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Professional Hazards—Banquet Dining on the Gluten-Free Diet

I'm a public relations professional and have worked in this industry for many years, enduring more than my share of work luncheons, social gatherings and banquet dinners, like the one I'm attending tonight with a client. When I do attend these events I'm always apprehensive beforehand, worried that my meal could somehow be contaminated, in spite of my best efforts to be as proactive and prepared as can be before walking in the door.
Normally, I contact the catering manager of the event I'm attending beforehand just to clarify that they know exactly what gluten-free eating and food preparation is all about, because there have been instances, like the experience I had last week at a luncheon, when the dish was supposedly gluten-free but was not. For example, last week I was at PR luncheon for a group that I belong to and I'm also the front person who interacts with the caterers of this particular hotel. They have served me many gluten-free meals throughout the year, and have always been correct, so last week as I sat down to my plate of Tri-tip and steamed veggies, I thought I was in the clear. As I looked around the table at the other plates that has a nice looking sauce over the meat, I felt safe that they had omitted that from my plate and all was well - not so. I took one small bite off the most cooked end of the meat and thought, "wow, this is pretty good"...then it hit me..."this is way too tasty to be gluten-free and non-marinated." So there I sat at the table with nine other colleagues,
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as I politely chewed and tried to decide how on earth I could dispose of this contaminated bite without totally embarrassing myself. I quickly summoned over the waiter and explained my suspicion, asking her to check with the chef. Sure enough, they had marinated my gluten-free Tri-tip in soy sauce and seasonings. A very close call.

It is tough enough to try and be super conscious and prepared in these situations; without having to worry that the chef won't get it right, but you know what...there are NO guarantees. Which is why I highly recommend to any and all of you to always, always make every effort to combat this situation before you arrive at an event or party. I'm sure we can all swap stories about what it's like to be sitting at a large table and when the waiter gets to us we have to go through our gluten-free spiel about exactly what we can and cannot eat, only to become the sole focus of conversation hence-forth, with questions like, "so you can eat meat?? or was that wheat? Now what do you have?"....sigh, right?!

I love a fun party or even work event from time to time, but I have learned the hard way and continue to learn, that we Celiacs can never, ever be too careful or too prepared in these types of situations because behind kitchen doors, so many things can go wrong via miscommunication and when we are relying on someone else to pass along our important message, there are risks.

I would love to hear from any and all of you about some of your stories or anecdotes regarding similar situations and what you do to prepare.

Wish me luck tonight!


As always, welcomes your comments (see below).

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1 Response:

Chris Spreitzer

said this on
14 Nov 2008 10:29:08 AM PST
May I reprint this in the Westchester Celiac Sprue Newsletter?
Sorry, gotta tight deadline, but the article is great!

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