I feel like I’m a pro at family gatherings now – I make all my own safe food, set it up in a little safe area, and use safe utensils. I feel so, well, safe. I know nothing is going to get me sick because I made it all myself. I witnessed every step in the cooking and plating process. I can lecture a group of people about not touching my stuff with dirty hands/forks, etc. because they are my family. They are genetically predisposed to love me, even if I’m annoying. So, it’s a little difficult for me to go past the realm of family gatherings and move to a buffet-type atmosphere like my Passover Seder celebration. Everyone brings in some kosher delights and sets them on a big table to be picked at in a long buffet line by strangers. I brought in four gluten-free things (that I reviewed on this site) and put little gluten-free sticky notes on them, announcing their celiac-friendly nature, and to use separate utensils for it. Hopefully they got the message. But that’s for my food – what about everything else?
Although I guess I could stand up, announce my condition, and lecture them about not touching my stuff and alerting me of any potential allergens or cross-contamination, I sat quietly and chose not to eat. I ate a few things that I know are GF – like fresh-cut bell pepper, hard-boiled eggs, or my food, but that’s it. Although a lady next to me said that her kugel (I know I’m a terrible half-Jew but I still spelled that right the first time) was gluten-free – I didn’t have the time or patience to dive into it with her. How did you make it? Fresh utensils? A clean surface? Are you sure your ingredients are sourced properly? What about sauces? You know the drill… I just didn’t try it. There was a lady at my table who was gluten-free, but she only did so because she believes it is healthier for her. I envied her because she could trust everyone who said their dish was gluten free. Not me, however, I don’t want to risk another ulcer or mental clarity because I wanted to “fit in” at the table. It was sad, I know – but it’s the life of a Celiac. If you choose not to speak up, not to ask questions, not to make a fuss – you’re relegated to eat nothing, or suffer the potential consequences. I did want to believe the sweet lady who made kugel – I did – but my intestines make me question everyone. Although it’s once a year, it still gets me bummed out. I know I can control family gatherings, but it’s beyond those that I have an issue still after 3 years. At least I got a chance to educate those at my table about the disease (hopefully without sounding too preachy, or eye-roll-y if someone says that they couldn’t live without pasta).
How would you handle a buffet situation with a hundred strangers?