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When you invite company for dinner do you make whatever you want or cater to their special tastes

Sometimes I do make certain things for my guests as not everyone likes everything you are making

Just curious what most people do

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  1. Ideally, I would like to make whatever I want but the truth is that I would hate it if I put in a lot of effort and my guests didn't eat it or left most of it. I know I would eat absolutely everything that is put in front of me at someone else's house (regardless of whether I like it or not) but I don't have any food allergies or intolerances which I know some people do.

    One of my friends is a Muslim and she only eats halal meats (and obviously doesn't drink alcohol) so when she's over, I make sure I cater to her needs. Another friend of mine only eats boiled pasta with olive oil and soy burgers with brown rice so I know not to bother cooking for her because it would depress me no end...

    1. I make up a menu that pleases me, but I take into account whether or not a guest is a vegetarian or has allergies to certain foods. If I know that a particular guest has an aversion to or an affinity for certain foods, I take that into account, as well. Making up a menu is always a juggling act.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jmnewel

        I agree -- in the best of all worlds, you would make what you want and your guests would eat it. However, it's certainly considerate to take into account at the very least things they cannot eat (don't serve pot roast to a vegetarian, don't serve spaghetti to someone who is gluten intolerant, etc.). Beyond that, there's a lot of room for compromise. I don't expect all my friends to remember my likes and dislikes -- if they serve something I don't like, I just eat around it as unobtrusively as possible. On the other hand, I want my friends to enjoy my cooking, so I try to plan things I know they will enjoy. I even serve foods that I don't like -- for example, I don't like tomatoes in my salad, so I'll make a salad with cherry tomatoes that won't get "tomato slime" on the salad portion I serve myself.

      2. i love food too much to cook for fussy eaters! [.......we go out instead.]

        in most cases people would like to stay longer at yours truly's hotel-restaurant-pub. always nice(st) things to eat and drink at my house.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Pata_Negra

          I agree. I have one friend who would be such a pain in the neck to cook for that I wouldn't dream of it. And that's not even taking her husband into account. I try hard to cook things that my company would like, but if they want to use food as a control issue, well, nobody's going to shove it down your throat, so you win! Just don't complain aout being hungry near me.

          IMO, most food issues are control issues rather than genuine sensitivities or allergies. Life's too short.

          1. re: EWSflash

            "IMO, most food issues are control issues rather than genuine sensitivities or allergies."
            as someone who suffers from genuine sensitivities and has family members with fatal food allergies, i find blanket statements like that offensive. and unfortunately, i've gotten extremely ill on more than one occasion from eating food that i shouldn't have, either because i didn't want to make as issue out of it when confronted/challenged by skeptics with a similar attitude, or because a host or restaurant didn't take me seriously and insisted that something was safe for me to eat when it wasn't. you're right that life's too short - for me, it's too short to waste precious days miserable in bed, or even worse, in the ER.

            as far as entertaining goes, if someone requests a particular dish - which happens often- i'll gladly oblige and plan the rest of the meal around it. otherwise i create the menu, check with my guests to make sure it works for them, and make adjustments to accommodate preferences, intolerances, allergies, etc. if necessary.

            1. re: EWSflash

              I disagree. I have many sensitivities and have gotten into arguments about them because people think I'm lying. I have problems both with eating too much fatty food and am lactose intolerant, but I typically know how much I can handle in a day. It can pose problems for surprise dinner parties because something I might be able to have with advanced planning, I can't have for a surprise party because I've already had my milk product/fatty food allotment for the day.

              1. re: EWSflash

                IMO, I've found that people who say that most food issues are about control are fortunate to have few or no food sensitivities. It might perhaps do for them to give thanks that they are so fortunate, and then to show a bit of compassion for those who aren't.

                1. re: Cachetes

                  I did not mean to imply that there was no such thing as a food allergy. If somebody has celiac disease or their throat swells up when they eat bananas, that's a real issue. I'm just saying that most of the people I know with food issues don't have real allergies or sensitivities, rather they're couching dislikes as sensitivities, which is cowardly AND makes it bad for people with genuine problems because they tend to get lumped in together.

                  You're right, I'm VERY fortunate and very grateful not to have any food allergies. My son is allergic to bananas, thank God it isn't something as ubiquitous as peanuts or wheat.

                  I'm also sensitive to the plight of people with food issues as long as they're real issues.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    <My son is allergic to bananas>

                    Me too! I thought I was the only one in the world.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      I guess you are right that some people use food to control or just get what they want. But I also would surmise that these people probably aren't as prevalent on chowhound as they are in the general population. As for an allergy to bananas, I've never even hear of that before!

              2. I definately take their tastes into consideration, but I've been so, so lucky. There are no picky, fussy eaters in our group at all - anything goes!

                1. If I invite someone to a meal, why would I NOT be sensitive to their preferences? We happen to have a home in a resort location and have a lot of house guests. Before they come I have a brief email questionnaire asking if there are allergies or any medical restrictions. But I also ask if there are "foods you hate" or "foods you love." I also ask about spice "heat" tolerance. I like to cook but why cook something your guest won't like? It is not my job to "educate" their palates. Having said this, I do try to make interesting dishes within parameters set up by their responses.

                  1. Most people have a few things they don't/can't eat. I don't consider that to be normal. If I'm cooking for company, I want them to enjoy it. So if there is any doubt about their preferences or dislikes, I ask them in advance before I do all the planning and shopping. If necessary, it is usually no trouble to change a menu plan or to serve a certain item, like anchovies for a salad, on the side. The exception might be if an invited guest doesn't like any of the traditional dishes that go with a Thanksgiving dinner.

                    1. Most of the people that I cook for, I already know their food allergies, and food dislikes.
                      I wouldn't think of having a dinner party, and making a dish they hated. Good grief I cook out of love, I want to see my guests happy, in love with my food, and leave with a full tummy.

                      That's brings up another issue, when people say "No thank you." leave it alone. I don't think it's right to probe into someones medical business at a dinner party. I will cringe, if someone else starts to question them, geez!

                      For the people that I am not sure about, say for instance a guest of a guest, which happens. I can't do much about that except when it's buffet, make my little signs that say what the dish is. I have had people come up and ask, "does this have nuts in it?"

                      When it's people I know, I always ask ahead. But sometimes you can't be everywhere.
                      I have friends that are vegetarian. I had a pot of beans in a crockpot and forgot to let them know I'd flavored them with pork. I was so embarrassed. They were sitting there enjoying a bowls of beans, and I had to tell them. They were so gracious, they even ate another helping but I was mortified. I had made food for them but evidentally they saw the beans and just went for it. The husband is from Sri Lanka, I don't know if its a religious belief or what. His wife does eat meat and fish at times, because she will bring me the best sushi (she's Japanese).

                      I have other friends that have dislikes. One hates lemon, one mayonnaise, another fish another tomatoes, another mushrooms. That's why when you see my menus for parties they're all over the map. They're that way to accommodate my darling friends who are from everwhere. I don't find it difficult to work around these things, the menu just grows is all.

                      1. Always only because there tastes may be out of my comfort zone and it pushes me as a cook to create for someone else and make them smile is worth the effort.... My mother and I once a month would just open a cookbook to a page and pick a dish just to see if we could make it and how good it was

                        1. I mostly cater to the tastes of guests - that is part of the fun of it for me, to make them feel like a special guest, and show that I remember their preferences. I also like the challenge of learning to make gluten free or whatever. The only people I ever try to "push" my tastes on are my immediate family (parents, sister etc.) And that is because with them I feel like I can try to "convert" them and push their boundaries, because that is how we are with each other. In fact, sometimes I am sneakier than that - like the time they said they refused to try turnips and I hid some in the mashed potatoes . :)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Jitterbug

                            "I mostly cater to the tastes of guests - that is part of the fun of it for me, to make them feel like a special guest"

                            That's it exactly! I want my guests to feel special, so I definitely cater to their special tastes! I enjoy the challenge of creating a menu that takes into account people's likes and dislikes, and also any allergies. I would hate to send a friend into an allergic reaction, it is better to avoid that particular food item than risk hurting a friend. Some of my most satisfying parties have been those which I've thrown for people with multiple food intolerances (gluten free, seafood free), it is very gratifying when the guest eats a lot and asks for seconds and recipes and everything. One particular party, it became very clear that most of the parties this guest attended did not take her needs into account, and she was very grateful that someone had made an effort for a change.

                            Of course, sometimes I mess up. There was the time I made a 5 course meal for a friend who hated cheese. Yup, every course had some kind of cheese. I had to scramble to make a meal of it for her, and in the end, there was only one course that she couldn't eat (Cheese course, of course). I was a little embarrassed, but in the end we all had a good night, and now we laugh about it.

                            1. re: moh

                              LOL that could have been me! (I despise cheese in all forms and can smell it a mile away!) Thankfully all of my friends know this fun fact. But then again, none of my friends ever cook for me!

                            2. re: Jitterbug

                              Yep, I enjoy the challenge of cooking within limitations, so I don't mind making a meal to meet my guests' needs/wants. I can experiment with anything I want when it's just the husband and I for dinner.

                            3. Ideally I balance both my guest's needs and preferences and my desire to expand my culinary horizons.

                              This weekend that meant picking up GF buns for a few guests who are gluten free. We had a bbq which meant burgers and sides - I made a greek inspired pasta salad but subbed tinkyada brown rice pasta for the traditional wheat. No one semed to notice the change since the bowl was emptied. Dessert - mini meringues with lemon curd, and blueberry sauce along with a lemon pound cake and lemon rice loaf.

                              All of this took a little planning but put my gf guests at ease and they were able to enjoy most of the same menu as my other friends.

                              1. I think menu planning is one of the greatest cooking pleasures available. It's so enjoyable to think about the possibilities, what goes with what, etc. I do consider what people like (and if entertaining s/o new, ask if there are any off-limits foods). We have a very close friend who loves to eat but will not eat onions under any circumstances (garlic is fine) and who loves dessert but only if it's chocolate - the no onions rule can be a bit vexing but is manangeable. We don't run with any vegans or other more restricted diet folks, but have a friend who is a "fishetarian" for whom I cook lacto/ovo/piscine...Since one cooks to show one's affection and respect for one's family and friends, I can't imagine just putting food on the table and expecting people to deal with it regardless of their preferences.

                                1. I know too many fussy eaters to not cater to their tastes. Sometimes this will mean that I make two mains and serve family style, but other times it means that I will cater to the least common denominator, but try to make something exciting, creative and yet safe enough that everyone can enjoy.

                                  1. I guess that depends on how much I want them to come back again!

                                    Seriously, I try to cater to my guest's likes and dislikes but I'm not going to go over the top about it. If I know they don't like red meat I'm not going to hold a steak night in their honour... what would be the point? But I'm sorry, if you will only eat one specific brand of food product (usually something exotic and extra-expensive) you're on your own.

                                    1. I always mix it a bit. Main is always catered to taste, besides it gives me an excuse to break out of my usual round of dishes. Dessert is catered somewhat to taste (chocolate or fruit dessert?), I ask if they have a preference, and usually it's mildly ambiguous, like "something with strawberries", so I just take it from there. I usually do one thing that I've been jonesing for lately that I want to share, or a dish that I want to "show off".

                                      1. I try as much as possible to cater to their tastes or needs. I will say, though, that it gets rather tricky with large groups because several of my family and friends have conflicting needs, from celiac to alcoholism, diabetes, allergies and just plain dislikes. Often times potluck, asking everyone to bring a card with ingredients, can be a good solution. I kind of miss throwing dinner parties where I had the pleasure of feeding friends and family without worry. Family vacations where we share a kitchen are particularly stressful, and most of the time, we end up doing an assemble your own______ with different options on the table. I often feel guilty as a guest asking about ingredients, as I have food allergies and sensitivities that lead to migraines, so I'll sometimes just eat what I know is safe and work around the rest.

                                        1. I used to have a friend who could not eat garlic or onion. That was not fun at all!

                                          1. If I'm inviting someone to dinner, I would always cater to their choices. I want them to have an enjoyable visit - why would I not cater to their choice?