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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).

Spread The Word

1 Response:

Chris Spreitzer

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

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All Activity Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Forum - All Activity

Ditto. However, this is what I can never understand about gluten free food. (see the bold bits which I've taken from the article) "We wanted to determine if gluten consumption will affect health in people with no apparent medical reasons to avoid gluten. Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more,? I wonder why what so much of what I eat that's gluten free doesn't have added vitamins - we of all people need fortification in our cereals and bread, surely?

Yeah we learned that the hard way. I am inclined to think (as I did initially) that it was JUST the Cheerios but as time is passing and she is not bouncing back I am worried that we need to strip away dairy again for a while.

Oh I have no issue with being dairy free personally but tell that to a 13 year old. We both went gluten-free at the same time and it has been mindlessly easy for me. But I am easy about food and no real food issues. I am far more adaptable. She comes to the table with her own unique set of issues that complicate just easily transitioning to dairy free versions of much loved favorites. To most they are jst that "substitutes" to her they are completely different foods and ones that she has no interest in eating. They don't satisfy her need for XYZ. It is like craving an apple and someone handing you a fish. For her anyway! LOL!

I believe the talk around this forum is that cheerios are not gluten free enough for people with celiac at this time. I don't know if anything has changed on that and when their lawyer calls me I'll quickly delete this. haha

Could be we generally say get off of dairy for a few months when going gluten free. The part of the intestines that produce the enzymes, and help break down dairy are associated with the tips of the villi, which are the most damaged if not gone in celiacs. THIS is why most of us end up with a lactose intolerance early on. And most can introduce it later after healing. As to her symptoms with it there was a bunch of research about dairy permeated the gut and causing neurological issues in a autism study I was looking at years ago. And there have been other studies about damaged intestines and how the hormones in milk can easier effect ones body. Personally I also have a huge grudge against dairy on a personal level as it is not natural to suck on a cows tits and drink the stuff, nor your dogs, nor a rabbits......I mean come on even Human Breast milk you would find odd to drink as an adult right? Back in the past dairy was a great way to get calories and fats when there was famine, etc around I mean it is meant to make a calf grow into a 500+lb cow. But on a genetic and hormonal level it is not really for human consumption and now days the whole corporate BS propaganda push and dairy farms shove that oh its healthy stuff down your throat. There are plenty of dairy free options for everything feel free to message me if you need help finding anything I have been dairy free for over a decade.