Once upon a time (two months ago) I got a brand new, shiny job and was uber pumped about it. New job. New me. And new people who don't know my food quirks... Splendid.
Luckily, I have the #blessing of working with three other celiacs in my office. Of the many perks that came with this job this was maybe the one I was most excited about. My interview went a little something like this:
Them: "You only need to like beer to play on our softball team. You do like beer, right?"
Me: "Ha, welllllllllll… I'm celiac, so I love it if it's gluten-free!"
Note: Why did I say that? Why do I have to bring up my gross dietary issues in formal situations? What is wrong with me?
Them: "Oh yeah! Lindsey is celiac, too. There's actually a lot of those here."
*Lindsey smiles and waves, and we exchange the "hey celiac sister, God they're idiots" look*
Note: "a lot of those" as if we're mutants or something… Oh wait…
Them: "There's always cider or GF beer at Beer :30 on Fridays"
Note: I work in an ad agency. Not having beer in the office fridge would be like not having oxygen in the air.
So I was pretty much hooked then. Luckily they gave me an offer, and on my first day I was ready for anything. Except maybe lunch.
Naturally, I couldn't start working on a day when the schedule was normal and my team could take me out to a restaurant of my choice like the protocol apparently is. No no, it was "Chili Cook-off Day" and everyone was pitching in five dollars to taste test the brave home cook's creations. Brave home cooks who I don't know. Brave home cooks who likely have no idea what gluten is. Brave home cooks who I really want to like me because I'm new and terrified of everyone and everything including the brave home cook's chili.
Super. Super way to start things off.
So lunch time dawns and I don't really have a great plan (still super) but I catch Lindsey on my way down to the cafeteria and ask if she brought some chili. If I know my celiac sisters I know that we make sure we have something to eat at
stupid super pot-lucks like these. Sure enough, she brought a crock pot and told me to look for the one with her name on it. It's obvi GF.
This is all (GF) gravy until you remember that this is a cook-off. It's supposed to be anonymous. So upon arrival at the cafeteria I see no labels, no names on stickies, no anything to distinguish one gluten-full chef's creation from a different gluten-free chef's. In this moment all of my other coworkers are jollily sampling the various concoctions, and I'm jarringly concerned about what's going to happen in the next five minutes. My bowl is so painstakingly empty and attention is so painstakingly on me because remember, I'M NEW, and Lindsey is so painstakingly MIA just like the chili in my bowl.
There were a lot of curse words going through my head at this point.
I ask the one person I know at the company if he knows which chili is Lindsey's and he doesn't. He kind of shrugs it off like "that's a weird thing to make small talk about". Yes, thank you. I'm aware.
So there I am, brand new and bravely having that awkward conversation that goes something like "yeah, do you think we can find out? I will get really sick if I have any gluten, and yeah, I know there's like no gluten in any of these other chills, but I don't really know for sure, but I know Lindsey's is safe? Yeah, I'm actually gluten-free, like, celiac gluten-free and I don't know, maybe the spices are shitty and have gluten in them or maybe someone's kitchen or crock pot isn't that clean and listen dude there are a lot of things that could go wrong here and it's my first day and I really don't want to be sick and turn into a crazy person even though I know we just met and you don't know me and I'm very obviously acting like one now please disregard this and remember that I made a great first impression on you at 9 this morning."
So yeah, remember when I didn't have a plan? Always have a plan. Always, always have a plan.
The end of this story is a little surprising and a little stupid because he found out that someone maybe thought this one crock pot over there was Lindsey's, but just maybe. By then I was so anxious and nervous and self-conscious because literally four people had asked me if I was going to try some of the chili that I just risked it. Lindsey's chili you say? We have a 30% confirmation? Going for it.
I took as small of a portion as socially acceptable and downed it as fast as I could, hoping and praying with each bite that this wasn't going to turn me into a monster on my first day of work at this really cool new job that I had really wanted.
Stupid? Yes. But, did I get sick? No. Praise the Lord, no.
I think maybe it had been Lindsey's chili, or maybe it was just the good grace of my body giving me a day off from my gluten-hating gut. I don't know. Either way, I think next time I need to be less of a wimp and more of a warrior when it comes to potlucks with strangers. Who cares if I need it to be gluten-free? Why did I even agree to go to the potluck in the first place?
Being socially acceptable with this disease is basically an oxymoron, so maybe we should just get over it already? We're food weirdos and that's okay. It's just food.
Has anything like this happened to you? What would you have done in the missing case of Lindsey's chili?