Saturday, August 14, 2010

Part 2: How I do gluten free when at a friend's

Here's Part 2 to the question:
What do you do when traveling, going to a friend's for dinner, or just going out to a restaurant? I've found this to be very tricky. Any tips would be great!
Part 2: How I do gluten free when at a friend's for dinner

This gets a lot easier the longer you've been gluten free. At first it can be quite difficult because not only are you still getting used to explaining gluten free to people, but it can also be intimidating to the person making dinner for you.

There are two instances that stick out in my mind when I think about this question. The first was when my husband and I were dating, just after finding out I had a gluten intolerance. We had been invited to dinner by a past member of his student ward bishopric and his wife, along with his roommates and their girlfriends. I had only been gluten free for a week at this point. I just went, hoping there would be plenty of gluten free options for me. They had lasagna, breadsticks, and salad. I was so worried about making them feel bad that I ate it. I had a small piece and then lots and lots of salad. I got sick, but not too terribly since I hadn't been off gluten for very long yet and I think I still had some in my system. I think that was a good learning experience for me (yay that I didn't get too sick). I learned that I really need to prepare beforehand by either:

a.) making certain that the meal will be gluten free or
b.) eating enough beforehand that I won't be hungry that night, but not eating too much, so I'd still have room for the meal if it was gluten free.

I learned those things early on and had gotten good at making sure to do them, but I still needed to learn more.

The second story that comes to mind was when I was eating at my (by that time) fiance's families house. His dad was so wonderful at making sure everything he made was gluten free. That night he made one of the families favorite meals. It was a rice dish and seemed just fine. But on the drive home my vision started to blur (my first sign that I've been "glutened"). I couldn't figure out what it was I'd eaten and then realized there was soy sauce in the dish. I remembered hearing that some soy sauces had gluten. We called his dad and had him look at the ingredients of the soy sauce he used. Sure enough, it contained wheat. I was again lucky because I didn't get very sick (it wasn't a ton of soy sauce), but it made me realize I still had more to learn.

  • Let friends and family know you're gluten free from the start. Obviously, your close friends and family probably knew right at the beginning because it's a big thing in your life, but be sure to let extended family and new friends know as well. I'm not talking about calling up everyone on your phone list and announcing to each of them that you're gluten free "just in case they were ever going to make you some food." I'm talking about casually letting anyone who might every make/buy food for you know that you don't eat gluten. It causes less awkwardness later on. For example, I'm LDS (Mormon) and have visiting teachers (2 women from my ward who visit me at least once a month and are there for me if I need to call on them). Visiting teachers often bring treats or meals to those they visit teach. Whenever I get new visiting teachers, I try to casually mention that I'm unable to eat gluten. Most people know someone else who can't eat gluten, so it's actually good for conversation.
  • Have someone else (who knows as much about gluten as you) tell the friend what you can have. It's often easier if my husband is the one explaining what I can and can't have to friends or neighbors who invite us over (or want to bring us food after having a baby). Why? Because I get really apologetic about it and kind of feel bad for putting restrictions on what they can and can't make. He doesn't mind because it's for me (just like I'm perfectly fine telling people he doesn't like fish or pineapple, so don't make that).
  • Give suggestions. People are more than happy to make you something you can eat, but as soon as you take pasta, bread, cream soups, etc. out of the picture, they're sort of lost as to what they can make you. Make it easier on them and give specific suggestions. I'll often brainstorm with them until they come up with something (that way if I find out it has any sauces in it I can make sure it's a gluten free brand they're using or just tell them it's easiest to stay away from sauces altogether). I've found this makes them feel more confident in what they make for you.
  • Suggest gluten free blogs/websites. Like mine ;). They can get on the sites and find a recipe they'll feel comfortable making.
  • Eat "just enough" before going. If you're going somewhere where there will be a lot of guests and you don't feel comfortable finding out what the menu is (or didn't have the chance), be sure you eat enough food beforehand so that you won't be hungry if you end up not being able to eat the food (there's usually a salad or something that's gluten free that you can eat, so you won't have to sit there awkwardly while everyone else is eating). This is usually what I do when I go to a big neighborhood or extended family party.
  • Casually brush it off. If you're not able to eat the main dish (or anything at all), act like it's not a big deal (this is where eating some beforehand can especially come in handy). The host/hostess usually feels really bad when they realize, so do your best to make them feel better. I'll usually say something like, "oh, it's not a big deal at all. I ate before I came because so many things have gluten in them. I can eat the salad, which is great!" That might seem cheesy, but if you make it less awkward for the host, it'll be less awkward for you.
I hope this helps!

Do you have any tips?

See part 1 here.

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