Come over for dinner this weekend - just tell me what to make for you!' These can be the most welcome or the most terrifying words a friend can ever say to a celiac. Whether eating with your bestie or your newest flame, you still need to eat safely. What do you do?
Thanks for thinking of me
First of all, say thank you! Eating together is an intimate activity; invitations to someone's home are rare and generous. So is offering to consider your needs. We all know people who either issue the invitation but then don't make adjustments for us, or who just stop inviting us over after our diagnosis. When someone cares enough about me to offer to cook safely, I express my gratitude. If it's a new date, he gets a gold star if he's willing to try!
Do I, don't I? It depends
Next comes the tricky part: deciding if you can eat there safely. Some of it depends on how well you know the person: Have you known them for years or is this a first date? How confident are they in the kitchen? Not many first dates in my life end up in the kitchen, as you can imagine.
What about you? How comfortable are you when it's time to advocate for yourself? Can you stay calm if they don't get it right, or is it still too much of an emotional experience? We all have our own ways of reacting. If you aren't comfortable speaking up or refusing the food yet, find another way to spend time together. Your health is more important.
Some of my friends are expert chefs, and others can barely boil water. What matters to me is their attention to detail. Will they wipe down the counters? Put away anything with gluten that could contaminate the meal? Remember not to flour the pan before baking one of my flourless chocolate cake recipes? If the answer is yes, I'll give it a try.
When someone cares enough to ask, I am always happy to suggest recipes. I keep it simple, using common ingredients and no fancy techniques. Grilled meat and veggies with rice pilaf. Roast chicken with potatoes and a salad. Or one of these simple and delicious recipes that I often make for myself. Easy, Tasty Gluten Free is not just for dessert! You probably have some suitable favorites too; consider suggesting one.
My suggestions are scaled to the other person's cooking abilities. With the experts, I might suggest a recipe I have been waiting to try (I usually have a list) rather than one of my tried and true ones. For a meal with someone I don't know well, less is more.
Regardless of who is cooking, I always offer to bring dessert. After all I did write a cookbook!
Focus beyond the food
One meal should not make or break a relationship, especially with someone you've known and loved for years. I am always forgiving, especially the first time someone cooks for me. Yes, I am just as careful as I would be in a restaurant. We always have a quick and quiet check before everyone sits down at the table. Tact is critical here! The idea is to show your friend that it's not that hard to be careful, so you can all enjoy being together over a good meal.
Handle the important conversations in advance. Be open and relaxed while being clear and firm about what works and doesn't work for you. Then relax, talk, laugh, eat, and build memories. After all, that's what friendship is all about!