When diagnosed with coeliac disease, one of the things I was most worried about was attending events. Over the past 2 years, since diagnosis, I have attended a number of these and have had a mix of positive and negative experiences.
I have found that functions such as weddings and private parties tend to be better than public events, as you can inform them in advance of your dietary requirements and they are often able to offer lots of variety.
I recently attended a wedding where I was catered for extremely well. The favours on the table were shortbread biscuits and I had my own specially labeled gluten-free one, which was delicious. During the meal, each course was bought to me first and they reiterated that it was gluten-free. I had the most incredible garlic ciabatta with tomatoes and mozzarella to start, the chicken and quinoa main course was the same as all the other guests, and I had a delicious lemon posset for dessert, but without a side of fruity granola. The pièce de résistance was a stand of gluten-free cupcakes next to the wedding cake. I’m pretty sure I ate three and then sneaked one home in a napkin!
Another good experience I had was when I attended a Christmas Party. I was looked after very well, but it lacked the attention to detail and more personal feel of the wedding. Each waiter knew about my dietary requirements and ensured that I was served first. There was no bread substitute for the starter, but I did have a delicious salad. The chicken main was flavoursome, but the pudding was very disappointing – I was served a tiny fruit salad instead of a trio of desserts. Considering you have paid the same price as everyone else, it is disappointing when your meal lacks the same effort.
The worst experience I had was at Bath Racecourse. I attend a race-day there each summer and last year I could not find anything to eat. Luckily I had taken snacks with me. There are a range of stalls and bars serving lots of different types of food, but there was nothing gluten-free. From looking at menus online it appears the restaurants may have been able to cater for a gluten-free diet, however, when attending an event such as the races, the restaurants tend to be very expensive, and as the other members of my party were happy with stall food, it was disappointing not to be able to join in.
After attending many events I feel that I have learned lots from my different experiences. In order to avoid hunger at any event I would suggest these top tips for a great gluten-free experience:
- Inform in advance – this always features on my top tips lists! It ensures that the organisers are aware of your requirements and allows them to be prepared. You never know what they might be able to produce if they have enough notice.
- Do your research – before attending an event have a look online to see if you can find details about gluten-free food. You may be surprised.
- Be prepared for disappointment – that way anything good that you are given will be a bonus!
- Pack a picnic – another one of my regular top tips. You don’t want to be left hungry, so it’s always worth taking food with you and if you don’t need it, then that’s a bonus.
- Give feedback – whether you have a good or bad experience it’s important to tell the organisers how it was for you so they can appreciate the importance of the situation and can perhaps improve for future attendees.