Pot lucks are lovely events. Until someone has a food allergy, food sensitivity, or celiac disease. They turn into minefields of torture with buried bombs of gluten everywhere! The only way to not get sick is to not participate but that brings up a variety of issues.
So, not participating is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with potlucks for those with celiac or other food intolerance. But how the event is perceived by others depends on how we behave.
First there is the question of bringing an item for the potluck. I always bring an item for the potluck, even if I have no intention of eating. My non-celiac family will partake of the potluck bonanza so I feel like I have to bring something. But even if it was just for me, I would still bring something. Even if it is the least expensive item I can find – like sliced watermelon, a bean salad, chips and salsa, or whatever random item I have in the bottom of my pantry to add. I bring it.
I feel like bringing something adds to the social atmosphere and people notice if you don’t bring something. Let me tell you, everyone sees you walking up. If you are empty handed, it is noticed. While it seems ridiculous, this is a social event and the world doesn’t really care about whether you can eat or not. They may not notice if you don’t eat, but if you don’t bring something, that can be bad. So, again, bring something simple, inexpensive, and gluten free.
Partaking of the actual food bonanza, is something we cannot do. Even if your best friend Betty made gluten free brownies just for you, all of the cross contamination fears start to enter, are real, and no reason to get sick. There are two ways out of this – first bring your own, put it on a plate, and enjoy sitting with everyone else. Or just say you had a big previous meal and aren’t hungry. These are both perfectly acceptable options.
Now, this can go sideways, if you make a big deal about it. Putting your food off in another room and not sitting next to people, that is going to ruffle some feathers. Making a big deal about how everything contains gluten, everything will all make you sick, and how nice you were to bring something even though you can’t eat, will again ruffle some feathers. I would not recommend these courses of action.
Navigating a pot luck, as with navigating any social situations with celiac, require a little bit of tact. Understanding that we are the unique ones in a cold, cruel gluten filled world we have to protect ourselves. With a bit of subtlety, humor, and grace we can get through it unscathed, healthy, and with a good reputation in tact.