Two Weddings and... a Gluten Free Diet

#CoeliacWin

I have been thinking about how the life of a coeliac has improved in recent years. Having been diagnosed since 1976, I feel pretty certain of that. Someone diagnosed yesterday might disagree.

This improvement particularly struck me at a recent wedding, although the menu was similar there was a huge contrast to my worst wedding ever experience ten years previously. Where I had to argue every course, despite ringing ahead and identifying myself on arrival. Like entering a line-up for a crime against food. It started with the soup – croutons; I sent it back. Vegetables soaked in floury sauce – followed by the banqueting supervisor wanting to serve me the plain ones with a sauce covered spoon.

By desert I was exhausted and mortified. I was sharing a table with a group of people I didn’t know, having to explain a then not-so heard of disease. Do we really have to talk about my diarrhoea over dinner? The waitress, probably exhausted too, asked what desert I would like. No doubt I was on a kitchen blacklist at this point. To keep it simple, I asked for fruit salad, no cream, no ice-cream, just plain fruit salad. On returning from the ladies my husband informed me that he had to send it back.

‘You’re kidding.’

‘It came in a wafer basket.’

Yes things have improved. At my recent day out I waited for each course to be served with my usual baited breath. Would they get it right? Melon to start, a lazy gluten free option but having squeezed into a dress it was welcomed that day.  After some tasty crouton-free soup, the turkey and ham arrived without stuffing.  I’m too long diagnosed to really ‘get’ stuffing, so that was fine. The real win here was my very own gravy boat. Score for the coeliac. Unfortunately I ended up sharing it with the rest of the table. At least my food was not dry, a #CoeliacSin.

Fruit salad was again the alternative to the gluten-containing medley of deserts. No wafer  basket and not your usual lazy gluten free option. Blueberries, raspberries, passion fruit, apple and grapes – a fruity paradise in a bowl. Lovely, fresh, riotous-coloured fruit.

Later, the hotel served sausages and sandwiches, but I had some back-up snacks in the room for that poor-me moment. There have been weddings where I have held onto chunks of meat or roast potato in a napkin. Nothing worse than sitting with pursed lips while everyone else has the munchies.

Weddings, or rather hotels and chefs, have hugely upped their game when it comes to gluten-free dining. As the ever-present fad gluten-free dieters (why would you be bother unless you really have to?) can muddy the waters, it is essential to enunciate ‘I’m a coeliac’. It impresses that you have a medical need for your diet as opposed to a choice.

It’s useful to contact the hotel beforehand, in case dietary requirements aren’t top of the bride’s to-do list. On the day, on arriving at the banqueting room, have a quiet word with whoever looks most official on duty. Create a sense of importance about your gluten free diet that should be carried through to every aspect of the meal.

Times have changed, thank heaven. Mistakes happen, which is human nature. But it is no longer the bullfighting, round by round effort to enjoy eating out. I am no longer filled with the same social occasion dread of years past. Food is life, life is to be lived. Being coeliac does not have to be the death of good times.

Thanks to those in hospitality who recognise the needs of the growing number of people with coeliac disease, and to those in the Coeliac Society of Ireland, who have tirelessly educated about the nitty-gritty of providing a gluten-free diet.