The Gluten Police: GF Table Etiquette

by | G+ Amy Leger

A big meal. Both gluten and non-gluten items on the table. You see a “newbie” grab the gluten-free gravy and stick the gravy ladle right into the regular gluten stuffing! Gasp! What do you do? This has happened to me – albeit several years ago, but as a result I make sure I make it clear to my guests whenever they come over that there are certain ways to eliminate the chance of cross-contamination during the meal.

Believe me it’s not just my guests (or my friend Mark who was here this weekend for dinner, heard my speech and everything went great). Even my husband did something similar (stir fry on wheat Chinese noodles) just last year. He admitted he wasn’t thinking. So even if the most experienced at the gluten-free lifestyle still err on occasion, how are guests supposed to know?

Educate the Dinner Guests

Here’s my deal, I’m a control freak so whenever there’s a chance at cross-contamination like in the example I listed above, I take charge. If I don’t, I secretly cringe when people get close to cross-contaminating or are dreadfully on their way to cross-contaminating the gluten-free food. As a result I don’t enjoy the meal because I feel like I have to be the gluten police.

So here is what I do and maybe you can make your own sweet version of the dinner party speech. At the beginning of the meal, I usually explain which food is gluten-free and which isn’t (usually there aren’t many gluten-containing items). I also point out the gluten-free butter that is on the table is only for the gluten-free eaters. Then I remind everyone to keep the serving utensils out of the food on their plates. Instead, guests should pour or plop their food – not smother it with the serving utensils.

I know it makes it sound like I am a high-maintenance dinner party host. But trust me it will lower the parent and/or cook’s stress level. But it also educates the guests which I think is very important. If they come around enough, they’ll get much more familiar with the process, celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

Other Suggestions for a Safe Gluten-Free Meal

If you’re new to this whole celiac disease and gluten-free thing, don’t worry. If you don’t want to make a big announcement, just talk individually to each dinner guest before you sit down. Feel free to be casual with it, but not too casual so the person doesn’t take you seriously.

Another hint, keep extra gluten-free leftovers in the kitchen and away from the table. That way if something does happen, you have a back-up supply.

You could also have a strictly gluten-free dinner party. The most common gluten-containing item on our table is bread. Plus some of the dressing at Thanksgiving. Find a way around those items, and you might have yourself a gluten-free meal, in which case you don’t need to worry about cross contamination.

Be Proactive

When it comes to people who aren’t familiar with the diet, you need to be proactive instead of reactive – because that could mean instant cross-contamination. So what did I do when the utensil I mentioned was dragged through some gluten-containing food? I stopped the person and asked them to not put the ladle back into the gravy boat. I grabbed the utensil, and got a fresh one – and then explained my actions. At the time I probably looked like a crazy OPM (over-protective mother), but I needed to do something. Thus the beginning of my dinner-party-gluten speech!

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