How We Do Eating at Someone’s House
Hi everyone, so I’m bringing part four to a series about how my family and I tackle different food scenarios. So far I’ve discussed the following:
Well… this is the one post in my series where Mrs. Manners may come after me. Today, I’m talking about eating at someone else’s home. It’s a tricky and risky business when you or a loved one with a food allergy receives an invitation to eat at someone else’s home or attend a potluck. Since being married, this has unavoidably happened several times. Over the years, we have managed to make it through. I thought I would share some tips on how I’ve managed to wade through these type of waters (hopefully without offending anyone). If anyone else has any insight, then please comment below- I would love to learn more!
Tip 1: Know Your Host
My first tip is to know your host. If it is an immediate family member hosting (at least for us), they are likely knowledgeable of our needs and have gone above and beyond to accommodate. My mom will Facetime me in the store, inquire about specific ingredients, ask for a brand recommendation, or send pictures of food labels. Many extended family members would not know (nor would I expect them to know) so I try to gently inquire about the menu ahead of time. When it’s someone less familiar who is hosting, I try to get an idea of the menu by calling or texting the host ahead of time. I would never ask them to change their menu; they selected it so it’s up to me to make it happen on our end. Some hosts have always offered to accommodate in some form or fashion but I encourage them to continue on as I typically bring a similar dish. Sometimes, this means picking up a dish to-go from a restaurant! Once I arrive at the home, I’ll discreetly ask to use the host’s microwave (if needed) and will warm the dish once dinner is ready. No one else knows!
Tip 2: Bring Snacks
If I have no way of knowing what the menu is, Shay and I oftentimes eat before or I’ll have a few snacks on hand. Most folks tend to have some kind of green salad so I often will load up on the greens to fill my plate. I’ll try to eat what I can. However, when in doubt, I politely decline. My purse/work desk drawer may contain a few snacks and I may politely excuse myself to the restroom or another room to indulge at the appropriate time. While eating, I try not to draw attention to myself. Obviously, some people will ask questions so I’ll simply state I have a food allergy/sensitivity and leave it at that. Sometimes, a conversation may form (“Hey my cousin is gluten free too!” “What is the world is corn syrup???!) so sometimes it does have it perks!
Tip 3: Be Honest
Ultimately, honesty is the best policy. There are many ways to tactfully share your dietary needs with another person. Doing it beforehand is the best way to concoct a safe plan. I always offer to bring my own food because it can be very stressful for a host to figure out substitutes or even a whole different menu. As much as I want to give someone the benefit of the doubt, it can be very dangerous for those with severe food allergies to taste test or sneak a bite to be polite. Practice ways to assertively decline but still participate in the fellowship.
Tip 4: Bring a Dish to Share
For potlucks at church, family gatherings, or work, we oftentimes utilize those sign up genius websites so we all know who is bringing what. Those are awesome because I can get a feel for the style of food and can plan ahead. I will also offer (at least for family gatherings) to bring an extra side dish for us to share with others. If I see a close friend has signed up for a dish, I might text her about the dish. Also, I try to sign up first so I can get dibs on what to bring! Sometimes, I will even offer to trade 😉
Tip 5: Be Grateful!
Even if I can’t eat a bite, I remember to thank the host for inviting me over. Ultimately, I am there for the fellowship first, food second. Showing gratitude helps me put this into perspective. I remember when I first was faced with the arduous task of re-configuring my diet once I learned I had to become gluten-free. Imagine someone else having to figure that out in a few days’ time, such as the host. That’s a lot of unwanted pressure. Being my own advocate in a tactful and gracious manner has been the best option for me. I’ve also tried to help out in other ways such as cleaning dishes, taking pictures, decorating, and entertaining small children while their parents eat. If there is a kid’s table, consider me there!
I hope some of these tips have been helpful. This is generally how I try to navigate these situations. Of course, I would love to hear your experiences being on either side of this issue. I want to be as polite as a guest and equally polite as a host.