Cooking for more of the crowd(Note: in the interest of brevity I will use the term "food allergies" to include people with both allergies and intolerances. But there is a difference; please know it)
For any food allergy sufferer, one of the chanciest times is when you are going to an event that involves cooking for a crowd. Potlucks aren't so bad, because the allergic person can just bring a dish they KNOW they can eat ( I often bring two, a main dish and dessert). But when going to a social event where food will be provided, it gets trickier. For me, that often involves church events, and believe me, your typical Lutheran Hot Dish is NOT dairy allergy friendly. Now it's true, you can't please everyone all the time, and with the wide variety of allergies/intolerances, health, religious, and philosophical eating restrictions out there (not to mention just plain aversions!), you would end up just serving pears and water if you wanted to accommodate them all (Very few people are allergic to pears). People with severe or life threatening allergies will probably just forgoe any food they are worried about. That said, I wanted to compile a few ways to make group meals a little more accessible.
1 Save the label If you do nothing else, if you bring manufactured food to a potluck or group dinner, save the label until dinner is served. This allows anyone with any kind of concern to make an informed decision.
2 Put it on the side Nuts, cheese, croutons, hard boiled egg, bacon bits, dressing - these are all things that can render a salad off limits to the allergic person. It may take a few more dishes, but leaving these things on the side opens up your salad to darn near everyone. (besides, a pre dressed salad gets limp pretty fast, and you can't really save the leftovers.) It also means picky people will be more likely to eat your salad, and we want people eating their salad.
This also goes for pasta dishes too- just leaving the cheese on the side will allow the dairy intolerant to eat it, as well as people required to watch their cholesterol ( and if the dish has meat, people who keep Kosher).
3 Bring it plain Most people can and will eat chips- if they aren't coated with an allergen. Bring plain salted chips (I like Kettle!), plain tortilla chips instead of nacho cheese ( you can serve nacho cheese sauce on the side) and Fritos instead of Cheetos.
4 Put fresh fruit on the table And I don't mean fresh fruit in a Jello salad, or dressed with a mayo and sour cream sauce. Just plain fruit. We could all stand to eat more of it.
5 Ask. All too often people confuse my dairy allergy for vegetarianism. If they get me something vegan, great. If they get me something lacto-vege, I'm still hungry and they wasted money.
Please let me know if this blog post help you, or if you have ideas I should add.
Author's Note. I'm a dairy allergic/intolerant mom with two lactose intolerant children. I'm also allergic to MSG and maybe peanuts. Fun. Permission to repost, with author credit given.