• How Do You Safely Eat Gluten-Free At Friends’ Houses?

    by Ellen on January 14, 2007 · 6 comments

    So, you know that Baked Hot Chocolate Recipe I made and blogged about yesterday? Well, it was unbelievably delicious. It was also unbelievably too rich for my system. You know the saying “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” – I think it’s from a TV commercial from a few years back – well, that applies in this situation. I should have exercised more self-control. Oh, boy. I ate an 8 oz ramekin of the decadent stuff at about 9 PM last night. Watched some tv. Went to bed at about 1 AM. Woke up at 3 AM with horrible stomach pain and have only slept an hour since then (it’s now about 3:30 PM). I took a Zantac 150 and that helped a bit. I will definitely need to take another one. I’m not sure if it was the richness of the chocolate dessert or the Haggan Daz vanilla ice cream – but whatever it was, it has been a difficult 12 hours. I am finding that the less I eat rich foods and dairy, the more I have severe reactions when I do eat them. Duh. You’d think I’d know better. No more dairy for me – I swear – back to the soymilk. And as for the Baked Hot Chocolate – yes, I’ll make it again, but it’ll be in much smaller ramekins and even then, I won’t eat the entire thing. I’m willing to try again – but I won’t be so piggy.

    I hope you won’t avoid making the Baked Hot Chocolate because of my situation – the dessert really was fantastic – even if I did have an issue with it. Perhaps you’ll be able to exercise more self-control than I did!

    Now, onto another topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Friends. What to do about friends? What to do about friends who mean well but really don’t understand the limitations or challenges of eating a safe gluten-free diet? I don’t have an answer, at least not yet. With a few exceptions (and I can count them on one hand), we basically haven’t wrapped a social event around going to someone’s house since my diagnosis Nov. 05. We’ve had people here – but after awhile, they’re not as eager to eat at our house when they know they can’t reciprocate. They think they have to abide by this fairness thing, when in fact for us, the fairest thing is to just come here so that we can eat safely. Anyway, as a result, we see them far less than we used to. Thankfully, my husband and I adore each other. But we also love people and love socializing. So, it’s been really lonely. Really, really lonely. What do I wish? I’ll tell you – first thing I wish is that our friends would call us, insist on talking over a cup of tea (comfort food for me), and that they would ask us the following: “What can we do at our house to make sure that you are completely safe? We will do anything. We miss you and want you to come and eat at our house.” I would thank them for noticing how lonely we are and how much we miss being with them. I would tell them that in many cases it would be great if they would feel comfortable inviting us and letting us bring our own food. I would think about giving them the same food rider we send to hotels, with a very simple explanation. The basics – chicken or meat or fish, baked or broiled on foil in oven, being careful about cross contamination, use only olive oil or real butter, no spices (we always travel with our own S&P), real garlic, baked potato (uncut), steamed veggies made in pot that had been thoroughly scrubbed. Salad with oil and lemon juice. No wooden mixing spoons used. Use a dedicated prep area to avoid cross contamination. Etc. I would ask our friends to buy a dedicated cutting board (you can buy a 3 pack of the thin pliable cutting boards at the Dollar store for $1 or maybe I should just stock up and keep them on hand just in case this conversation does take place), write GLUTEN FREE ONLY in big letters with a permanent marker and save it just for when they prepare food for us. Don’t make anything for us in a non-stick or cast iron pan as those two materials are the ones that I’ve read are the most porous and can retain gluten molecules. OK, so by this time, they’re looking at me like I have three heads, they’re sorry they ever asked. No wonder nobody invites us over.

    Then there’s the issue of how careful other people will really be, even after I explain it to them. I know, I know. You think I’m going over the edge. But I’ll tell you, after my contamination episode in England a few weeks ago, I will never, never, never take any chances. It’s just not worth the pain and discomfort I felt. Though we’re careful at our completely gluten free home, even though friends might mean well, how can I really be sure that they will follow everything we explain to them? And can we really expect them to? It seems like a lot to ask. I would think they would welcome our bringing our own food.

    So, I’m completely open to any advice or suggestions. If you have any thoughts, please let me know. Or if you’ve had success eating at friends’ houses and are willing to tell your story, please do. You can email me at [email protected] and I will compile your suggestions and include them all in a future post.

    Thanks for listening!

    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    Dori January 14, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    In response to your question about how we should deal with eating at friends, I can answer from my vegan prespective. I realize that gluten free is a different issue, but the fact that I also have a “different” dietary need is similar.

    For me, I usually say that I have special dietary needs and I must be careful, so for me to come have fun too I would like to bring some things to share. I ask what they are serving so that I can bring something complimentary. If they try to refuse my offer, I explain I am vegan and some food intolerances…. I’ve learned that it really spoils a good time if I get sick. Please let’s not make the evening about my issues, I am used to bringing dishes and prefer to.

    I will eat what I can from the slelection and if there is nothing I will eatb there then I will eat what I brought. I am thankful for the invitation.

    Reply

    Mike Eberhart January 15, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Basically, I don’t eat at other non-GF homes for the simple fact of cross-contamination concerns and such. Once in a while, if I know there is near-zero chance of an issue, I veer from that.

    What I have found works well is I offer to bring a main dish and a dessert. This way I have something safe to eat, and everyone else can enjoy one of our favorite cakes or desserts too. So far, so good.

    Reply

    p. sativium January 15, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Ell –
    I have found that it’s really difficult to adhere to my promise to quit dairy entirely, because I do so much eating out — at restaurants and my mom’s and at friends’. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I explain how sick dairy makes me, or how many alternate, dairy-free options I suggest, or even how much my dear friends and family love me — it’s near impossible to eat dairy-free when I’m in someone else’s space. And, of course, there’s the minor issue of: I love dairy! and I’ve had the awful stomach issues for so, so, so, so long that I’ve gotten used to them. Most of the time, the tradeoff is worth it. (in other words: I’m a glutton for punishment, and maybe a bit of a masochist too)
    I know that your gluten issue is far worse than my dairy intolerance/allergy, but I just thought you’d like to know that I understand, at least, a little bit.
    Love,
    Amelia

    Reply

    Ellen January 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Thank you Dori, Mike, & Amelia, for taking the time to reply to this conundrum. I realize that we all have to find ways to deal with our own particular situations. Amelia, your reply makes me realize how important it is to communicate my needs clearly to anyone who invites us for a meal. But first I need to figure out how to get them to invite us in the first place. It seems that we have become “non-persona” to most of our family and friends. I don’t think anyone really wants to make the effort. I know that sounds mean – but I think it’s true. If they would simply ask, we could figure out how to make it work. It’s not rocket science. But first we need the invitation – then I can explain how to make it work. And conversely, when we invite people to our house for a meal, from here on, you can be sure that I will always ask if there are any dietary needs that need to be met. I guess this has made me even more aware of making sure that our home is safe for anyone who dines with us. So again, thanks for the words of understanding, support, and encouragement.

    Reply

    p. sativium January 17, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I think it could have something to do with the people who love you worrying that they could/would make you sick. I know it’s a major factor in my not inviting you-all to dinner at my house — it feels like a huge risk. I’m willing to put in the work, but I’m also aware that my house is a veritable cesspool of gluten. Glutenous foods everywhere!! And even if I dedicated cookware and cutting boards to food I prepare for you & dad, you’re still at risk for cross-contamination. I worry that no matter how hard I try to keep from getting you sick, you still might, and that’s difficult.

    It requires patience (with us) and work. Tell us what we can do! Tell us how to make you comfortable! and please, please, tell us we’re not going to kill you, and you’re not going to hate us, if something goes awry despite our best efforts.

    Maybe if you start small — go to one person’s house for one meal, and survive it — and rely on word of mouth to get the message around? Could work!

    Reply

    Gluten Free Momma January 22, 2007 at 12:01 am

    This post hits close to home for my since my entire family is gluten intolerant. We have taken the route of eating prior to any event and then picking at the offered foods without actually eating them.
    We seldom get any problems when we offer to bring along a tasty dish or two, especially since it is four of us.
    When we entertain at home, I use a plate system just because of the cost of GF foods.
    All my gluten free friends know that in my house if it is on a green plate it is GF (even if it looks to be gluten filled), on white china it is dairy free and if it is on terra cotta it is conventional food.
    That way all of us who need that information have it without asking a thing.
    It is fun that way and my tables always look great!
    I also use the fact that lots of kids are very picky eaters to bring along uncooked brown rice pasta. If nothing else is edible and we didn’t eat before, it is a rare person who won’t boil up some pasta for a child.
    If the parents eat it too, who cares?
    Gluten-Free Momma

    Reply

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