comprehend the meal planning wizardry it takes to feed us all the same (or at least similar) meals regularly. I just bear that burden myself, and tell others that we just want to see them and that they shouldn't worry about feeding us.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    For the situation that started this "what would you do", being a Celiac with lactose intolerance and UC, I would take the time to read the ingredients and then kindly educate the host on all the reasons why I could not eat any of the food he/she had prepared for me. More than likely he/she will either be offended or saddened, but I have come to learn so long as I do what is right and respectful, kind and loving, I am not responsible for how others feel or react. I think it's better to lovingly educate your friend the host so they can learn something invaluable and the two of you can grow closer in friendship.

    Edited by Lifelong Celiac
    Missed a word
    • Upvote 1

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Upon an invite to any gathering where someone is preparing food, and offers to make gluten free options for me, I would thank them profusely, and then suggest that I would eat earlier, or figure out what I could safely put together once I arrive. I wouldn't educate them on the proper ways yo cook gluten free, as much as tell them it's taken me months and years to figure it out, with a lot of trial and error, so I have zero expectations of them doing so. Then I would bring a nice bottle of wine and change the subject. :)

     

    • Upvote 1

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I agree wholeheartedly, the scenario that started this proper etiquette thread here though stated we already insisted on eating earlier or bringing our own food and the host insisted on neither and that they would prepare safe food for us. Therefore with that setting posing the question what do we do in that particular situation when we see our food being prepared in a highly cross contaminated kitchen is where I suggested what I would do. I'm sure early on we all came across this scenario. After years of mastering our circumstances and exposure to situations like this of course we would never be put in a situation like this. But again, in keeping with the scenario posted and in the context of what this thread was suggested to be used as for future new comers, a reference guide to proper etiquette for us Celiac's, is why I responded and posted what I did.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Marisha

    Posted

    What one might do would be affected so much by the moment... how comfortable you are with that particular friend, how the hostess is in that moment...relaxed or stressed from her party efforts, etc.  Given the scenario as written, if I was in that situation, I would politely decline the dressing (my friend wouldn't have asked me to read the label if she didn’t want confirmation one way or the other.) I would not say anything at the party about any of the other food, unless pressed by direct relentless inquiry.  I would seek out the one safe thing I could eat (lettuce with no dressing,whole veggies, etc?) and eat that, I would allow the chicken on my plate, but pick at it and not eat it.  I would raise the topic with my friend at another nonparty time, so as to not create awkwardness for my friend in the moment. OR, I would profusely apologize (and thank her for her kindness and efforts) and tell her that it was my bad that i forgot to tell her that my chicken would have to be grilled on separate aluminum foil not touching other gluten foods.  It was my bad afterall, not to think of telling her that important detail.  I’d humbly explain that this is a learning curve for me figuring out how to communicate all the gluten-free prep details to others.  Next time, i would tell my friend that i have a new policy of bringing my own to anyone’s gathering, because it’s not really fair to put so much on them for proper gluten-free food prep, when it takes so long for a gluten-free person to learn it themselves. (This approach works for me and I do believe it’s a relief to my friends.)

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Arnette

    Posted

    I am celiac and get caught in this situation frequently at work events. I no longer trust the "We can make this gluten-free" from a restaurant or hotel caterer because they don't understand cross contamination. So I'm resigned to bringing my own food and discreetly having it put on a plate at the event. It works.

    I did missionary work in foreign countries and was always admonished to "eat what was put before me" but that was before I knew I was celiac and needed to be gluten-free. (Yikes, cobra and rice!) Today, I would have to make sure gluten-free was understood and would have to come to some understanding. People don't mean to be thoughtless about this - they just don't understand!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest DaveKD

    Posted

    I ran afoul of my own self-assurances.  I visited a friend who is fully aware of what gluten-free means as I am not her only friend eating gluten-free.  I assured myself that she would only put in front of me a version that I could eat.  Not wanting to second guess her, I ate it.  About half way through my ice cream and brownies she draws a quick breath and says that she totally forgot my gluten sensitivity.  I could have asked... it's on me... but I'd told myself I was in a safe house and that whatever was served would accomodate me.  Sigh... We can't be sure... even among friends.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

    Guest
    You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • About Me

    Jean Duane, Alternative Cook, LLC produces instructional DVDs (Chocolate, Mexican, Italian and Kids' Meals), video streams (alternativecook.com) Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten Free Cooking Cookbook. She shows how to cook without gluten, dairy and other food-allergens. Ms. Duane has produced several spots for Comcast's Video on Demand, made television appearances on PBS and has been a featured speaker at two International Association for Culinary Professionals' Conferences and at the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America's International Conference. She has developed recipes for Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cooking Cookbook, for Beautiful Sweets bakery and was featured in Better Homes and Gardens special Christmas Cookies. Jean Duane is a certified chef, has an MBA and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Denver focusing on the social aspects of food. A regular cooking instructor, speaker and magazine writer, she won Kiplinger's "Dream in You" contest in 2006.

×