As difficult as the prospect of eating out at a friend’s house my seem with all the restrictions you face everyday, there are ways to enjoy your meal away from home without feeling uncomfortable or paranoid about everything that is put in front of you. Here are 10 helpful tips that will make your dining out experience a safe and enjoyable one.
- Offer To Help Plan The Menu
- Be A Good Sport
- Offer To Help Cook
- Bring Your Own Gluten-Free Ingredients
- Bring Your Own Plastic Cutting Mats
- Bring A Dish From Home
- Don’t Be Shy
- Don’t Be Obsessed
- Don’t Assume Your Host Knows About Hidden Gluten
- Bring The Wine!
Bring the wine, enjoy a gluten-free meal away from home and a special night with friends!
A friend who invites you to dinner will probably already know about your gluten-intolerance, so offering to help plan the menu will most likely be a welcomed gesture. Ask your host or hostess what he/she is planning to serve and offer suggestions to items that you know contain gluten. Discuss the ingredients in every recipe. Offer to bring gluten-free substitutions for all ingredients that include gluten. It is not necessary to be familiar with all the menu items planned, but you must check all ingredients in every recipe.
In the event that your host is not aware of your gluten-intolerance, make sure you discuss the restrictions in detail before accepting the invitation. It is unfair to show up to a dinner engagement and state your intolerance for the first time. You will probably not be able to eat anything with confidence that it is safe and your host will be disappointed that you cannot eat the meal he/she has prepared for you.
You can be a good sport without jeopardizing you health. Don’t reject your host’s menu selections because you believe they contain gluten, offer non- gluten substitutions. Most ingredients can be substituted without compromising taste, except for pasta and bread. Even pasta, if made from scratch, can be duplicated to taste exactly like the regular gluten variety, (see our 2/2001 issue; Cooking Class: Making Perfect Pasta), however, your host may not care to undertake this endeavor. So, for all other ingredients, respond enthusiastically and offer to bring a gluten-free substitution.
Your offer to help cook the meal will likely be met with enthusiasm. You and your host can have a wonderful time socializing in the kitchen while you prepare the meal. Getting involved in the preparation will enable you to see for yourself what ingredients are being used. Let your host take the lead and help by doing the prep, or help with the clean up as you go. All cooks love an assistant.
Once you have a complete ingredient list from your host, gather all the gluten-free substitutions you will need. This could include items such as mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, soy sauce, flour, etc. If something will need to be prepared in advance, make arrangements to deliver your gluten-free ingredients ahead of time.
Bring and use your own plastic cutting mats for chopping food. These will protect you from counter surfaces that may be contaminated with gluten. Plastic cutting mats are sold in most kitchen stores or you can buy them through www.cooking.com. They are inexpensive, usually two for under $10. These plastic cutting mats are also great for cutting or preparing poultry, fish or meat, as they can be cleaned in the dishwasher, eliminating bacteria. Plastic cutting mats are sold in most kitchen stores.
Offer to bring a dish from home, already prepared. An appetizer or dessert are great choices both because they are likely candidates to otherwise include gluten and they are easy dishes to bring. You can help your host out by contributing part of the meal and help yourself by knowing for sure what is in the dish.
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see that your host is about to add a gluten ingredient. Assuming these are your friends, they will want to avoid putting gluten in your meal, but will probably not be aware of all that is gluten. If you see that something with gluten has been added, don’t eat that dish. Explain why and enjoy the rest of the meal. Don’t be coerced into eating ‘just a bite’ or fall for ‘there’s hardly any in there’….Just Say No. Remember, these are your friends, you can be truthful with them and they will understand.
Don’t be obsessed with everything having to be gluten-free. It is perfectly all right if some of the items on your host’s menu are not gluten-free. If your host serves a wonderful loaf of crusty bread, graciously pass it on. If your host is willing to their best to accommodate your needs, do your best to pass the bread with a smile on your face.
Eating at a friend’s house can be more difficult just because they are your friends. Your friends may go to a lot of effort preparing something that they believe is gluten-free, ‘just for you’, when in fact the dish may include a hidden gluten that they are not aware of. It is very difficult to have to refuse to eat something that your friend has made special for you. Difficult but necessary. Even if they are disappointed that you can’t eat their food, they’re you friends; they’ll forgive you.