Oy with the Pizza!: An Allergy-Friendly Guide to Feeding Your Colleagues, Co-Workers, Students, and Employees
Who doesn't love pizza for a gathering? It's readily available, it's convenient, it's quasi-portable ... and it has many ingredients that can make people sick. People with diet concerns or food allergies often dread food-based/mealtime gatherings, or even avoid them all together, for fear of being hungry, embarrassed, or other reasons. Telling people with allergies "there's pizza, or you can bring your own food!" puts people in the situation of having to find and pay for their own food, which puts them at a disadvantage and visually and socially ostracizes them (Sally in the corner with the salad). Food unites people, and not including everyone in a gathering can divide them.
If you are planning an event and looking to stick within a budget, have no fear! Options are readily available.
Disclaimer: while the majority of my suggestions are for those who are celiac or on a gluten-free diet, I have thrown in ideas for those with other special diets, e.g., keto or dairy-free.
Crackers that get dipped in a communal dip container are a double no-no: not only are the crackers often not GF, but the crumbs cause cross-contamination (I'm all about alliteration :) ).
-have a separate GF plate. If you can only swing one thing of dip, put half on a glutenous plate, and the other half on a GF plate.
-add vegetables. You can even get bags of carrots at 7-11 if you're throwing a grad student party in a hurry :)
-GF crackers: the brands Edward and Sons and Absolutely Gluten Free are terrific, and even those who CAN eat gluten will enjoy them!
-cheese. Just about all cheeses are gluten-free.
-meats! All Boar's Head products are gluten-free - their sauces, dips, deli meats, cheeses, etc.
-fruit. Even if people are low-carb, berries and kiwi are often considered fair game.
Many regional and national chains offer GF pizza. You'd be surprised! Note: most places only offer one size of GF pizza (the small), so depending on the number of people, you may need to get a solid allergy count.
Domino's has GF crust, but notes that cross-contamination is highly likely. The crust is tasty, and Domino's often fits student budgets.
Papa Gino's uses an Udi's crust and is one of the only places to offer both small and medium crusts. A separate preparation area is used. Pizza Hut also uses this crust.
Pizzeria Regina offers GF crust ONLY in their Allston location (not in the North End), and they are very good about what sauces and toppings are safe.
Bertucci's now has a cauliflower-based GF crust, and they are one of the first chains to offer a GF menu.
Papa John's recently added a crust made from ancient grains (sorghum, etc.)
California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) offers a choice of cauliflower-based OR grain-based GF crust. You can even get the BBQ chicken! Win!
Chuck E. Cheese even offers GF pizza!
Mac and cheese is off limits for many people! However, there are a number of easy swaps/additions:
-GF pasta. Stop & Shop even makes their own GF brand that is terrific! Barilla is the favorite of America's Test Kitchen, and you can even get high-protein versions with chickpeas, lentils, etc., many of which are safe for people on FODMAP/low-carb diets.
-rice is safe for just about everyone. Rice PILAF, however, often is not.
-corn is off-limits for some, but an easy and cheap staple for many.
-salad WITHOUT croutons is often safe. Salad dressings, however, often sneak in soy sauce (which has wheat) or other iffy ingredients, so do not add dressings in to salads for a group gathering.
-mixed vegetables. Very few diets restrict vegetables!
Little else is sadder to people with special diets at a gathering than seeing that the only dessert is cake. However, even a side of frosting (usually GF) saved for guests can be a special, well-appreciated treat. The bakery chain Sweet sells frosting shots! Here are some other options:
-pudding is often gluten-free, cheap, and tasty! Jell-O and Kozy Shack are two good brands.
Parfait is easy to make with fruit, whipped cream (or coconut cream), Cool Whip, nuts, and GF cookies such as KinniKinnick's vanilla wafers (sold at most grocery stores), or some combination of such items.
-chocolate (though GF people are always happy when there is more variety than flourless chocolate cake or just plain chocolates)
-fruit with toppings available, such as ReddiWip's new almond milk and coconut milk whipped creams
-GF crisps - fruit crisps made with GF oats or without glutenous flour (Ocean State Job Lot always has great prices on -- and a great variety of -- Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours/oats/mixes)
-Kind bars - again, even available at Starbucks and 7-11 (RIP, Tedeschi's...)
Have I made you hungry yet? Happy dining!