I always say the hardest part of food allergies is the social aspect. It's downright uncomfortable to go into a situation where food will be the center of activities...and then refuse to partake.
Potlucks can be particularly difficult because everyone wants you to sample their wares. And if you have certain food intolerances, especially mild ones that consist of the top 8 or easily recognizable items, then you might be able to partake. In fact, if your intolerances are mild...you might not even be reading this blog, because you probably don't care about potlucks. But, if you have severe reactions...or you react to something particularly difficult to avoid (corn or gluten or dairy), things get trickier. Avoidance really is the easiest option. Of course, being human, we all want to be honest. And we want to enjoy ourselves. And we want to fit in.
So, the best policy seems to be multifold. Eat first, bring safe snacks, bring a safe dish that will get rave reviews (so you can busily field compliments rather than questions about the lack of variety on your own plate), and wander frequently. Come late, unless you feel confident enough to sample the other wares...in which case you want to be early and first in line to avoid cross contamination. And have some easy catch phrases that shield you from the spotlight.
So here are a few sample phrases to get you through the most trying of spotlight events...the family (or work) potluck.
"Oh, everything looks delicious, I don't know where to start!"
"I'll grab a plate in a minute, first I want to catch up with so and so."
"I couldn't eat another bite, but thank you, everything is lovely!"
And when someone insists that you sample a signature dish, you can distract them by calling it divine and asking them for the recipe. If they insist on a sample, excuse yourself for a moment.
When it comes to buffet style eating, sometimes moving around frequently is your best combat against questions. Everyone will think you've eaten, that your empty plate was once full. They won't necessarily note that the only thing ever on it was the dish you, yourself, contributed. Or the crackers you surreptitiously retrieve from your purse. Be vague, but sincere.
Often, you can get away without repeated explanations. Just be prepared to distract people. If they won't let the food go, compliment their jewelry. Or some knick knack on the shelf. Or worst case scenario, turn your napkin into a fan and exclaim that it's getting warm.
Everyone in the vicinity will begin discussing the weather, it's changing patterns, and whether or not they believe in global warming.
It may not be stimulating dinner conversation, but it will get the spotlight off of you!