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Is this food terrorism?

So, my DH is an obsessive foodie and picky eaters do drive him crazy. To his credit, he/we are virtually the only ones in a family of substantial size that care to or bother to host holiday gatherings. We have a few people in the extended family with special dietary "requirements."

They range from the cousin who refuses to eat anything with mushrooms to a Muslim in-law who says he follows Halel, but is known to frequent Burger King. Basically, DH has given up arranging his dishes for the benefit of each and every guest and now puts in whatever is called for, but then "forgets" that there are mushrooms or pork when describing the components of the dish. Since we're not dealing with anyone who has an actual food allergy, no one is the wiser.

What's the general consensus on this? Before this tactic was employed, DH would end up preparing 4-5 additional dishes to meet each special requirement. Long story short - rude extended family members and $37.00 of uneaten sea bass make for mad hosts. How far are hosts expected to go these days to accomodate everyone when there are many people coming for a holiday/occasion dinner?

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  1. Be honest with your guests. Would you expect anything less when you were in their home? Tell DH to cook simpler, cheaper and less "foodie". It's not about showing off; it's about making your family feel welcome and comfortable. He may not enjoy the family gathering as much but you'll be better hosts.

    1. don't make anything with pork. the mushroom-hater can pick them out. religious observances count here. vegetarians usually expect that they will have to find something at the table they can eat, you don't need to cater to them, just don't use chicken stock in everything.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fara

        picking out the offfensive food doesn't always work. Depending on what it is, and especially if it is cooked into a dish, its flavor can be left behind to ruin everything.

        1. Your DH is a saint for trying to accommodate everyone. I would have given up a long time ago. Here's what I would do (I'm no cook or a foodie, so maybe my opinion doesn't count): Invite them over for dinner and tell them the menu. They can decide if the menu will stop them from coming or not. "Thanksgiving dinner will be on Thursday night. We will have turkey....." If you're making a vegetarian dish, then tell the vegetarian that. But that's it!

          I don't eat food with bell peppers, mustard, and a ton of other stuff, but if I'm going to someone's house for dinner, I don't expect them to accommodate me. I figure I'll find something to eat.

          1 Reply
          1. re: boltnut55

            I agree with what everyone else has said, but I understand your dillema.

            I have friends and family members who tell me they are "strict no-carb"ers when I ask what I should and shouldn't prepare when they come over for dinner. In the past, I have altered my meal plans (no rice, potatoes, bread, high sugar veggies, fruits, pastas, etc... .they also said whole grains were a no-no.)

            However, after spending a lot of time with them outside of my home and seeing the gallons of ice cream, pasta, candy and sweet coffee drinks they consume while on their "strict no carb" diet, I decided to make whatever the hell I wanted when they came over.

            So far, all I've heard is "this is delicious!"

            I'm all for being accomodating, but I don't deal with hypocracy very well.

          2. "Forgetting" seems to be in bad form. Be honest with the guests and tell them what's on the menu before the event. They can decide whether they'll be able to find something to eat and, if necessary, eat a snack beforehand so they won't be hungry throughout the dinner. As long as your DH isn't putting pork and mushrooms in every dish, the guests should find something off the menu they can eat. It may be better to include more simple dishes with fewer ingredients that could cause a problem, but no need to go out and buy expensive substitutes.

            1. although everything tastes better with bacon, it's not a huge stretch to cook without it. or mushrooms for that matter. if your husband is as much of a foodie as you say, he should be able to find dishes to accommodate the food preferences of guests, even if those preferences are pretend. i adore shellfish. i have a dear friend who is deathly allergic. when he comes over, there is not a speck of shrimp or scallop to be found on the menu. it's not that hard.

              i'm always a little surprised and (saddened) by hosts or wives who lie about what's on the plate. it seems selfish and immature, but pretend food aversions are too, i guess, lol.

              1. Each of you have enough finger pointing to make these family gatherings quite an adventure. Seems like a new reality show, "Battle of the Immatures."

                - Since Hubby is a self proclaimed foodie, he can definitely find recipes that can meet his self proclaimed foodie status amd addiction. Likewise his self-egandizement as the only one who "cares or bothers" is both a virtue and has created this situation.
                - Halal-eater - hey if someone wants to be a self-proclaimed Halal addict the you have to respect it when that person arrives for a meal. Who cares if they go to BK, please do not act like a hall monitor.
                - Mushroom Maven Not - Some people have an aversion to mushrooms. For those of us who love these things, it's hard to understand, but hey it's a real thing that jfood confronts all the time in entertaining.

                So hubby should accept the indiosyncracies of all in attendence, including himself and try to lower the tension, not throw mushroom and pork at his guests. With the millions of wonderful recipes on the net, he should take it as a challenge and try to make a new dish with ingredients that both he and his guests will consume. Now that's a foodie.

                And please do not lie to guests on the ingredients. That strikes jfood as the height of immaturity and self-importance.

                8 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    Buckethead has to disagree with Jfood here, at least as far as the Halal guy or others like him who profess to practice some kind of voluntary food restriction (vegetarians, vegans, etc.), but really only practice it when it suits them. My personal experience is with a vegetarian (so-called) who objects strenuously to a family dinner served with meat, but when no one is looking, orders french onion soup (beef) or some chicken-broth based dish.

                    The main reason I will no longer be indulging people like that is that usually, having one vegetarian will lead us to alter our menu to accommodate them, using veggie stock instead of chicken, or whatever. For the rest of the guests, this means the dish isn't as good as it could be. I am OK with that if the person being accommodated is an *actual* vegetarian, or someone who keeps Halal and takes it seriously, but not for someone who only practices vegetarianism when they feel like it. Those people can eat chicken broth.

                    edit: Reading the rest of the thread I see that Halal guy may actually really be staying Halal, that's good. My problem is with people who profess to be these things but really aren't. For them, go ahead and feed 'em lamb's brains.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      i'm with buckethead here: if the guy stays halal 100% of the time, honor it. if not, screw him. hypocrites shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose when they observe their various food restrictions.

                      as far as the mushroom thing, cook em. i'm sure you can make other dishes atht don't have mushrooms, and that person can be satisfied.

                      however, i am also in the position of having a girlfriend who doesn't like tomatoes. she admits its psychological, and sometimes i make sauces with tomatoes, which she loves and then i tell her there were tomatoes in them, and she freaks out. imagine all sorts of variations along this spectrum.

                      if it's an allergy, it's one thing. if someone just doesn't like something, hey, we've all been there (albeit most of us as children) and they need to learn to pick around it.

                      1. re: Buckethead

                        For buckethead and mr mouther.

                        everyone does what they need to do. would jfood change an entire menu for one vegetarian if 10 people (only 1 veggie) were coming to dinner. Nope, but he would make sure there was ample food that meets his dietary resrictions. Would jfood confront said veggie (if he had heard the tom toms telling him he ate a burger) with a prime rib and tell him to eat it, absolutely not.

                        Different people approach their dietary restrictions in their own, sometime incomprehesible to others, manner. Instead of flaunting the hall monitor mentality of "I ain't cooking that way cause you ate a whopper" it may be a nice topic of conversation during dinner while he is eating food that meets his self-proclaimed restrictions. Understanding his situations versus jumping to conclusions is a more mature approach.

                        And one man's seriousness is another's half-hearted approach.

                        Why not discuss over a meal, a beer, or during a poker game to learn where the other personis coming from. That way both sides can learn something more about the other and avoid the "You Buger King eating slut" antics of Dan Ackroyd.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          Buckethead, is it really yours, the OPs, or the 'DH' to determine whether this person is suitably observant to merit respect? If it really comes to this, why invite that person into your home? To give them an extra helping of grudge?

                          Claiming 'chowishness', foodieness' or even simple exhaustion from the growing number of food preferences/issues that have amassed is simply not an excuse for this contempt.This 'forgetting' is, at best, contempt since the hosts are determining whether the guests 'deserve' truth and food they are comfortable eating. And again, why have guests at all if you are so hostile to what might make them feel comfortable and happy?

                          Yes, I know there is another extreme involved in this argument (i.e. the demanding, entitled guests) but we are hardly here in this debate.

                          1. re: Lizard

                            I think it depends on the person. Again, I'm not saying that you shouldn't respect people's dietary restrictions, be they self-imposed (religious, vegan, whatever) or otherwise. And I'd never serve someone a dish with meat in it and claim it was veggie just to stick it to them. My problem is specifically with people who *claim* to have a certain set of dietary rules, perhaps so they can seem more altruistic, but set those rules aside when they really want some meat-based soup or some bacon or something. I think that the disrespect lies with them, not me, for treating casually a lifestyle choice that a lot of other people actually take seriously.

                            1. re: Buckethead

                              Sure thing, Buckethead. It can be frustrating to deal with those who seem to equivocate, but is it your place (or rather, the OP's place) to play'hall monitor' (thanks Jfood!) and hand out demerits?

                              Yes, we may not like it, but I can't imagine deciding to punish this person for their 'disrespect' (I think that is a stretch). 'Forgetting'? That's punishing.

                              And look at your own post: it took you a while to realise this person may not be as hypocritical as you initially judged. Perhaps it's good practice for all of us to hold back and think that there's something we may not know. (I say we, not because I'm being condescending, but because I include myself in this warning. I try to remind myself of this all the time.)

                              1. re: Lizard

                                yes lizard, jfood et al. i am comfortable being hall monitor with what food gets served in my house. and yes: i do judge people who claim to live by a dietary (or other) restriction, but don't do it.

                                if you can't live by it, don't proclaim it.

                                don't need no platitudes or false promises yo.

                                and i don't respect folks who offer em.

                                i wouldn't be trying to punish anyone however. i'd simply be serving food that they can eat or not eat.

                      2. I agree, respect the pork issue. I have friends who say no pork, but want bacon with eggs. I don't serve them pork though.

                        Other issues, I am tired of picky eaters. I hate fish, everyone knows this. Still friends serve it to me and I eat it. That is what a guest does. A home cook can not plan around every dislike. I have had guests look at my lovingly prepared meal and then tell me they don't eat "whatever it is". "Fix me something else". They don' t get invited back for meals.

                        For religion or an allergy, I gladly fix a special dish. Other wise, guests be an adult eat what is in front of you.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Janet

                          just curious, if you know someone is a size "small" would you buy them a "large" sweater and then tell them to wear it loose? Probably not. Then why would you knowingly prepare a meal that you know would offend the guest? hopefully not as well.

                          You are very gracious to eat the fish at your friend's house. And if someone "insists" on "fix me something else" well they have some issues they need to work out. As a guest they should try to work around the "I don't likes" and not impose on the host. The "i don;t like" item should come up in conversation over the next few weeks so neither is confronted with this at the next event.

                          1. re: jfood

                            "Then why would you knowingly prepare a meal that you know would offend the guest? "

                            I, like Janet, am very accomodating when it comes to allergies, dietary restrictions (medical or personal choice, i.e., vegetarian) and religious dietary constraints, and I do try not to cook something if I know that the person doesn't like that protein or whatever. But there comes a point that if I'm cooking a meal for 8 or 10 people, it may get complicated in terms of finding something that everyone wants to and can eat. And I'm certainly not going to not cook a certain vegetable b/c one of those guests has an aversion to it. There's usually plenty to eat at my table, so they can just not eat it and I won't be bothered by it. Of course, if I invite one or two people to dinner, I'm not going to cook a meal that I think they won't enjoy. There is a line out there ... somewhere ....

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Yup agreed.

                              Having another couple or 2 is easy to plan around, having 8-10 becomes a linear program at a point in which null set becomes the answer.

                              The Jfoods invited friends and teen children over with one day's notice, 13 altogether. Thought they would choose between steak or shrimp kabobs and in the end jfood decided that a surf & turf combo (plated versus passed) with a couple of sides would be a nice touch. didn't think to ask and if some did not like beef they had the shrimp, likewise the reverse.

                              Fortunately every plate was empty on return so a happy group of guests and M&M jfood were happy. Would have been interesting if someone mentioned their aversion to these dishes.

                              1. re: jfood

                                We had a couple to dinner Saturday night and I'd not met my friend's partner - when I inquired ahead of time about any food restrictions, my friend said that her partner didn't eat pork (not for religious reasons) and wasn't a big garlic fan. Not a problem at all, except when I was trying to come up with what to cook ALL I could think of was pork or something w/ bacon! Fortunately the grocery store inspired me.

                        2. well, first of all, the fact that the Halal eater frequents Burger King doesn't necessarily mean anything. He or she could be ordering the vegie burger, and even if he or she is ordering meat, Muslim observance varies in terms of whether the actual meat must be Halal or not (I will assume your relative isn't ordering the bacon cheeseburger), and/or in terms of whether it is ok to eat at non-Halal places as long as one orders fish or vegetarian alternatives. The fact that you mention BK as if it is somehow in and of itself an implication that he really doesn't keep Halal makes me wonder if you have even had a conversation with your in-law to find out exactly what he or she can or can't eat (?). Understanding the limits of other's dietary restrictions is the first step, and the in-law *won't* be offended that you cared enough to ask. OTOH, I shudder to think what will happen when or if he finds out about the hidden pork...I don't know if it is 'terroism' but it is completely unacceptable, IMO.

                          I don't see why a family member who can't eat certain things for religious reasons is 'rude', and I think there is a distinction here between fussy eaters and those with alergies and/or religious convictions.

                          My daughter (and her husband) are Muslim and follow Halal dietary rules, and it is not even a small, much less a huge inconvience to include them in family dinners. I am just thrilled to have them over. I often make (meatless, which I like best anyway) lasagna, which everyone loves, and only modify the recipe slightly not to use wine. At Thanksgiving, buying a Kosher turkey does the trick (like some Muslims, they eat Kosher as well as Halal meats, and Kosher turkey is great! Again, talking with her was the key to finding out that Kosher meats were fine, for her.). So I can't serve pork roast. Big Deal. It just really isn't that hard to find menus that work. (and I do serve wine, btw, though I don't cook with it. She and her hubby just don't get poured any, and appreciate that we always have sparkling cider, grape juice, or lemondade on hand as tasty and festive alternatives....)

                          As others have said, a true 'foodie' should be up to the challenge of finding dishes that work.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: susancinsf

                            similar to people who claim to be kosher! some will eat no pig at all, some will eat bacon but not ham, some unkosher meat but not pig, some unkosher meat but not with dairy products, some eat shellfish and some do not and some if they sort of don't know about it. Then there is gelatin, some do some don't. Truly kosher Jews will NOT eat at any unkosher establishment at all. And then there are all those in between.

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              Thank you, Susan. It was nice to have the rundown on Burger King. I know that most fast food places are not Kosher (as kosher restrictions affect preparation and storage) but I wasn't sure how this worked with Halal rules. (I was aware, however, that foods that are Kosher are typically Halal, but that it does't work the other way around).

                              I've had relatives who keep kosher to a point; they do not have the luxury of space or resources for two fridges or multiple pots and pans, but in their food selections, they keep kosher. I'd hate to have a foodie decide that because he had seen my grandmother at a non-kosher restaurant that it was perfectly fine to serve shrimp puffs and not offer full disclosure on that.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                Many Jews keep kosher in their own homes but are less restrictive outside the home.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  Yes. What I was also discussing about were the kosher dietary laws inside the home that are also sometimes not followed. As for me, I've let most of it go-- doesn't stop me from respecting it in my family.

                                  Also, I guess I wasn't sufficiently clear: I would be greatly offended (and actually have been, but that's another story) by people trying to get my grandmother to eat treyf foods. I'd possibly be even more offended if they tried to justify it by observing where she's eaten outside of the home.

                                  1. re: Lizard

                                    lizard and jfood are on the same page. FIL was kosher growing up and little jfood's BF is kosher in the home. There are numerous subdivisions depending on circumstances and it is not a binary situation in many case.

                                    The idea that someone would knowingly violate someone's religious beliefs because he was "known to frequent BK" is a shunda.

                                    For jfood they kay see me eat a snickers bar and then when jfood tells them he is allergic to nuts, they question his integrity. When jfood explains that peanuts are not nuts, they seem surprised and relieved.

                                2. re: Lizard

                                  actually, I didn't mean to imply that BK was necessarily Halal, because I think that some persons who keep Halal won't eat anywhere that isn't Halal, because of those storage and food prep issues. I just know that many devout Muslims (my daughter among them) who certainly would never dream of eating pork, or even non-Halal meat for that matter, will eat vegetarian and fish options at non-Halal establishments...the point is to find out the restrictions of the in-laws religious beliefs, and then adhere to those, rather than making the assumption (which frankly, I found offensive) that just because someone is known to eat at Burger King that they aren't "really" adhering to halal (OP said that her in law "says" he follows Halal, but implies she didn't really believe that was the case, since he goes to BK).

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    Thanks, Susan. If you read my earlier posts, you'll see that I very much agree with you. I was just interested as an aside matter in what establishments may or may not be halal. Usually I go with the sign telling me so :)

                              2. Delegating parts of the menu could be a solution. It might be hard for the foodie to let go of some of the control of the menu, but if guests are assigned a dish, you know there will be at least one thing there that they can eat.i would be really uncomfortable violating someones conscience by not telling tham about an ingredient.

                                1. For as long as I can remember, I have kept a "Likes/Dislikes" food log of guests (yes, this includes relatives). I will absolutely accomodate real food allergies and religious beliefs. However, food dislikes take lower priority and may or may not make the cut depending on the group, occasion, menu, etc.

                                  When a true picky eater is present, I'll have one thing that works for them but never at the expense of the rest of us. The food must be delicious for the whole group. There are always those who think they don't like a particular food, yet when it is present, eat it with delight. Case in point: I made cheese mashed potatoes (yes, there was another potato choice) and three helpings were scarfed by a self-professed "cheese-hater". The perennial dieter eats a couple of desserts, etc. These people are P.I.T.A and not worth taking seriously.

                                  Last night, we had several people over for a Sunday Soup Supper. I know one does not like seafood, another does not want anything anatomically recognizable, yet another does not touch alcohol and someone else does not eat hot & spicy. Of the three soups I offered, there was something for everyone. For omnivores, we feasted on all three.

                                  After years of doing the "dinner dance" I think it boils down to attitude about hosts & guests. If hosts are happy to be hosting, the other stuff goes away. If the hosts feel put upon to be hosting, everything is a problem. Charming guests make the effort to contribute to the festivities, even if it means stopping on the way home for a burger. If the guests are taking advantage of our good will, hosting becomes a chore rather than a delight.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Sherri

                                    I think it depends upon the temprament of the guest(s). If the Halal relative simply wants to avoid pork, or any meat that is not Halal, I don't think there should be much trouble (many supermarkets, at least here in Toronto, sell Halal beef and chicken, and I notice that frozen New Zealand lamb is marked "Halal"). Likewise, if the mushroom-hater simply wishes to avoid mushrooms, that should not be hard, either.

                                    However, if they become demanding, and not want anything that may have come within ten feet of a pig (or a mushroom), I think the onus is on them not to be so difficult.

                                    1. re: ekammin

                                      If they didn't want it from the same kitchen as pork or mushrooms, or whatever, they wouldn't be coming to dinner in the first place.

                                      The strong implication of the original post is that the OPs spouse thinks that just asking for accomodation is 'difficult': he doesn't want to make ANY accomodation, which is why he is willing to be disrespectful enough just to 'forget' what went into a dish. (Actually, I think disrespectful is too mild a word. If they OP can't find a way cook within the restrictions imposed, he should just suggest they all go out to dinner, or to the restrictee's home, instead.)

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        Agree absolutely. The crux of my post was in the first paragraph:
                                        " I will absolutely accomodate real food allergies and religious beliefs."

                                        Food allergies are deadly. This is not a place to "forget".
                                        Religious beliefs must be respected. It is not the host's place to decide to "forget" about forbidden ingredients.

                                  2. You don't have to accomodate everyone. Absolutely not. I don't even think you need to carefully announce the ingredients in every dish. BUT... I don't think you should lie either. So if someone asks "are there mushrooms/delicious porky things" in here, you should tell the truth.

                                    Frankly, i'd give the religious/moral observers more of a break than the merely picky. I can see me making an effort to say "by the way, C., there's chick stock/bacon in the dressing" but there's no way I'm enabling somebody who doesn't like mushrooms. What's the worst that happens? they take a bite and don't like the taste and leave it on the plate? It seems I'm forced to eat blue cheese on every salad I'm ever served lately, curse it's trendiness, but it's not going to kill me.

                                    1. I have a large group of friends with a bunch of dietary restrictions, we frequently do outings where we cook for the group. Off the top of my head I can remember there were severe medical allergies to chocolate, wheat, mushrooms, shellfish, meat, eggs and onions. There were two medically necessitated vegetarians who ate fish. One vegetarian for moral reasons. Dealing with it really was not a big deal. We made sure whomever was menu planning had variety, lots of variety. We also looked for good but more simple dishes so there was less confusion and more opportunity to find something you could eat. The biggest one was to make sure that vegetarian options were truly vegetarian. We had to make sure people didn't put chicken stock, bacon etc. into the side dishes or salads. We tried to always have two meats, cooked without lots of add ins other than spices. Usually one was red meat or pork and the other a fish, seafood or chicken.

                                      This always seemed to work out and everyone was fed.

                                      1. Let me see if I've got this straight. You and your husband are virtually the only ones in a family of substantial size who care enough to take the time and trouble to host holiday gatherings. In the past, your husband frequently altered his menus and prepared four or five additional items - even expensive foods which did not get eaten - in order to accommodate those with "special needs", not matter what their provenance. I'd say the various cousins, in-laws, etc., who demand unusual treatment are not only lousy dinner guests, but ingrates as well. Tell them to bring their own food next time or not come.

                                        1. I have to ask: what is your motivation for hosting these family gatherings? Because it seems to me that if your intention was really to do something nice for your family by hosting a gathering and cooking for them, then accommodating their dietary requirements/requests would not be such a problem, because your goal would be to create a meal that everyone would enjoy. If, instead, you find yourself disregarding their needs, requests, etc. because they are getting in the way of what YOU want to do in the kitchen, then perhaps you need to reexamine your intentions and stop hosting these events. You're really just doing your guests a disservice by taking the course of action that you describe in your original post.

                                          That being said, I'm absolutely HORRIFIED that you and/or your husband think that it's your place to judge the sincerity of your in-law's Halal request simply because of the restaurants he frequents. As a Muslim, I applaud susancinsf's explanation of how eating at BK does not necessarily indicate a failure to keep Halal; I think she did a great job of clarifying that issue. I also think she made a very valid point in asking whether you have even discussed this request with your relative; perhaps if you did, you would learn that, like many other Muslims in America, he avoids pork but does not feel the need to observe strict Halal rules when it comes to other kinds of meat. Or perhaps he has some other reason for his "inconsistent" behavior. Whatever the case may be, I have to restate my opinion that it is NOT your place to judge his devoutness, and it is certainly NOT your place to take it upon yourself and subject him to something that is strictly forbidden by his religious teachings.

                                          Also, why do you think that the $37 of sea bass went uneaten? I know that I can tell how good my particular dishes are at a dinner party by the amount that is - or is not - left over at the end of the night. The good food is always polished off, unless really bad planning on my part led to there being more food at the table than could possibly be eaten. Again, if you take your guest's tastes into consideration, you will make food that they enjoy and there won't be any wasted. I can't believe that anyone would refrain from eating your food simply to spite you or out of rudeness. If they liked the food, and there were leftovers, then I'm sure they would be happy to take some of the leftovers home with them. My personal philosophy has always been that if my guests don't like my food, then that's my fault as the chef, NOT theirs as the guests.

                                          The "restrictions" that you listed don't sound particularly difficult to accommodate; however, perhaps if those are just two out of twenty-odd requests that you get, I can see how it would become a nuisance. At that point, I would say that it's up to the chef's discretion to determine which requests are reasonable and which are just plain bratty. But I think that religious requests should fall into the "always accommodate" category, and I think that the goal of any good host should be to create an experience that his/her guests will truly enjoy. If you just want to play in the kitchen for your own pleasure, then more power to you; just don't subject unsuspecting/unwilling family members to your whims.

                                          1. This is why my fiance and I discuss our food restrictions with our hosts and offer to bring something for ourselves if they are serving something we don't eat. Although she is physically capable of eating pork, her aversion to it is tremendous and affects her hugely.

                                            If, say, my brother and sister-in-law refused to provide us with food we can eat AND refused to let us bring something we could eat (or complained to everyone about it), then they must not care about me very much. For those who think it is rude to go and bring your own food, the question here is what do you want more, to spend time with me or for me to eat YOUR food? I don't force people to cook for me, that is why I will bring something. So far, no one has objected (I run in a good crowd!).

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: NewSushiFiend

                                              I see that my last post was removed very quickly. Someone here obviously objected...wonder who that could be? I applaud what NewSushiFiend has to say. Almost everyone I know who has special needs generously volunteers to help by bringing something or coming early to aid with whatever is needed. No one should take advantage of a host or hostess just because they enjoy cooking.

                                              1. re: NewSushiFiend

                                                I don't know exactly what word to use for your expectation that a host would be required to make sure that a menu for a party to which you and your fiancee were invited met the details of your "food restrictions."
                                                Should the host call you back to confirm details when the menu is finalized?
                                                And since you obviously don't approve, wouldn't it be a nice gesture to bring plenty of an alternate dish since other guests might have equally strong "aversions" to what the host chose to serve? Oh! I forgot. That's considered bad manners.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  We don't require the host to make sure that a menu for a party met the details of our food restrictions. We ask the host what will be served (explaining our restrictions) and offer to bring something if necessary. The host is aware of what we are doing before it happens so has the chance to say if it is unacceptable. Fortunately, our friends prefer our company over the slight inconvenience we may cause.

                                                2. re: NewSushiFiend

                                                  Could you be more specific or give us an example? You mentioned pork as something that your fiancee has an aversion to. I'd imagine that there would be other items served with the pork at a dinner party. Would you guys in this scenario then bring a meat substitute to your liking and eat the rest of the sides provided (i.e. vegetable, potato, rice, etc)?


                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                    A friend was serving ham for easter dinner. We, with the host's approval, brought fish for ourselves and ate the other sides. People asked, we explained, everyone understood. She also now has a medical striction on dairy, which makes things more complicated.

                                                    If I were hosting, I would never make my guest eat something they can't/won't or assume they should be happy with just sides. I'd want them to be happy. I invite people to spend time with them, not so they can eat a particular dish-cooking is an added pleasure to the event.

                                                    1. re: NewSushiFiend

                                                      ok cool, under those limited conditions I understand. But I gotta ask (if you don't mind); could you please list your collective "food restrictions"? I'm really curious.


                                                      Note: I hope that you brought enough fish for everyone :)

                                                      1. re: NewSushiFiend

                                                        Social obligation flows both ways. A host "invites people to spend time with them" as you say, but you also accept an invitation to spend time with the host and the other guests.
                                                        No host "makes" guests eat something they "can't/won't" and a gracious host provides an array of dishes that will ensure that you don't go hungry. It's entirely proper to advise any host - from your friends throwing the most casual cook-out to Buckingham Palace - of religious/allergies/medical restrictions. I think it's obnoxious of any host to ignore those.
                                                        I would adapt my entire menu to legitimate dietary concerns(of which I was given adequate notice) rather than have the disruption of one guest adding his own carry-out to my well-planned menu.

                                                  2. This is a reprehensible approach to "hosting" - you invited these people why are you going out of your way to make them unwelcome? Open a cookbook or search the web. It's simply not that complicated.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: odkaty

                                                      I think you missed the part about a family of "substantial" size. I agree with you that if you invite one or two people over, you should take care not to cook things those people are known to be adverse to. But if you are having a large gathering, you cannot leave off every single ingredient that might not be someone's favorite. Asking for that kind of accomodation at the expense of the other guests, as well as the host, makes for a rude GUEST, not host.

                                                      1. re: danna

                                                        To me, it seems like the real issue is not that the undesirable ingredients are used, but that the DH "forgets" to tell the guests that these ingredients have been included. While it may not matter that much for the mushroom hater, it's entirely inappropriate when the ingredient goes against someone's religious beliefs. It should be up to the guests to decide what they can and cannot eat, not the other way around.

                                                        1. re: danna

                                                          Nope, I didn't miss the "substantial size" reference. I regularly cook for my husband's immediate family (16 people including our household) and at my own extended family reunions - 23 regular attendants at last count.

                                                          And sorry if there was any confusion, but I wasn't advocating that the entire menu be 100% edible for everyone. For instance, my family's gatherings are always summertime - which means fresh tomatoes and greens. Several people in the family either can't abide tomatoes and greens or have a health issue. So, yes, tomatoes and greens are included in the menu, but are limited to one dish.

                                                      2. Good night, just cook a turkey or something. I don't understand the notion that being a "foodie" or a "chowhound" means that we must always inflict upon others our idea of what "good food" is. When you're having family to your home, make them comfortable. There's nothing wrong with not being "adventurous" in what one eats, and there's nothing wrong with having preferences much less dietary restrictions based on beliefs or allergies or simply dislikes. If you're going to lie to people about the food you're serving them, then simply don't invite them over.

                                                        I think many of us need to get over the idea that every meal must be chowish. Sometimes, its more important to think about the people than the food, regardless of how you think those people are acting or why. If you feel put out, then don't keep doing it.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                          I totally agree.

                                                          I also think however that there are differences between trying to leave out all the different ingredients that each individual dislikes from every dish and accommodating religious needs.

                                                          If the cousin doesn't like mushrooms, fine, not every dish contains mushrooms. At a large family dinner I'm sure she or he won't go hungry. He can quietly say "no, thank you" to that dish and eat others. Or if he doesn't know what has mushrooms and what doesn't, he can quickly taste and then not eat what he doesn't like.

                                                          OTOH, I totally agree that every effort should be made to accommodate religious beliefs. And occasional transgressions are not reason to refuse those accommodations. My husband's family are Hindu, and most are vegetarians (and all don't eat beef). But guess what? They eat at McDonald's all the time! They like the fries and even veggie burgers, and there are times when McDonald's (or something similar) might be the only place open in town. If you are of a religion that doesn't celebrate Christmas, and you have the day off, you just might "celebrate" by going to visit some family you don't get to see often. And you have to eat somewhere on the way....McDonald's might be the only choice.

                                                          I don't like bananas, and I won't eat them. Yet if someone invites me to dinner, I don't accept and say "Oh, by the way, I won't eat bananas." OTOH, if I am asked about food preferences, I will tell them that although I have no allergies, bananas are one thing I won't eat. My theory is that if you ask about food preferences, expect to honor them. If you don't ask, it is your guests' responsibility to tell you if there is anything they absolutely cannot eat. If they don't, then they should come to dinner and follow what my family calls Grandpa's Rule (mentioned here before, but worth mentioning again: "Eat it and shut up about it, or don't eat it and shut up about it." )

                                                          As I write this, I am having a fit of guilt: last night I had a dinner party at my house. My husband made a dish that contained bananas, as he knew many would enjoy it. He also knew that I wouldn't eat it (don't worry, I didn't go hungry:-). But someone was helping him serve, and started to give me some...which of course I refused loudly (heck, its my house!). This started some laughing and discussion about my banana phobia, and one of the guests recounted how she was so embarrassed when she had me for dinner at her house for the first time and she made a lovely dessert that contained bananas and I wouldn't eat it! And *I* was embarrassed that apparently I made enough of a fuss that she knew I disliked bananas...why couldn't I have just pretended I was on a diet, or was too full to eat more??? Lana, if you should read this, I'm sorry!

                                                        2. I would always do my best to accomodate any religious or dietary restrictions and vegetarianism. Now, if a person is extremely picky I simply would invite them over. What I mean by extremely picky surely isn't merely not liking mushrooms. For example we have a friend who can't eat:
                                                          1) pork
                                                          2) red meat (unless it's in a McDonalds hamburger)
                                                          3) anything in its original form (e.g. chicken leg: no, chicken salad: yes)
                                                          4) anything from the ocean

                                                          Now, it might be difficult for a non-foodie to please this type of individual. Note: Said friend asked me (after not being invited over for a dinner party in over a year) "had any parties lately, I've been trying to eat different things".

                                                          This does become difficult if the extremely picky eater is a family member and you tend to host many of the family events. I stand strong though and make a meal that pleases a crowd while not "selling out". For instance I recently served fried chicken, roasted salmon, gumbo, and kale. If you can't eat any or all of that you are simply unreasonable.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                            when dining in someone else's home, it is polite to eat the food they have prepared for you and do your best to put aside any food issues you might have except in the case of a (real) food allergy - which i'm pretty sure there are very few of. i don't think it's unreasonable for the host to assume that most people can do this and I don't think there is any need to lie about what ingredients you as a host are using in your food.

                                                            1. re: psawce

                                                              I disagree. It is most rude to serve a guest something that you know they can't or won't eat for religious reasons. To me, that is extremely disrepectful. Would you say: 'BIL, I know you are Muslim and don't eat pork, but I made pasta with sausage and mushrooms, hope you like it'.

                                                              If the host didn't know, and didn't ask, about restrictions, then I think the guest should just quietly thank them but not eat the restricted dish. However, if the host repeatedly wants to know why guest isn't eating any pasta or whatever, (and some hosts will ask repeatedly), then I think the guest is within bounds of politeness to tell the turth. Saying, 'oh I am so sorry, I can't eat pork because of my religion, I guess perhaps I should have told you so you wouldn't go to so much trouble, but the truth is I really enjoy just being here and your company most of all'.

                                                              Allergies are not that uncommon and it seems to be the height of carelessness, no, I would even go as far as to say negligence, to make assumptions about which are and which are not 'real', (whatever that means).

                                                            2. re: Chinon00

                                                              I am presuming you had no vegetarians in your crowd, because if you are a vegetarian you can only eat the kale, which does seem a bit restrictive or at least boring. And if one is a vegetarian and allergic to cabbage type vegetables (which I think is not that uncommon of an allergy?) I guess by your definition that person is unreasonable.

                                                              If I have vegetarian family member coming to dinner and I was serving that menu, I'd actually try to please the crowd by adding potatoes, rice, or a vegetarian main dish, or at least warn them that I was only serving kale other than dishes with fish and meat and let them know if they wanted to contribute a dish it would be welcome. (and the only reason I would ever consider asking them if they wanted to bring something would be if they are family, if they are guests I would cook it myself.)

                                                              I believe in asking my guests before they come to dinner if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies, asking more questions if I am not sure what their answer means (as in the case of the discussions above as to what is and isn't halal), and then considering their answers in setting my menu.

                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                Your last question is the proper approach. Itis SOP in casa Jfood. Ask what they might not be able to eat and try to work around it.

                                                                And having been on the other side of "stupid" when jfood told a server that he had a nut allergy and asked what was safe to order for dessert. The chocolate mousse tart. Well it arrived and was encased with hazlenuts with a hazlenut cream. Server comes back to check in and sees the uneaten dessert in front of jfood. "Is everything OK?" D'uh.

                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                  Let's see:

                                                                  Jfood would have dinner of gumbo, assuming it's not spicy
                                                                  Mrs jfood would have a dinner of salmon, assuming it was not served rare.

                                                                  But we would take some, be polite in the service, eat what we could and enjoy the company, that's why the jfoods would be there anyway.

                                                                2. This suggestion might sound dumb, but is there any option of suggesting a 'potluck' type of dinner once in a while? You and your DH can cook a few staple dishes and everyone else can pitch in and bring a few others. That way there's something for everyone's tastes/beliefs and you don't bear the burden of cooking everything (and of offending others). I do this quite often as it caters for a variety of tastes and beliefs, but it still allows me to showcase my foodie-ness.

                                                                  1. After reading through the "63 Relies so far" I can only reach one conclusion:

                                                                    Take them to Luby's

                                                                    1. Try laying out everything buffet-style and label the dishes. For example: Pasta with fennel sausage and tomatoes, Grilled Chicken with balsamic reduction, Vegetarian pilaf with peas and mushrooms, Summer salad with feta and pinenuts, etc.

                                                                      That way if there's someone with an allergy or aversion, they can pick and choose. Just be sure to have a variety, and encourage the pickiest to contribute a dish.

                                                                      1. After reading through most of these posts, all I wanted to say was that this has been somewhat of an eye opener for me. Not that I didn't know that people have to deal with these issues when entertaining nor that the need to consider these types of issues seems to becoming more frequent. It's that I truly hadn't given much thought to the fact that I hardly have any of these issues to consider when cooking for our extended family on either side and how fortunate I am because of that. I am going to be approaching hosting Christmas this year with a whole new attitude. (We even have a mixed family of Jewish and Christian members but basically non-practicing.)

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                          What you should truly be thankful for is that you have a large extended family that likes to join together and considers the company to be the most important item on the menu. If you have that, you are blessed.

                                                                          What runs through this entire thread (and a surprising number of similar ones that have been posted on chowhound lately, IMO) is a theme where both host and guest seem fixated on their personal needs and not on enjoying the meal together. I wonder if common courtesy has gone out the window?

                                                                          I would never dream of inviting someone over for dinner without asking their food preferences/restrictions. And I will make every effort to make sure there is good food for them to eat: That doesn't necessarily mean that every dish will be too their liking, but there will be good food for them. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the meal knowing there was nothing for my friends/family to enjoy.

                                                                          And although apparently I am not always perfect about this (see note above about my reaction to the banana desert) I see every dinner invitation as a gift and treat it accordingly: I enjoy the company and the conversation even if the food isn't perfect. I can always eat later.....

                                                                          Recently I had a dinner party at my house, and as usual I asked everyone if there was anything they couldn't eat before planning the menu (I was cooking a dish that contained peanuts, and with the number of severe peanut allergies it is always wise to ask...). No, no problems. As we were eating somehow the conversation got around to lactose intolerance, and one of the guests mentioned that he can eat a little dairy, but that for some reason yogurt just really made him sick. Well, of course there was yogurt on the menu that night. (fortunately only in side dishes). The food had been served buffet style, and my friend had obviously just not helped himself to any. He hadn't made a fuss, and indeed if the conversation hadn't occurred I never would have known that he didn't eat yogurt. He was the perfect guest, complimented the food that he could eat and liked, and he is welcome at my house anytime.....

                                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                                            "What you should truly be thankful for is that you have a large extended family that likes to join together and considers the company to be the most important item on the menu."

                                                                            How do you know I wasn't already thankful for that? Your post came across to me as condescending and presumptuous. You don't know me at all. And I wasn't commenting on that. I was commenting on the fact that I am fairly free to cook what I want for holiday gatherings without all kinds of dietary limitations and it just makes life easier.

                                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                                              I am really sorry that you interpreted my comment in the wrong way...I meant that to be a positive, supportive statement...not anything else!! It sounds like you have a great family and I was just confirming that, and that you have a great attitude about it....I'm sure you ARE thankful for that! I just wish all families are as good as yours.

                                                                              Again, I am truly sorry. No offense was meant.

                                                                        2. Absolutely, unquestionably, completely UNACCEPTABLE.

                                                                          I have vegetarian friends who are known to sneak a hot dog here and there (yes, it's the most disgusting form of meat on the planet... but i suppose its lack of ressemblance to meat is probably the appeal to said "cheating" vegetarian).

                                                                          However, when they come over to eat at my house, I prepare vegetarian food without hesitation. If they feel like bending the rules, it should be up to them how and when they do so - it's certainly not up to me to play food police and decide that one hot dog justifies chicken broth in the soup.

                                                                          Cooking for company is about sharing your food in a way that leaves your guests happy and satisfied. If it's such a chore to accomodate requirements for your guests, DH may want to consider giving up host duties and take everyone out to a restaurant instead.

                                                                          1. Hmmm...this reminds me of how horrified I was once when ar a dinner party, the host told me not to say anything to a guest who was kosher as he ate the sliced filet that he ( the host) told him was certainly a kosher cut of meat. ( It's not, for the record). I would say it's one thing if the guest chooses to eat what you are serving, but when you lie about it to them- that's just wrong.
                                                                            When I was little, my father was very conscious of what he ate and what he ate off of when we went to the "other side" for holidays etc...We were kosher, they were not. They would never serve shellfish or pork, but always made sure there was something that my father would eat. I recall him bringing paper and plastic a few times, but that wained as I got older. This same side of the family always made sure there was enough for the vegetarian relatives to eat, too. What's the point of having guests if your approach is to "crack the food whip" on them. I don;t get it.

                                                                            1. Don't call yourself a cook if you can't make a dinner without pork or mushrooms! I always ask if my guests if they have any food dislikes etc... before they show up and build my menu accordingly. Your DH obviously has no respect for his guests and if that's true, he most likely has no respect for the food he is working with either!

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Pablo

                                                                                But again doesn't it really matter how severe and predictable the guest's food restrictions are? Religious and dietary restrictions are very predictable along with vegetarianism. All should be respected; none of us want to make anyone ill or get them in trouble with their God. But I don't think any cook/ host should be obligated to also prepare what any of the guests "likes". What if one is invited to someone's home for a traditional Indian meal for instance and they don't "like" Indian food (any of it)? How insulting would it be to the host to bring with you food that "you" like? And would you seriously inform the host that you can't eat Indian food and could they therefore expand the menu to accomodate your preference? In this case I would suggest that the invited guest politely decline the invitation or deal with it.

                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  I would hope they would have the common sense to either decline or maybe stop by after dinner instead. You wouldn't go to sushi bar if you hated seafood would you? So why go to a dinner at someone's home that serves cuisine you don't like?
                                                                                  To embarrass yourself and the host?

                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                    Don't you think that your Indian food is a little more extreme than a simple dislike of mushrooms? Agreed, the guest should decline or claim to have another commitment before suggesting coffee/dessert/drinks afterwards as compromise. But bowing out because of a single disliked ingredient?

                                                                                    I'm throwing a housewarming later this month, and my guest list includes friends who are one or more of the following: vegetarian, vegan, meat-and-potatoes-only, lactose intolerant, celiac, diabetic or allergic to seafood. I plan on making at least one or two things to accomodate each and every one of them - that's part and parcel of being a good hostess.

                                                                                    If anything food restrictions/allergies/dislikes should be treated as a challenge, rather than an obstacle. It's kind of like photographing in black and white, or composing songs on a piano with a broke Middle C - if you love your art (or your food, in this case), why not look at this as an opportunity to be creative?

                                                                                    1. re: tartiflette

                                                                                      Because some people can leave you with only one note to play.

                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                        See above re: meat and potatoes (in the literal sense)... or vegan... or the most challenging: lactose intolerant/celiac/vegetarian with IBS and two picky kids. You'd be surprised how much room you can find to wiggle around in that single note.

                                                                                        It shouldn't be a chore to accomodate for the flaws of friends and family - that's the tradeoff for getting to enjoy all the other wonderful things they bring to our lives. Really, if someone is so awful and miserable that you can't take the time to accomodate their likes/dislikes, why in the heck invite them over for dinner in the first place?

                                                                                        1. re: tartiflette

                                                                                          I don’t mind a challenge as long as the basis isn’t arbitrary (or excessively so or simply excessive). Therefore, if there is a guest who can’t eat just a handful of things for subjective reasons; reasons that have nothing to do with religion or health, etc; I will accommodate them. It is these people whom I call “axiomatic eaters” that I don’t have patience for. By axiomatic I mean that they will ONLY eat a handful of things and will be VERY reluctant to approach anything out of their very, VERY narrow comfort zone.
                                                                                          I have a buddy (an axiomate) who considers anything other than:

                                                                                          1) fried chicken
                                                                                          2) collard greens
                                                                                          3) baked macaroni & cheese
                                                                                          4) candied yams

                                                                                          to be “not normal” food. As a result, he will become very anxious or uncomfortable when invited for dinner when these 4 items are not included (he reacts as if I’m trying to poison him). Note: I’ve enjoyed these foods but to accommodate him and others like him must this be the menu at every dinner party?

                                                                                          I was at a wedding reception where the menu included:

                                                                                          1) Caesar salad
                                                                                          2) Spinach ravioli
                                                                                          3) Surf and turf with roasted potatoes and green beans

                                                                                          One woman who happened to be the minister’s wife did not touch plate after plate as it was served. I asked “is there some wrong with your food?” She responded “No, it’s just that I like NORMAL food”.

                                                                                          I was at a great classic French bistro with another couple. The guy ordered steak but his wife (a grown woman), who claimed that she was “very hungry” before the meal ordered a bowl of ice cream for her entrée.

                                                                                          These types of people (and there are many) I simply will not accommodate at dinner parties.

                                                                                2. Food terrorism? Yes, actually. Being a "foodie" doesn't excuse bad manners, and feeding people food you know they don't/can't/won't eat surruptitiously is, in my world, poor manners to the extreme. I'm not trying to harp on you, ThisNThat, but you did ask.

                                                                                  We have all manner of odd food issues in our group of friends, including some issues that change depending on one person's general health, and I can't think of a single dinner party (formal or casual, hosted by us or by others in the group) in the last few years in which each issue wasn't accounted for and accomodated. It's not hard, it's just about being willing to put the health and happiness of one's guests above one's own desire to show off.

                                                                                  You don't really need to make so many extra dishes, you just need to plan well and be flexible (maybe that's not the right night for the pork-stuffed mushrooms your DH has been dying to make, you know?). Perhaps our group is anomalous, but when there are vegetarians present, for example, we often just make an all-veg menu. A tasty one. Or if the non-dairy person is there, no cheese-laden or cream-sauced foods are on the menu for the evening.

                                                                                  We've only had one dinner for which a guest felt the need to bring her own food. She couldn't have gluten, and despite offers to make her a gluten-free seder meal, she felt more comfortable with food she'd prepared herself, in her gluten-free kitchen -- given her bad reactions to gluten, I can understand. No one was offended, and it all worked out just fine.

                                                                                  Anyway. My $.02

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: litchick

                                                                                    Very well put! When one invites guests into their home it is up to the host to provide for the needs and comfort of their guests and set foodie pretense aside. If these relatives don't appreciate your cooking and you are not willing to tailor the meal to fit their needs....don't invite them...or dine with them in a restaurant where they can select their own food.

                                                                                  2. I don't know your family but I know my own and their eternal food limitations are challenging at best. Knowing that they love 99.9% of what I make, I keep their "limitations" in mind but rarely extend myself to accomodate them.
                                                                                    It is bad manners to be a demanding guest. Eat what you want, leave what you don't. However, It is simply disrespectful to dishonor someone's religious belief, because they are inconvienent to you.

                                                                                    1. Have your DH re-read Brillat-Savarin's work, especially the quote: "To invite someone under your roof is to take responsibility for their happiness".

                                                                                      1. Poor ThisNThat! Seems like most people here have been beating up on her and hubby. Re-reading the original post, I get the impression that maybe, just maybe, this couple is feeling unappreciated and put-upon - and have been for some time. Family gatherings can be stressful enough. Since no one else in this large family wants to step up to the plate and shoulder the responsibility for everyone's "happiness", a pot luck or even assigned dishes (Jane will bring the salad, Tommy the potatoes, etc.) might be the way to go.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: rexsreine

                                                                                          I don't think the beating up is about them feeling unappreciated, though. I agree, they clearly seem to be and may well in fact be unappreciated by their families. But that doesn't give license to lie about what's in food to people. The whole two wrongs bit, I guess.

                                                                                        2. This makes me think of that classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It isn't going to happen and it's driving you nuts! Worse, your relatives probably leave your house wondering why your DH can't just fix a simple meal like everybody else. Why does he always have to do all that froo-froo food?
                                                                                          Maybe it's driving them nuts too. Unfortunately not nuts enough to take over.

                                                                                          So why don't you just stop the craziness? Save the wonderful food and the effort for friends who will appreciate it. Fix these relatives some plain food.
                                                                                          A big hunk of non-pork meat. A turkey or roast of some kind, done just plain. No unusual spices or flavors. Regular potatoes or rice. Simple pasta. A few veggie sides, a couple kinds of breads and rolls. Some Rachel Ray/Sandra Lee boring. Even the dreaded green bean/mushroom soup/fried onion casserole because it's familiar. Hold the bacon, ham, meat stock, and mushrooms. Make stuff even a vegetarian can eat. Put out a big vat of gravy. A few different desserts and plain fruit for the dieters. Send the leftovers home with them.

                                                                                          Yeah, it can be boring to cook that stuff although it is sometimes harder than it looks to turn out a perfect roast or great au gratin potatoes. But everyone can find something they can eat from a table full of plain stuff that doesn't require explanations. Green peas are green peas. A do-it-yourself salad bar makes everybody happy.

                                                                                          It's only one meal. Put out plain stuff and let them fix it how they want. You're not eating it.

                                                                                          1. I'm never inviting anyone to eat at my house ever again! Everyone will jsut have to eat in restaurants so that everyone is pleased with their meals. If only we could choose the restaurant..........

                                                                                            1. I would try to prepare dishes to accomodate certain needs/preferences so that the folks have choices. I would never, ever lie about the ingrediants.

                                                                                              1. Concealing ingredients from people is just plain mean! It doesn't matter if they just 'say' they don't like them and you know they sneak them behind people's backs... they're not three year-olds so it's up to them to choose what to eat.
                                                                                                I'd say that for a special occasion, you need to have ONE savoury dish on the table that is suitable for each person to eat - it doesn't have to be a fancy main course, it can be a side dish or something easy to fix... a vegetarian can make a nice plate full of side dishes if you haven't put chicken stock and bacon in everything! Buffets work well for large groups or lots of picky people - then they can choose what they want for themselves.
                                                                                                And if it's really too much work, then just don't do it. Abdicate from the hosting/cooking role for awhile and see what happens... at best somebody else will step up, and at worst the gathering won't happen this year (and maybe they'll appreciate you more afterwards when they realise what they missed out on!)