I was adopted at birth. This past year I sent my DNA away to be tested to help me look for my birth relatives. Wow. I went from one living relative that I knew about, to over one hundred new relatives, the majority of whom are all living in close proximity to each other. The bad news is with Covid, the in-person reunions are not yet possible. The good news is that it gives me a chance to stop and plan before heading out to meet them.

So what’s the best plan? Everyone brings food of course. Potluck picnic!

Most people can share, but I will only be eating the food that I bring. It’s the only way I can be absolutely sure that I will enjoy my food without having a reaction. I will bring extra of course, especially the deserts. I like to make labels for my serving plates so that if anyone else shares my allergies they know they can try my food. That’s the biggest difference between eating at home and eating with a group. Without exception someone will thank me for letting them know they can be allergy free, at least from the foods that I must avoid.

When attending a party I arrive as early as possible and walk through the food area. I ask questions about the ingredients, and look at nutritional labels if they are available. If something is homemade, then I ask about the recipe. When the other guests arrive I have the ability to walk those interested around the food line. They always smile as I quickly go through all the foods with a simple “yes” or “no”, pointing at the individual items as we walk the course.

Sometimes it seems hard to believe how many people have food allergies or sensitivities. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone that had food issues. The only accommodations were for the Catholic students who ate fish on Fridays. That meant fish-stick lunch in the school cafeteria, which made it the best lunch of the week as far as I was concerned.

One of my biggest frustrations as a guest, is to arrive at an event only to discover there is nothing for me to eat. Even if I have informed my hosts prior to the meal, they will often shrug it off saying “I didn’t know what that meant”. Really? So ask.

Another frustration is when the hosts don’t know what ingredients are in the foods they are serving. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I ate for 60 years and didn’t care what I was putting in my mouth as long as it tasted it good. Now I won’t put an item in the shopping cart without checking the ingredient label.

So what will I bring to my highly anticipated potluck picnic? Everyone loves sweets, so I will bring some delicious goodies. I make a killer lemon cake, and as for my dark chocolate beer cake – well, let’s just say I’ve never had any complaints. As for the main course, that will depend on what facilities are available. It may be as simple as a roasted chicken from the grocery store, a salad from a drive-through, or perhaps something from the pressure cooker if I have a kitchen. Only time will tell.

The important point is that I am there to meet my wonderful new family, and not worry about the foods we will eat. Hopefully they will be open to some of my recipe substitutions, and we can break (gluten-free) bread and enjoy each other’s stories.

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