Gluten-free cakes, gluten-free dish soap (yes, it’s a thing!) and, now, gluten-free manners. While one per cent of Canadians have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, some statistics show that over 12 per cent of us have gone gluten-free or reduced our intake of gluten. This trend has brought a whole new etiquette conundrum, how to deal with or be a guest who has special dietary restrictions. Having witnessed a fellow dinner party guest, who happened to be vegetarian, dissolve into tears after learning her veggies were cooked in bacon grease, I decided to devise this short guide.
As a guest, the first step is to have an honest moment and decide whether your restriction is a want or a need. “If it makes you feel fat, you can still eat that. If it merely makes you gag, you have no right to nag.” Those who partake in a gluten-free diet because it makes them feel healthier in the long run should still graciously accept gluten-filled dishes when a guest in someone’s home, but perhaps eat less than one normally would. On the other hand, if it causes an allergic reaction, your request will have traction, and if it has to do with a religious belief, you have the right to brief.
“With a friendly tone things won’t be overblown. Tell them in writing or call on the phone; make your restrictions known.” Notify the host of your restrictions before accepting the invitation, and always offer to bring a shareable dish of your own. As a precaution, you may want to eat a snack before going out. After all, the evening should be about meeting your friends, not about the food.
When hosting a large party with several different restrictions, opt for a larger number of small courses. This way guests can mix and match their dishes without having to explicitly refuse anything. Also, printing little cards listing all of the ingredients will be appreciated and save you from being asked “what did you make that with?” all evening. Do, however, keep in mind that when someone inquires about the ingredients, they are not questioning your cleanliness or cooking abilities. To the contrary, they ask because they would like to try your food but need to be cautious. If a friend skips your dish they don’t think it’s schlock, they’re just listening to their doc. Lastly, do not call attention to your guests’ restrictions.
What if the dining table is turned and the host is the one with a restriction? Depending on the severity of your dietary limitations, you can either tailor some dishes for your guests, or cook what you normally eat. If you go with the latter option, however, do make it known in your invitation (ex. Our Dinner is a Treat Free of Wheat). That way your diners can drink their whiskey before – as opposed to after – your party.
Part of inviting someone to your home is to make them feel welcome. Provided they have made their dietary restrictions clear with sufficient notice, you may want to take it upon yourself to accommodate their limitations. Do not hesitate to ask your guest for some recipes, or find some of your own. Lucky for you, there are many resources and delicious food products available that will satisfy a gluten-free diet. Many of them can be found at Canada’s largest gluten free event, the Gluten Free Expo, happening January 17 and 18 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Avoid friction with dietary restrictions. Paleo, lacto ovo, or diabetic, there’s no need to get frenetic. Whether gluten eating or gluten-free, to these rules we can all agree.
Feature image: Gluten free bread via Shutterstock