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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the year!

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Happy Holidays Chowhounds!

It's that time again and I want your help to head off a certain holiday entertaining problem at the pass. Quite surprisingly (let me be a surprised optimist!) I've found over the past few years that when I include families with children in our holiday events there are always a few who make 'kid food' demands.

I've always entertained quite a lot and now that my child is in elementary school I allow him to invite friends (and their corresponding grown ups) to our parties. They are usually happy to come and we've met a lot of nice people... but inevitably I have one of the mothers (fathers don't do this in my experience) call up and either ask to review my menu or launch into an explanation of what her child will and will not eat.

To be more clear, this is Open House style entertaining not a sit down dinner and I have no intention of cooking Kid Food or handling food aversions. I have a child and he has never gone hungry at one of these events, probably because he's never hear of Kid Food. The upcoming event will begin at 7pm so guests with picky eaters can easily feed them beforehand and I am serving at least 20 different dishes.

So how do you/would you handle this?

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  1. It might be helpful to let us know what you plan on serving as it stands now.
    Some mothers can be so irrational with their chld's eating demands it's tough to even guess what the demands may be.
    Even what used to be the most kid friendly foods now have some mother's fraught with terror.
    PB&J - Nuts and (gasp!) white bread can be no-no's in some households.
    Chicken fingers - breaded and possibly fried?
    mac and cheese - "My kid can't eat dairy, please use all soy ingredients" lol

    My advice,
    If someone were to call you, I would take any allergies seriously, but tell the parents just what you told us, that you will have about 20 dishes and you're certain there will be *something* their DC can eat.
    Good luck and I hope all goes well!

    1. People can be so rude! I would not even get into that conversation. In a situation like this, I would only ask if there are serious allergies you should be aware of, and then politely say that you are planning to serve a variety of dishes and there should be something little Johnny can eat, but if little Johnny cannot attend, you perfectly understand. Who needs guests like that.

      On another note, the children in my extended family are all rather sophisticated eaters, much more so than I was. However, if they were inviting friends, I would make sure to have a few 'kid-friendly' dishes on hand.

      1 Reply
      1. re: brandygirl

        If someone were to call you, I'd tell them what you plan to offer. If they start to say, "Little Johnny can't have X, Y & Z" I'd say, "We were so looking forward to having you this year, but we completely understand if you can't make it."

        Then, you give them the choice: they can bring something for Little Johnny to eat, or they can skip the party. You do not let them have power over you. You are the hostess. You rule.

        My experience is that kids will eat a) turkey b) mac and cheese c) all your red and green M&Ms. Have those three things and they'll be okay.

      2. I had a picky eater, and my DH is the pickiest of all, but I would have never thought about reviewing your menu. I just fed them before hand just in case. But I think if you put some cheese and crackers, fresh vegetables with a dip, and some cut up fruit that should cover the picky ones.

        2 Replies
        1. re: danhole

          I serve lots of cheese and fruit and there are so many choices - but the food does tend to be a little bit sophisticated, I wouldn't say it's anything way out there but there isn't any turkey or mac 'n cheese. But I think the same way that you and some others do about picky eaters. I think it's a shame if your children or spouse won't eat a variety of foods but if that's not something you want to change then wouldn't you just feed your children beforehand?

          It's just weird. But now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I will add macaroni and cheese to the menu...

          1. re: Kater

            Kater, I wouldn't bother. Mac 'n cheese is on that "suspect" list with all the lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, etc. Unless it would really compliment your menu, I don't think you need it. If they are hungry, they will find something to eat, or they will leave early! It's an Open House, so people won't expect to have a full meal. Like you said, it's not a sit down dinner. You'll be fine!

        2. In fifth's book, if you have a picky kid or one with a lot of dietary intolerances, have the kid eat first.

          1. Yeah, here is what I have come to realize. You have a party...any kind of party....you put a bunch of kids together, they run like wild dogs and play. You basically have to hold them down to get them to eat anything anyway. Chips and salsa. Veggies and dip. Olives. Cheese and pepperoni tray. And surprisingly enough, every once in awhile, if they stop playing long enough to eat, they will generally try something thats there.

            Don't sweat it. The worst that will happen is the kids will be mad they had to stop playing for their friends to go home at the end of the party.

            1. My son is a picky eater, but I wouldn't expect you to cook kid food for him. He's often had a piece of fruit, bread and butter, chips and salsa or even nothing at parties and he hasn't starved yet. I don't feed him ahead of time, because I'd like him to be hungry enough to try something new. One thing I do appreciate is when hosts offer a semi-healthy drink such as juice or juice squeeze for the nondrinkers.

              BTW, everytime I see this thread that SONG gets stuck in my head. Grrrrrr.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Glencora

                Great tip re, non-alcoholic drinks. In all honesty, I never gave it much thought until I became good friends with a non-drinker a few years ago. I've found that the sparkling lemonade in glass bottles goes over really well because it's got a special occasion feel. And I make sure to put out an assortment of sparkling waters.

              2. Just tell them that you will be serving a wide variety of dishes, but that they should feel free to bring something for their little Johnny if they are worried that he won't find anything to eat. Do NOT let yourself be held hostage by these unreasonable demands! Frankly, I am appalled at the way people act. I must be lucky, because I just don't encounter these people when I entertain.

                3 Replies
                1. re: nofunlatte

                  There is no possible way I would consider inviting someone to bring special food to a party. The hostess has her hands full with her own plates and bowls in the kitchen without the nightmare of someone else's imported carnage! No way!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Oh, I wasn't asking someone to bring "special" food! You probably misunderstood me. But if someone's kid (or adult) is a problem eater, I see no harm in allowing them to bring something that their little sprogling can eat. I wouldn't ask them to bring something for everyone! And it's no extra work for me if they bring something. I've had friends on wacky diets who have volunteered to bring their own food--they want to enjoy a fun evening with everyone else without an additional burden on the hostess (which would be me!)

                    1. re: nofunlatte

                      Actually I think the last thing that I would want is someone with so little social sense bringing alternate food to my party and getting underfoot in my kitchen trying to feed Little Junior. Some people could probably manage to heat food and feed a child without making a spectacle of themselves by I can't imagine any of my past or present Kid Food guests being able to do it without making enormous problems of themselves!

                2. Having read the replies so far, it appears that I'm the meanie of the group. But I don't mind... '-) If someone called me with the "my kid doesn't like" routine, including "my kid is allergic to" bit, I would say, in a gentle voice, "Oh, I'm so sorry! I will be serving a variety of dishes, but if you prefer to leave him with a babysitter, I understand completely."

                  And then I'd add that person to my "Never Invite Again" list! If I sound Grinch-like, maybe I am, but I do not understand or have any empathy for anyone who is so unappreciative of someone else's holiday entertaining that they behave this way. And I'll bet they're the ones who never entertain. Bah-humbugs all over them!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Oh! I do not want to be thought of as a Chowhound pushover! While I can't seem to be as direct as you when I'm faced with these calls I never ever ever invite them again! But when they call and ask about Kid Food (they call it that, I'm not kidding!!!!) I tend to stammer and play along as if this is a perfectly rational phone call. I don't change my menu (though I am thinking of mac and cheese this year - but an upscale version that this sort of child probably won't touch!) in response to the call but I don't think I could pull off your script!

                    1. re: Kater

                      I think explaining that you'll have a wide variety and following that up with we understand if you can't make it is a good way to politely but firmly let them know just how rude they are being. If their kids are that picky, hoepfully they know enough to pack a little something in the car for their kid just in case they start to throw a fit because they're hungry and can't eat anything at the party. Hopefully you don't get offended if they do bring in something to eat (lunch box style) for their kid.

                  2. Luckily, our kids are pretty much grown up and have always been somewhat adventerous eaters. The focus on kids today makes some parents extremely rude. Years ago, I actually had a mother call me up icw my DD's Bday party to request we NOT serve cake because little Johnny is a diabetic. I am not kidding! People want to abdicate responsibility for teaching their children to others by dictating what can/can't be served.

                    You should not have to change your menu. As long as you are not serving only blini with caviar, or something that children will patently not eat, you will be OK. Encourage them to bring a sack for Johnny with his faves if he won't eat, along with disposables. Explain that you can't accommodate them using your oven, toaster oven or M/W. Do agree on lots of non alcoholic drinks.

                    Word of caution - make sure the kids don't have access to the bar or alcohol, even accidentally. We attended a Xmas party years ago hosted by people without children who didn't segregate alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic punch. Our 4 yr old drank several cups of alcoholic punch without realizing. Thank goodness, nothing serious happened. We found her asleep on the host's bed snoring. Just a heads up for headaches you don't need.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      LOL! You're right, Diane! And kids especially love egg nog, no matter how much rum you have in it! But the kid-caution doesn't end there. When my daughter was little -- around two and a half -- I had a huge Christmas Eve dinner party, and I thought the guests were going to stay long enough to turn it into a New Years Eve party! Back in those days, I did everything over-the-top. Christmas Eve dinner had been Oysters Rockerfeller, standing ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast goose with chestnut stuffing, a whole roast suckling pig with an apple in its mouth (of course! and a red velvet bow with holly round its neck too!), and all the trimmings, with flaming plumb pudding for dessert. After dinner, open bar with champagne, egg nog, and every kind of mixed drink imaginable. And when everyone finally cleared out at three in the morning (do I sound like an ungracious hostess?) I was too tired to even empty an ashtray! I crashed, leaving half full drink glasses and all just where people left them. When I got up the next morning, my daughter had emptied most of the glasses and was rolling around the house laughing at everything! Next party I emptied all the glasses, no matter how tired I was! She was my angelic imp. At that age, she would also sneak in the kitchen when I had company, eat a HEAD of garlic, then come out and go from guest to guest saying, "Kiss! Kiss!" At times I had large collections of badly wilted guests.

                      The thing I found most useful in keeping the kids out of the egg nog was to set up a kids' table when there were to be a fair number of children. Worked every time.

                      Another interesting phenomenon I discovered by chance is that the more elegant the food, the less people eat. When I would do parties with pates en croute, hams napped en gelee with fancy art work embedded in it, smoked pheasant (with feathers on display) and such, half the amount of food would be consumed as when I did parties with pigs in a blanket, crudites and dip, and other more "user friendly" foods. At first I was puzzled. Didn't my upscale food taste good? So I did some research by asking questions... The standard answer was, "No! The food was absolutely delicious, but it was so lovely too look at that by the time I started eating, I was full!" So if you want to entertain on the cheap, cook really fancy! But then again, maybe people have changed over the last couple of decades. Or maybe they were just being polite?

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Caroline, you would be surprised at the lack of sophistication of some people's palettes! As CHs, we eat a wide diversity of meats, poultry, fruits & veggies, but a lot of people don't. Here in Ohio, I work with quite a few people who have never had duck, goose, veal or lamb. We have wonderful farmer's markets in the summer, and many people have to be pushed to try some of the bounty (kabocha squash, brussels sprouts, etc.). There are people who just aren't curious about food and if it doesn't fall into their limited range, they avoid or make excuses. That is why pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs are the first items to go on a buffet table. Keep on making it Caroline, just send me the invitation!

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          Diane, you would be amazed at the things in this world that do not surprise me any more, including picky eaters! And I lived in Dayton for four years. What can I say?

                          The elaborate French speads for cocktails parties were when I was married to my second husband, who was then working in the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance lab at University of California at San Diego, and our guests were almost all Ph.D. research scientists. They eat pretty much anything.

                          The super elaborate Christmas dinners were when I was married to my first husband, an Air Force air traffic controller, and we were stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, in Las Vegas. I cooked that same Christmas menu all four years we were there, and my husband's commander and his wife were our co-hosts and would supply the wines. More than half of our guest list of a total of 20 people was always comprised of very young airmen who had just finished air traffic control school and were having their first and very difficult Christmas away from their families simply because they couldn't afford the travel. To a soul they were always so awed by the food, as well as by having Christmas dinner in the company of their squadron commander, that bless their hearts, they never had time to think of whether they missed their families! The shy but grateful thank-you letters I got from a few of their mothers were some of the best Christmas gifts I've ever recieved!

                          But I also know how to make pigs in a blanket. I just try very hard not to have to! I don't like the way they taste. '-)


                    2. As a former picky eater, I can promise you that it's not your job to accommodate these people. Simply state that you are serving a wide range of foods, and if that's insufficent, they can feed the child before coming. Remind them that this is a social event primarily, not a meal, and you simply are unable to make any changes to your plans.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Terrieltr

                        That's entirely an appropriate response, one that I would try. After I stopped laughing.

                        ("Kid food? Are you joking? You mean like Bagel Bites? Oh - just come anyway and it they don't like it you can stop by McDonald's on the way home." That's what I would want to say!)

                      2. One thing you guys are forgetting, this isn't limited to kids. I have had so many adults, friends, relatives etc., call and ask me what I was serving. I have even had people come here and tell me that I shouldn't serve this or that,and not to serve tap water. One year we ran out of bottled water, and someone wouldn't drink anything but, so my husband took an empty water bottle, filled it up with water and said he found another bottle, they drank it.

                        I keep a kosher house and would not let people bring in other foods. Secondly, my husband can be a picky eater, but he goes eats what he wants and thats it. He would never think of saying anything, he always if worse comes to worse he would stop and eat something, but has not done so yet.