Some day, some blessed day, when we have a departmental staff meeting or a district staff-development event, I hope there is something to eat besides doughnuts-bagels-pastries-muffins-cinnamon rolls-deli sandwiches-pizza-pretzels-cake-cookies-brownies or pie. Oh sure, when the school had a holiday luncheon for the staff, the caterer also brought a green salad in addition to the lasagne, spaghetti, breadsticks and cake. But gluten-intolerant woman cannot live on iceberg lettuce and a bottle of flavored water.
If I’m lucky on the days of these communal-noshing events, I sit there and nom on a gluten-free energy bar I keep for such emergencies, or what might be leftover from my previous day’s sack lunch.
I hate to sound picky; I know that it’s hard to feed 50 or more people economically. But staring down a long buffet table and seeing nothing but dishes like chicken noodle or French onion soup, mini quiches, spreads on crackers, soft tacos, fried fish or chicken with batter or breading, meatloaf, pasta salad, lasagne, macaroni & cheese, casseroles, onion rings, breadsticks, rolls, and of course, cake, cookies, brownies or pies, is dispiriting. Do I want to stand in a slow line to end up with a meager plate bearing a couple slices of cheese, a few under-ripe strawberries and some overcooked green beans? I sure as hell do if all I had to eat earlier was that lettuce, and maybe a packet of chips (crisps) or chocolate bar from the vending machine.
Sure, I’m just one person in a crowd, and sure, diabetics, vegetarians and people with allergies also have to carefully navigate the catering. (Heck, I don’t technically have coeliac, I just get gassy and loose stools, so I try to avoid eating more than a couple bites of wheat, especially when stuck all day in long meetings or on trans-Atlantic flights. We’re all much happier this way, trust me.)
But it’s really, really hard to find anything to eat that’s not based on wheat. Frankly, just eating the cheese off a slice of pizza is not very satisfying, and I appear picky in the wrong way. The one time when I tried the school cafeteria’s “chicken patty” sans bun, I later realised with distress that the protein in the processed poultry patty was probably boosted by gluten. Semolina (pasta flour) and couscous are just more words for wheat, as is bulghur salad. Even innocent-sounding cornbread and buckwheat pancakes are still mostly made from wheat flour.
I’ve only been working here three years, but I would appreciate being able to share in the annual catered lunch, or enjoy a treat at the weekly meeting more often than the once-a-year happenstance when there is ice cream.
I guess that I should start bringing refreshments to meetings. It’s just that we now have more people in our department, anything nice or gluten-free is expensive, and I can barely pay my bills.
Curiously, at one of my previous jobs there were a lot more rice-based dishes at events. That’s because we were a more international bunch of folks, who were incidentally, researching pest-resistant crop lines. I don’t eat wheat, but I was doing my part to protect it from attack!