It’s the biggie: the Office Christmas Party.
Given how significant a part work plays in our lives, it’s not surprising that the problems caused unknowingly by co-workers, bosses, trainers and conference organisers are such a common complaint among the gluten free. Often I hear stories of people who choose not to go to the office party because of previous bad experiences, concerns about the catering provision, or because they just can’t face yet another meal of melon, followed by dry chicken, followed by a plate of fruit. With a meringue if you’re really lucky.
For the fortunate few, your workplace will be fully aware of your special dietary needs, and will seamlessly – and privately – discuss this with you. But we know this isn’t usually the case.
If you want to go to the office party, then here are my suggestions:
- If you can face it, offer to help organise the event – then you get some say in the destination.
- Otherwise, once the destination is agreed, make your dietary needs known to the organisers. In writing.
- Find out where the event is to be; discuss your needs with the catering team at the venue in advance. Go through the proposed menu.
- On the night of the event, eat something – even if it is only the coeliac’s friend, the banana – before you go. Take something in your pocket/handbag (perhaps a wrapped biscuit, or a snack bar). You need to be sure you can eat something, so you don’t end up dancing on the tables. Unless you want to.
- On arrival, introduce yourself to the event organiser, the catering team, the hotel management, your waiter… whoever is front of house that night. Remind them.
- If you can’t bear to go through the explanation one more time, take a dietary card.
- When seated, mention it to your waitress one more time. If something clearly inappropriate appears on your plate DON’T EAT IT. No, not even to be polite. It’s your health at stake here, both short term and long term. Be polite, but request a replacement, on a fresh plate.
- If a fellow guest says to you “go on, one bite won’t hurt, will it, just this once” - don’t threaten violence. It’s not a good look!
- If the venue does well, then let them know, after the event. Positive reinforcement is a Good Thing, and will help all those coeliacs coming in to that venue in the future. And let us know too…
And, of course, be careful what you drink – for the obvious reasons, but also because many drinks contain gluten.