If you are gluten-free, you understand what it is like to move through the food world mindfully. You simply cannot shop, cook, or order haphazardly. Throwing caution to the wind can mean 7-10 days of writhing, full-body mayhem followed by months of digestive recovery. So when a "cooleague" flippantly calls you out in front of everyone for not eating the boss's birthday cake, what could you possibly say in response to this person's profound lack of tact? S/he will never be able to grasp the presence that you must practice when it comes to food.
But for the few who aren't gluten-free but do care about someone who is, here are some meal-sharing etiquette tips for friends, colleagues, and even restaurant service workers:
1. Please learn what gluten is--and what it is not. I can't tell you how many times I have been "warned" about almonds... Please don't assume a nut allergy and a gluten sensitivity are the same. On the same note, rice is not made from wheat. However, traditional pasta is (think semolina and duram). In addition, soy sauce is not acceptable, nor is adding pasta water to tomato sauce. These are the culprits that put us most at risk when eating food that others have prepared.
2. If I decline the first time, please don't repeatedly ask me to try your dish. That kind of risk is not a luxury I can afford. Please know that my refusal is not personal.
3. Please do not double-dip your utensils into shared items like butter ramekins, dressings, sauces, etc. If you touch your bread, pasta, or flour tortilla, I will be glutened. (This goes for jars at home too, including nut butter, jams, mayo, etc.)
4. Please consider me when choosing a restaurant (feel free to ask my suggestions), but don't resent me for not always choosing your favorite Italian or Chinese place. There is very little I can select there. That said, I will be happy to go along for the sake of the group, but respect that I will have to use extreme caution.
5. Feel free to ask questions if you are curious. Chances are for those of us with food sensitivities, we have conducted countless hours of research and will be encouraged by your interest in learning about a very important aspect of our lives.
6. Please do not mock or ridicule me for following a gluten-free lifestyle. If you knew how much of an investment it has been to get to this point, you would understand.
7. If you are selecting our restaurant and making reservations, it is a much-appreciated gesture for you to notify the maitre d that there is a gluten-free diner in the party. (It is like a day at the spa to not always have to explain it.)
8. This is my lifestyle, and I am not negative about it. If you pay any attention at all to what I am eating, please be supportive.
9. I do not mind if you eat bread in front of me. I have been years without gluten, so I am over it. (However, someone who is 2 weeks into a GF transition might not be so understanding!) For me, sharing food is a joyful experience, and I would never want you to sacrifice eating wheat on my behalf. That said, if you choose to enjoy a GF meal with me, your gesture will not go unnoticed.
10. Please do not assume that all GF eaters follow the same eating plan. GF eating is a spectrum. Just as there are whole and healthy foods, there are processed GF junk foods too. Please understand that I am health conscious in addition to being gluten-free. But to each his own!