NYT-"On the demanding guest diet"
Very funny article about cooking for guests. Well, funny I guess because it doesn't happen to me! Not that I can imagine allowing myself to be bullied like that...
About the fussy eater aspect of the article:
While some of the examples given are indeed over-the-top, I think some of the people involved in this article don't understand the depth of discomfort (and even dangers) faced by people with genuine food insensitivities. Please cooks, by all means sneak something I cannot eat into my meal. I'll then return the favor by locking you in the bathroom with me for the rest of the night so you can enjoy the reactions I get from something that is "all in my head".
My feeling on the subject is that, if you're being a gracious host/hostess, then you have a responsibility to make your guests comfortable, which includes accommodating their diet/health issues. Of course, your guests also have a responsibility, which is not to spring such requirements on their hosts with no warning. I have a few serious food allergies and will always remind someone who has invited me at the time when I accept their invitation. For a special meal, when there will be a crowd, I will ordinarily just eat what I can and leave it at that. I would certainly not expect my hosts to prepare a completely separate meal for me. But if my husband and I are the only two guests, then I should think that our hosts would want to serve something he/she knows I can eat.
The article was not addressing truly serious issues like the person with celiac disease who cannot eat even the smallest amount of gluten, or the child with the peanut allergy who will die if they eat peanuts. The stories given were nothing like that-they focused on trendy diets, fear of non-organics, and the like.
And Bad Sneakers, I think you are right that people do often underestimate the seriousness of some allergies, but you have to understand how often it happens where someone tells us they absolutely cannot have dairy, wheat, etc, then when they see something that looks particularly good with those things in it, they say, oh, gee, I'll just have a little, I can eat this sometimes, etc. This experience is SO common and it does serve to discredit people with real and serious allergies, which is very unfortunate.
If I had celiac disease or a child with a fatal peanut allergy, you can bet I would bring food with me if I were going somewhere for the weekend. Why risk your health and the life of your child by putting them in the hands of a person who may not understand?
The article was about picky eaters and insensitive guests, not about serious food allergies.
I've had dinner parties where a guest has told me "no seafood" and I go ahead and make a substitute for that course. Then, while discussing the dishes at the party, the "no seafood guest will say: "That shrimp dish sounds good. I guess I will have that."
I think to a certain extent, dining in someone's home requires some flexibility. As the other poster mentioned, allergies (and I would add religious restrictions) are a separate issue. But a general unwillingness to try new dishes may be the worst trait a dinner guest can bring to the table (no pun intended).
Genuine serious food allergies/medical conditions and religious obligations are to be strongly distinguished from palate sensitivities, food preferences and diets, and the article focused on the latter group, and the examples are ones that would have made former generations blush at the rudeness of erstwhile guests (if you are ever tempted to ape them, restrain the impulse, and if you cannot, fully expect never to be invited back again).
Though I would admonish hosts not to sneak food, either.