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Planning a dinner party, How do you handle dietary restrictions

p
potbellypig Feb 15, 2013 06:41 AM

hi,
Nowadays it seems like everyone has some dietary restrictions, and I understand that. We have vegetarian friends, gluten free, no dairy, etc. If I know someone has a dietary restriction, of course I do my best to serve foods they can eat.

When planning a dinner party with several people you don't know well, do you feel the need to ask if there are any dietary restrictions?

And for example, I have a friend who only buys organic foods. She will not purchase anything else. She likes everything plain--dry salad, no dressing, dry bread--no butter. I think you get the picture. So I'm including her in my dinner party. Do I need to purchase organic foods? Do I leave the garlic out of my sauteed spinach?

To me, a true dietary restriction is different from a preference. Do you agree?

And if you have special dietary needs, how do you handle it when someone invites you to dinner? Do you let them know what you cannot eat?

thanks!!

  1. l
    laliz Feb 15, 2013 07:58 AM

    I am diabetic and very lactose intolerant. I go to dinner and eat what I can eat. I don't have food allergies per se, those are different in my thinking. My sister cannot eat nuts or seafood, and when inviting her I obviously don't prepare anything with nuts or seafood.

    I agree with you, a restriction is different from a preference. Our family get togethers include me and my sister and low carbers, vegetarians etc. We make dishes everyone can eat, but we also include dishes that some might not partake of i.e. we don't give up turkey at Thanksgiving, but we do have a tofuturkey and mashed cauliflower as well.

    Do NOT eliminate the garlic from the spinach.

    2 Replies
    1. re: laliz
      i
      Isolda Feb 16, 2013 01:51 PM

      Your last line is the most important. Garlic should never be elminated from any dish that calls for it!

      1. re: Isolda
        westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:24 PM

        however, as someone who doesn't like garlic in spinach, it would be nice to know BEFORE i got close enough to smell it.

    2. chowser Feb 15, 2013 08:27 AM

      I'm strict with allergies and other health problems. A person who only buys organic will probably eat conventional food if she eats out at all. If there are various dietary concerns, I make sure to have at least one or two things each person can have, eg bread, plain salad, protein and avoid making one big casserole type meal. People who have dietary concerns usually are used to not being able to eat everything and adjust to what is available.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chowser
        c
        CanadaGirl Feb 16, 2013 01:16 PM

        +1

        1. re: chowser
          m
          madbaker Sep 8, 2013 11:18 AM

          +2 !!

          1. re: chowser
            LMAshton Sep 8, 2013 06:02 PM

            "People who have dietary concerns usually are used to not being able to eat everything and adjust to what is available."

            This.

            I have a long list of allergies/sensitivities. I pick other things on the menu when eating at restaurants and I eat around it in other group situations. No one, other than me, could possibly make a menu that took absolutely all of my allergies into consideration, and it's ludicrous of me to expect them to.

          2. boogiebaby Feb 15, 2013 08:37 AM

            A good guest will eat what they can without complaining. I have vegetarian friends and allergy friends. I usually do buffet style meals, with a simple meat main and several sustantial sides. Apps are mainly vegetarian - crudites with dip, mini samosas, hummus, cheese platter, etc. That way everyone has options.

            1. w
              wyogal Feb 15, 2013 08:41 AM

              It's your party....
              That said, serve a variety of things, and let the diners know that you understand if they don't taste everything, maybe do a buffet instead of plated courses. Then, people can pick and choose. If they are your friends, you've invited them, and they tell you they have dietary needs, then try to have something for them to eat. If it is dietary preference, well, they can choose to come or not, and still, pick and choose.
              I don't think one has to accommodate every desire, but if someone is invited that you know is allergic to shellfish, then don't serve shellfish.
              On the other hand...
              My daughter-in-law absolutely hates the smell of seafood. I would never serve it in her presence. I found this out while visiting them in Va Beach, and had picked up some great shrimp to add to the b-b-q. oops. I won't do it again. Now, I find a place for my husband and I to go out for seafood lunch at a restaurant.

              1. d
                Dinermite Feb 15, 2013 08:55 AM

                As Wyogal said, it's your party. You can only cater so much to individual needs or preferences before you drive yourself crazy and you end up not even enjoying the dinner party.

                I would suggest pre-planning and sending out your menu plans to your invitees, indicating if any of the dishes you plan to make might have allergy-sensitive ingredients. If there are some guests that have such allergies, you can extend the offer that they bring a dish they can eat and also share with the group. I wouldn't even bother bending over backwards for the picky "organic only" eaters. That's their choice, not biological make-up. Otherwise, you can suggest they bring something to share as well.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Dinermite
                  e
                  escondido123 Feb 15, 2013 11:08 AM

                  You send out your menu before dinner parties? I've never heard of that. Now I will say to people "Do you eat meat?" That answer tells me whether I'm going to go vegetarian--to me that's fine and I can make a great meal without meat--or can have meat as a main element. But to have guests critique the menu, that I would never do. (I used to be a picky eater but never said a word--ate what I could and pushed the rest around on my plate.)

                  1. re: escondido123
                    perk Sep 6, 2013 10:16 PM

                    I usually run a menu by dinner guests. I've found if you ask a somewhat generic question like "anything you don't eat" they'll often forget to mention things. Then they get there and say "oh, didn't I tell you I don't eat (fill in the blank)." So....I usually say "I was thinking of making grilled scallops and pasta with pesto" or whatever. That way that I won't waste time and money on a meal someone won't enjoy.

                    1. re: perk
                      a
                      adrienmarie Sep 7, 2013 08:32 AM

                      You are very thoughtful. I truly appreciate the posts on this site. This aspartame restriction is new to me, a definite DO NOT EAT as opposed to a preference, but I didn't know how to handle it when I am invited to dinner at someone's home. Thank you to everyone who has posted on this matter.

                2. t
                  thimes Feb 15, 2013 09:00 AM

                  I always ask guests if they have any food issues (I usually say "issues" actually) and I hate it when people don't tell me about them (if I knew someone was allergic to fish then I wouldn't have put anchovies in the dip).

                  If someone really doesn't like something, I would like to know about it because 9 times out of 10 it somehow is or is part of my main course (I remember a dinner for 10 where I made steaks stuffed with garlic and jalapenos over a tomatillo salsa - I love it and it isn't too hot - only to find out 2 people don't eat meat, and 2 other don't eat spicy food - that is about 50% of the party not eating my main course). I don't know what I did in a past life to get that karma but it always happens to me.

                  As a guest to someone else's dinner party (I eat everything so this is more conjecture on my part) I don't think I would ever offer that information if the host didn't ask.

                  That said, I don't always cook 100% to everyone's issues but rather make sure that I have a few options that everyone can eat.

                  If I know someone is allergic to nuts, then I won't put them in the salad but I may pass them around for people to add - that type of thing.

                  If I know someone is really allergic to something I also do my best to avoid cross contaminating by using the same spoon to stir things.

                  1. eight_inch_pestle Feb 15, 2013 09:22 AM

                    It's a matter of friendship. If we're not close, not going to get close, and you're hyper-particular? You get moved to the happy-hour circle. Conversely, if we become mates, I don't care if you hunt bush meat in the canopy while I snore off a belly full of banana.

                    1. GretchenS Feb 15, 2013 10:05 AM

                      So as a guest I do let a host(ess) know of my two allergies (shellfish and strawberries) after an embarassing party or two where those were the featured ingredients, I ate bread only (no complaints here) but the hostess was mortified.
                      As I host I always enquire as to "dietary restrictions" just because I don't want to be in the position where a guest can't eat much of anything. But then if I get a lot of varying restrictions I definitely go the buffet route and don't try to make everything work for every person. Clear labelling or a quiet word about what someone might want to avoid and everyone is happy.
                      But I would not worry about sourcing organic food for your one friend if you do not ordinarily buy it. I have good friends -- wonderful cooks and hosts -- and they have a friend like that who always brings her own (very boring) food to their sumptuous parties -- and I mean this has been going on for 15 years or more -- and no one pays much attention anymore, we are all used to it and it means more of the good stuff for us!
                      Let us know how it goes!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: GretchenS
                        westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:29 PM

                        feel your pain about the allergies.
                        i'm allergic to walnuts.
                        rarely mention it because normally walnuts tend to be used predominantly in baked goods.
                        that is, until one christmas dinner at which i was a guest: virtually everything contained walnuts:
                        the bread, the stuffing, the candies, the vegetables, all the baked goods, everything except the eggnog.
                        i drank eggnog all evening.
                        (who ever heard of walnut brittle?)

                      2. pinehurst Feb 15, 2013 10:19 AM

                        Yes, a restriction is different from a preference.

                        People with restrictions almost always disclose them (because they're health threats). My husband's on a special diet because of a health condition...the people who are close enough to us to invite us to dinner know about this, and if perchance they forgot, no big deal--he would eat what he could and be a good guest.

                        It's awful that hosting dinner--such a gracious tradition-- has become such an onerous task. Cook the spinach with garlic; if the folks don't like it, they can order take out on the way home.

                        1. a
                          antennastoheaven Feb 15, 2013 10:45 AM

                          I think it's lovely that you are trying to accommodate your guests with restrictions and appreciate it's a difficult position to be in as a host.

                          I eat a vegan diet and generally only buy organic for myself at the supermarket. I always eat vegan, so if there's nothing vegan at a party, I just don't eat. I used to make exceptions to be polite, but find it's not something I want to do anymore because it's become really offputting to consume that stuff and dairy especially makes me feel rather sick to my stomach. I definitely do not expect anyone to accommodate me whatsoever, I would just hope that if they don't have anything I can eat that they are not upset/offended that I do not eat and are content with just sharing my company. I am always just happy to be invited. So far, this has worked out just fine for me and my friends.

                          Consuming non-organic stuff outside my home is kind of a different issue from my perspective. I buy organic to avoid long-term pesticide exposure and to financially support/encourage organic farming - so eating some non-organic food every once in awhile doesn't really detract from those goals.

                          The restriction vs preference issue always seems to turn into a judgefest, so I think it's not super fruitful, especially if the goal is simply to enjoy time with friends. I agree that dietary restrictions are extremely prevalent and diverse, and I think everyone is doing the best they can to do what they feel is healthy for them and what do we expect people to do? Present a doctor's note everywhere we go that we have a "legit" issue? My boyfriend is not celiac and his doctor wants him to go gluten-free to address some bloodwork issues. Is that valid enough? I am obese and lost over 60 pounds eating vegan, don't enjoy consuming animal products, and they don't agree with me, is that valid enough? (rhetorical questions!!! let's not actually get into them!! :D)

                          Most people who invite me out know that I eat a vegan diet. But if someone doesn't, I thank them for inviting me and ask if they know that I eat vegan and what that means. Then I ask how we can work together on it - maybe I can bring something? maybe I can suggest a dish? maybe I can come after dinner for coffee if that would be more appropriate? There's always options.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: antennastoheaven
                            GretchenS Feb 15, 2013 11:21 AM

                            what a lovely and thoughtful response, antennas! you would be a very nice guest to have.

                            1. re: GretchenS
                              a
                              antennastoheaven Feb 15, 2013 11:23 AM

                              oh thank you! that is so kind of you :)

                          2. t
                            tardigrade Feb 15, 2013 12:00 PM

                            I make dinner once a month or so for a group of friends with a range of preferences and restrictions: A is allergic to eggs, B is having problems with chemo, C won't eat anything with mushrooms in it, and D seems to have a new restriction every time (currently D refuses to eat anything colored orange except for canned Mandarin oranges, along with anything from the Solanaceae family - but will eat my chili even though I've explained it's largely tomatoes and peppers). I've given up trying to anticipate the D's current diet, and email everyone as to what the dinner will be so B can make other arrangements if needed. The other dinner hosts do assemble-it-yourself meals so people can pick and choose what they want.

                            I think it's the guest's responsibility to let the host know of any restrictions, and give the host some guidance if necessary. I don't keep a kosher/halal/gluten-free kitchen, but if people tell me in advance I can tailor a menu to just about anyone.

                            BTW, it's sometimes easier to ask guests what they like instead of what they don't/can't eat. I once co-ordinated a banquet for 200+ people, and aside from the usual vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free requests got one from someone from an obscure religious tradition that banned a wide assortment of (to me) seemingly random items: I asked that person what would be an ideal meal, and got some recommendations that were really easy to prepare with a little advanced notice.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: tardigrade
                              v
                              Violatp Feb 15, 2013 01:01 PM

                              Your friend won't eat anything orange?

                              That's a new one for me!

                              1. re: Violatp
                                t
                                tardigrade Feb 17, 2013 10:29 AM

                                We've given up trying to figure her out: she makes up her lists of allowed and not allowed foods -which change over time - based on New Age philosophies, general dislike of vegetables and her own brand of Jewish/Celtic/Paganism. But she's in her eighties and otherwise healthy.

                                1. re: tardigrade
                                  sunshine842 Feb 17, 2013 10:43 AM

                                  I'm sorry - I shouldn't laugh -- but your entire post just makes me giggle.

                                  1. re: tardigrade
                                    v
                                    Violatp Feb 17, 2013 02:39 PM

                                    Ah. That's a perk of being in your 80's and beyond. You can be as wacky as you like and get away with it!

                                  2. re: Violatp
                                    westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:34 PM

                                    i have a friend who won't eat anything white.
                                    brown rice,
                                    brown sugar,
                                    whole wheat bread,
                                    injera,

                                    turned out to be pretty easy to accommodate as those preferences overlap with the health food crowd.

                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                      v
                                      Violatp Feb 18, 2013 04:47 AM

                                      Ha! Your friend would be screwed if it was a pretense and just didn't want to eat carbs.

                                2. m
                                  maxie Feb 15, 2013 12:55 PM

                                  I have allergy/health related restrictions that are a PIA. I will ask the host what they are serving, and if I can bring a dish for everyone to share that compliments the host's meal (and assures there will be something I can eat). If there isn't, I'm fine. I don't want or expect a whole menu to be devised around my ridiculous needs. I'm happy to just enjoy the company. Usually I will just eat something before I go so I won't feel deprived. I think a lot of people with special diets have a similar strategy. I don't need any one jumping through hoops.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: maxie
                                    m
                                    magiesmom Feb 15, 2013 01:06 PM

                                    I always ask a new invitee if any food restrictions and then I make sure there are a range of foods so everyone is pretty well fed. I don't buy all organic food, though we generally buy it when it is available anyway.
                                    In our circles there are so many vegetarians that for a large dinner party I always make a vegetarian main course, though we are omnivores. but for the more intimate 6 person gatherings we prefer, we usually know the guests so well we know what they like.

                                    1. re: maxie
                                      pinehurst Feb 15, 2013 01:17 PM

                                      I think that your offer to make/bring a dish that everyone (including you) can share and enjoy is awesome. And your needs aren't ridiculous. Now, my friend in college who voluntarily only ate pink grapefruit for a month....that's ridiculous.

                                      1. re: pinehurst
                                        westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:37 PM

                                        and potentially dangerous.
                                        grapefruit interferes with some normal liver enzymes.
                                        that's why so many prescription meds come with a a warning that the patient should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking them.
                                        the liver enzymes will not work properly enough for the medication to be safe.. . .

                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                          w
                                          wyogal Feb 18, 2013 12:16 PM

                                          I miss grapefruit. I love it, but am on statins. :(

                                          1. re: wyogal
                                            sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 12:59 PM

                                            can't you have it if you time it? I can't remember the specifics, but if you have more than x hours *before* the meds, or x hours *after*, it's supposedly okay.

                                            Ask your medical practitioner, etc., etc., etc.,

                                            1. re: sunshine842
                                              w
                                              wyogal Feb 18, 2013 01:15 PM

                                              I'm just not going there.... I've heard that, too. I think it would be O.K. mid morning, but since no one else likes it, I am just avoiding it.

                                              1. re: wyogal
                                                sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 01:44 PM

                                                fair enough.

                                                and thanks for the reminder -- I bought some incredibly fragrant grapefruit the other day -- but I have to remember to coordinate them with hubby's meds.

                                    2. ChefJune Feb 15, 2013 01:25 PM

                                      When I invite people for a meal I ask if there are any foods they can't or won't eat. I then plan my menu and exclude those ingredients. If someone pops up with a dislike at the table, too bad. My home is not a restaurant, and I don't cook to order!

                                      I do let my hosts know what foods I am unable to eat, and if I find something I can't have on the menu, I just avoid it. So far that hasn't caused me to miss a meal. ;) My biggest problem is with kiwifruit, because I'm so allergic to it if it's touched any other item on the menu, I can't eat that, either.

                                      1. Lillipop Feb 15, 2013 01:55 PM

                                        Variety is the spice of life. I always have fresh produce and fresh fruit.I live near the upper end of the lush fertile agricultural belt in California so everything grows abundantly here and is not cost prohibitive.Fresh local produce served unadorned simply prepared never disappoints.Large bowls of mixed green salads and slaws that people can douse with whatever they prefer is easy to do.Roasted or steamed vegetables are always inhaled by guests as is the home baked bread.I do not do formal dinner parties....mine are more like "anything goes":)

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Lillipop
                                          m
                                          magiesmom Feb 15, 2013 02:00 PM

                                          The low carb police now sometimes act as if fresh baked bread is there to hurt them.

                                          I agree that all the food you mention is wonderful, but for us here in New England a meal like that is possible only three months a year.

                                          1. re: magiesmom
                                            Lillipop Feb 15, 2013 10:26 PM

                                            Lets send those carb police to a life coach:) Yes we do have spectacular produce nearly year round.But some of it is imported from Mexico when it gets cold here...cold to me being under 68 degrees:)

                                            1. re: magiesmom
                                              l
                                              lagatta Feb 17, 2013 10:57 AM

                                              We can do slaws and other chopped and grated winter vegetable salads - there are many from Nordic and Eastern European cuisines. I live in Montréal so about the same climate as you. (bit colder if you are in southern New England).

                                              1. re: magiesmom
                                                mcf Feb 17, 2013 03:02 PM

                                                Um, well.

                                                A lot of us low carb folks are low carb because bread *does* do damage to diabetic's blood glucose levels.

                                                It's not some fad, and it's better than loading up on drugs instead.

                                                The folks that piss me off are the fat gram counters :-)

                                                If folks ask, I just tell them that as long as there are protein and veggies, I'll be ok. If they don't ask, I manage just to take what I can safely eat and enjoy the company.

                                                1. re: mcf
                                                  LMAshton Feb 20, 2013 04:48 AM

                                                  Wheat messes with my joints and digestive tract as well. And no, not celiac. Also not a fad.

                                                  1. re: LMAshton
                                                    mcf Sep 8, 2013 10:27 AM

                                                    I'v been eating this way for 15 years, increasingly low carb, reversal of all diabetic kidney and nerve damage, normal numbers, no meds.

                                                    Fad my ass. The grain fad is what's fueling the diabetes epidemic.

                                                    1. re: mcf
                                                      pikawicca Sep 8, 2013 06:28 PM

                                                      I eat a grain- and veggie-based diet, and I am nowhere near being diabetic. There is no one solution to what is a healthful diet, and science is far from understanding this. Do what works for you.

                                              2. re: Lillipop
                                                westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:38 PM

                                                your food sound beyond awsome.

                                              3. w
                                                wattacetti Feb 15, 2013 05:50 PM

                                                I ask invitees in advance if they have any dietary restrictions associated with allergies or religion and then work the menu around those.

                                                Preferences I ignore. People who tell me that they don't like certain things have found that they get extra large helpings of said items.

                                                19 Replies
                                                1. re: wattacetti
                                                  sunshine842 Feb 16, 2013 02:29 AM

                                                  so if you asked, and someone said, "I can't stand beets", you'd make sure you served them beets, and a large plateful of them?

                                                  Um, wow.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                    w
                                                    wattacetti Feb 16, 2013 12:41 PM

                                                    Yes, I've done that. And I've also served foie gras and other proteins to a purported vegan (claimed to be vegan to mask the dieting).

                                                    I should also say that I do try and find out exactly why someone doesn't like something before electing to bring out the large portion.

                                                    1. re: wattacetti
                                                      h
                                                      Hobbert Feb 16, 2013 12:46 PM

                                                      Wow.

                                                      1. re: Hobbert
                                                        westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:40 PM

                                                        triple wow.
                                                        not too many things cause me to be speechless. . .

                                                      2. re: wattacetti
                                                        f
                                                        foodieX2 Feb 16, 2013 01:05 PM

                                                        What do you get out of doing this? Moral satisfaction? A sense of ….what? I truly do not understand this way of thinking.

                                                        Sounds like a passive aggressive approach to not really liking your friends. Instead of dealing with the real issue you make a point of giving them an extra helping of something they have told you they don't like.

                                                        I cannot imagine a close friend treating me this way. And if I was an unknown guest/acquaintance I would take it as these were your true colors and would choose to never spend time with you again.

                                                        1. re: foodieX2
                                                          westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:42 PM

                                                          not really "passive-aggressive"
                                                          more like
                                                          "mean-spirited in a confrontational manner" and proud of it.
                                                          sounds like a good basis for a Mad TV skit.. . . .
                                                          alex borstein should play wattecetti.
                                                          or
                                                          if we wanted to do it in a more dramatic fashion, it could take place in an episode of House with hugh laurie doing the honors.
                                                          this sort of idea was actually already done with a crime/cop show spin in an episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit where the murderer fed poisonous mushrooms to his victim at a fancy banquet.

                                                          'ya don't think this sort of thing would go on in real life, but here we are.

                                                        2. re: wattacetti
                                                          sunshine842 Feb 16, 2013 01:31 PM

                                                          so how did your Jewish friends enjoy the pork roast?

                                                          1. re: sunshine842
                                                            w
                                                            wattacetti Feb 16, 2013 02:00 PM

                                                            Maybe you should read the part about dietary restrictions associated with allergies and religion.

                                                            1. re: wattacetti
                                                              sunshine842 Feb 16, 2013 02:06 PM

                                                              Oh, I read it.

                                                              why is it more polite to serve someone something that they have told you they don't like (especially when you *asked* them) than it is to serve them something that causes a problem with allergies, sensitivities, or religion?

                                                              If you didn't ask and therefore didn't know, it's one thing -- but it's fairly far across the line to ask and then deliberately serve them something they don't like -- and a double helping, at that.

                                                              1. re: wattacetti
                                                                Terrie H. Feb 16, 2013 05:17 PM

                                                                Truly, what right do you have to do this to your guests?!

                                                                1. re: Terrie H.
                                                                  k
                                                                  KailuaGirl Feb 18, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                                  Do you still have friends or other people who willingly come to your house to dine?
                                                                  For allergies, medical, and religious reasons some people just can't eat certain foods. Some allergic reactions can be life threatening.
                                                                  If it's a preference thing, let them go hungry, eat what's available, or bring their own food.
                                                                  I have some vegan friends and it's easy to keep them happy. I can make 2 versions of salad, one using cheese and the other omitting it. I can roast veggies on the grill as well as meat and, for some vegetarians, chicken and/or fish along with the steaks, lamb leg, pork tenderloin, or burgers for the rest of us. They can have fresh fruit for dessert if they don't eat cake, pie, or cookies.
                                                                  As someone else said, do you actually like your friends?

                                                        3. re: wattacetti
                                                          h
                                                          Hobbert Feb 16, 2013 02:48 AM

                                                          Oh that's not cool. I despise mushrooms but I'll happily pick them off a dish and eat around them. Now, if you gave me a giant plate of mushrooms with a side of mushrooms knowing in advance that I don't like them...I'd leave.

                                                          1. re: wattacetti
                                                            juliejulez Feb 16, 2013 10:21 AM

                                                            And you would end up with extra large helpings of leftovers if you did that to me.

                                                            1. re: wattacetti
                                                              meatn3 Feb 16, 2013 12:59 PM

                                                              I'll be sure to stress my enormous *dislike* of lobster when I'm invited! Yum, oops - yuck...

                                                              1. re: meatn3
                                                                westsidegal Feb 17, 2013 11:43 PM

                                                                did i mention that i "hate" shaved fresh truffles on my food?

                                                                1. re: westsidegal
                                                                  meatn3 Feb 18, 2013 10:09 AM

                                                                  And nothing worse than those dusty wine bottles - you know, the ones that people put in a cellar because they weren't "ready" yet! Why store wine at home when the 7-11 has so many bottles in the fridge?

                                                                  ;-D

                                                                  1. re: meatn3
                                                                    sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 12:02 PM

                                                                    You *almost* managed to push my button. Almost.

                                                              2. re: wattacetti
                                                                l
                                                                lagatta Feb 17, 2013 10:59 AM

                                                                Annoying as picky guests can be, I find wasting food more annoying still. You know the helpings will go right into the trash.

                                                                1. re: lagatta
                                                                  sunshine842 Feb 17, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                  and time and effort! Why you would go to the time and trouble of preparing something you KNOW someone's not going to eat is beyond me.

                                                                  I don't know about you, but I don't have the spare time or money to buy and prepare something that I know ahead of time is going to end up in the trash at the end of the night.

                                                              3. v
                                                                vttp926 Feb 15, 2013 06:49 PM

                                                                I have a small group of friends that I know what everyone dietary needs are unless they are on a diet that I have not been told about. So I know who will and won't eat what. But if there is someone new then at that time I will ask them if there is something they can't eat. The only thing I know of for sure is that a few that is very allergic to shellfish so I don't make any of that at all just to be safe on cross contamination.

                                                                1. sunshine842 Feb 16, 2013 02:28 AM

                                                                  I always ask if there are any food issues -- things they can't eat or things they just don't like -- then I plan a menu around that. I don't want to go to the trouble of preparing a dish that I know upfront someone won't eat.

                                                                  My biggest challenge was a party to which we had invited Muslims who follow halal, Jews who keep kosher, and a couple of vegetarians. I did a *lot* of research on the web, and asked my guests questions if I wasn't sure what was okay and what was not. The only real no-no that day was pork -- that's a big enough issue that I chose to just sidestep it entirely.

                                                                  Everyone had plenty to eat -- right down to the separate dishes and cooking utensils when necessary.

                                                                  I wouldn't, however, switch to organic for someone who eats organic, any more than I'd buy a Ralph Lauren tablecloth just to please a label-hound.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                                    i
                                                                    Isolda Feb 16, 2013 01:59 PM

                                                                    How did you manage to have a kosher kitchen if you don't keep kosher already? A friend of mine's mother had to have a rabbi come and blowtorch her pans, line her counters with foil and serve off of new dishes in order to have her kosher business partner for a single dinner. I was very impressed, but I would have just taken the guy out to a kosher restaurant...way less nerve-wracking!

                                                                    1. re: Isolda
                                                                      w
                                                                      wyogal Feb 16, 2013 02:03 PM

                                                                      I was wondering the same thing.

                                                                      1. re: Isolda
                                                                        sunshine842 Feb 16, 2013 02:10 PM

                                                                        Kosher burgers were prepared on a new grill with new implements -- sides were prepurchased items according to a list published by the local temple, and the crudites were cut on a new cutting board with a new knife. I only prepared a few pareve items -- I know that my kitchen is trief, so I didn't even try to prepare anything else.

                                                                        I asked about anything about which I was unsure, and followed their requests and recommendations to a 't'.

                                                                        It was a very successful party, and everyone had plenty of food that they were comfortable eating.

                                                                      2. re: sunshine842
                                                                        westsidegal Feb 18, 2013 12:03 AM

                                                                        for your group i would have had two words:
                                                                        lentils
                                                                        and
                                                                        eggplants.

                                                                        there are TONS of overlapping jewish/muslim/vegetarian/vegan recipes that revolve around those two ingredients.
                                                                        focusing on those two ingredients also usually allows you to completely sidestep the gluten/celiac issues and the nut allergy issues.

                                                                        if you want to add one more ingredient to the search, add chickpeas (as in hummus). those will also satisfy all the muslim/jewish/celiac/nut allergy/ and heart-healthy groups as long as you stick to olive oil as the source of fat.

                                                                        p.s. if you decide to roast an eggplant REMEMBER to pierce it with a knife a few times before putting it in the oven, otherwise it will explode in your oven.

                                                                        at any rate, i've done this a lot.
                                                                        after the first few times, it sort of becomes like a puzzle.
                                                                        more complicated than a game a checkers, but much less complicated than a game of chess or a crossword puzzle.

                                                                        for the most part, there is a tremendous amount of overlap in recipes that work for the health-food/ heart-healthy/vegetarian/vegan/ groups
                                                                        if you avoid peanut oil, the overlap can also include the nut allergy group.

                                                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                                                          sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 03:02 AM

                                                                          I had a huge crudite platter, prepared with the clean knife on the clean cutting board -- that worked for everyone, although made a smaller one on a blue plate for the kosher folks, just so there couldn't be any issues with any cross-contamination.

                                                                          Nuts and crackers were all kosher, as were the multiple tubs of hummus to go with the veggies.

                                                                          I had dairy cheese for the nonkosher folks, and soy cheese so it would be pareve with the burgers (kosher) Buns were kosher, of course -- it was nice that I had a kosher grocery close by, and happened to be there on a day when things were slow, so the owner helped me enormously.

                                                                          My Muslim friends had halal chicken barbecued on a foil pan on the "regular" grill

                                                                          Vegetarian baked beans and a roasted-vegetable pasta salad...

                                                                          and dessert was sliced fresh strawberries (again with the clean knife, washed in a separate dishpan with paper towels) over kosher ladyfingers.

                                                                          I saw it as a really interesting challenge, and I learned a lot, as well as gaining a lot of respect for those who keep the dietary restrictions going in a world that isn't always very accommodating to anything that strays from normal.

                                                                          (and the gushing thanks from all for taking the time and making the effort to accommodate them all was a nice payback)

                                                                      3. Peg Feb 16, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                                        I ask each guest for details of anything they won't/can't eat.
                                                                        For a few friends that's a very long list indeed.
                                                                        I like the challenge of preparing a meal that everyone can eat all of - including me (I don't eat meat or mushrooms).
                                                                        If someone said they only eat organic food I might give it a go - but it could be too restrictive on things like herbs and spices to make an interesting meal.

                                                                        If someone says they don't like a particular vegetable, at the very least I'd make sure there were other side dishes available, but I'd not include the ingredient in the main dish.

                                                                        1. i
                                                                          Isolda Feb 16, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                                          I just ask if there are any foods my guests don't eat and make sure there is a good selection of things that don't include those foods. However, if I'm dealing with multiple food issues (for example, one guest is a vegan, another is allergic to nuts, another is low carb, and another doesn't eat spicy food), I don't accommodate every single one in every single dish. I just make sure there are a few things each person can eat.

                                                                          As much as I love good food, I try to remember that the main purpose of a dinner party is to socialize with friends, not to stuff my face with yummy foods. Most of us have the means to go home and make something we can eat if we weren't satsified by the food at the party. If people would remember this, they wouldn't get too upset when faced with foods they can't or won't eat.

                                                                          1. s
                                                                            sueatmo Feb 16, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                                            I always ask guests if there are dietary restrictions. I became sensitive to this issue when a close family member was diagnosed with diabetes. I also encounter many more restrictions, allergies and strong preferences among friends now than even a few years before. You just do the best you can to accommodate people.

                                                                            For the friend who only eats plain organic food, I'd do one dish for her, accommodating her preferences and perhaps reserving an undressed salad portion for her.

                                                                            I don't feel you have to cook everything organic for one person, who presumable understands that you do not prepare food the same way she does. You would eat her food, and she would eat your food when you are guests in each others' homes.

                                                                            When there are many different food probs in a group, it hampers the fellowship you have when you share a meal. I avoid carbs whenever possible, but because this isn't life or death for me, I try to be flexible for the cook who doesn't understand what I am doing or why. I appreciate flexibility from guests, but sometimes that isn't possible if food allergies or major health issues are involved.

                                                                            One strategy to follow would be to invite only one person with a difficult regimen at a time to your dinner parties.

                                                                            And bless you for giving this some thought. I hope your friend appreciates being included.

                                                                            1. j
                                                                              JeremyEG Feb 16, 2013 02:18 PM

                                                                              I ask people for food allergies or foods they avoid for religious or ethical reasons. I know my guests well enough to know roughly what I think they will enjoy but I don't ask people to list what they don't like. There is always plenty of food and if they don't like one dish, they can just have the next. I also don't indulge people who have every changing fad diets that they are trying. I had one guest come to a party asking for high protein vegetarian who wanted to make sure there was enough grain so she could fill up and three months later come to another party announcing her desire to eat mostly raw foods and low protein with no carbs at all because of how they are converted to sugar in the body.

                                                                              It's your call. You're doing a nice thing welcoming people into your home for a meal. I think you should do what you need to do to enjoy the cooking and, we all forget this, so you yourself enjoy eating the meal as well!

                                                                              JeremyEG
                                                                              HomeCookLocavore.com

                                                                              1. q
                                                                                Querencia Feb 16, 2013 05:14 PM

                                                                                My husband once told me that when he was a young child he liked sliced banana on his cereal and each of the slices had to be evenly spaced but not touching, otherwise he would not eat the cereal. I am happy to report that by the time I met him he had overcome this childish preference, and never did he inform a dinner party hostess of his banana requirement. This is called "acting like a grownup". What is wrong with these people eg "I don't eat anything that is orange" and "I only eat organic"? For God's sake, have grandiosity and entitlement taken over the world?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Querencia
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  sueatmo Feb 17, 2013 07:43 PM

                                                                                  In my experience, most people don't say they won't eat or don't like things. They usually say, "I can't eat that." Unless you know for a fact they are dissembling, then I think you have to take people at their word.

                                                                                  I guess vegetarians or vegans would be the exceptions; but these two preferences are widely held across all segments of society and it would be really rude to try to serve meat to someone holding either of these beliefs.

                                                                                  If someone is temperamental, high maintenance and difficult, and he or she is also unable or unwilling to eat my cooking, I think I would be hesitant to cook for him or her.

                                                                                2. f
                                                                                  Frizzle Feb 16, 2013 05:28 PM

                                                                                  I do ask about what foods people can't eat. I'll avoid all in the main and make sure there are a few sides as well that are free from various items.

                                                                                  I think my toughest challenge was finding a restaurant for a dinner on Valentine's Day that had a menu that could cater for myself being pregnant (no raw fish, soft cheese, deli meats), my partner who doesn't eat seafood or offal, a business contact who can't eat any grain and was extremely allergic to artichokes and her colleague who was a vegetarian. Most places had set menus for the evening. After many phone calls I found a Japanese restaurant that wasn't doing a set menu and we all managed to find something we could eat. I am glad that I decided to not offer to cook at my place that evening. I have no idea how I would have catered to those requirements.

                                                                                  1. t
                                                                                    tastesgoodwhatisit Feb 16, 2013 11:34 PM

                                                                                    For small dinner parties, I will ask if there is anything people can't eat. I'm generally happy to work around things like vegetarianism, or allergies, or religious restrictions.

                                                                                    For large parties, I'll serve a variety of foods so that people with various food preferences can find things to eat, and I can label stuff "vegetarian", or provide ingredients.

                                                                                    For small parties - if someone is very picky or prone to extreme diets (Atkins, etc), I generally won't have them over for food related socializing. It's much happier all round to see them in non food related environments, or at a restaurant where people can order what they want.

                                                                                    There are some things that I can't do. I can't cook kosher. I can't 100% guarantee no cross contamination with peanut products. I would have a very, very hard time doing zero gluten under current circumstances, due to a minimal ability to read local ingredient listings.

                                                                                    Personally, I find that if I'm planning a meal and I'm spending more effort trying to think of something to cook that my guests won't reject, rather than trying to think of things that they will enjoy, it turns entertaining into a chore rather than a pleasure.

                                                                                    My mom is on a low sodium/potassium diet for health. She vastly prefers it if hosts don't make a huge effort, and she'll eat what she can.

                                                                                    I have a friend who has a series of weird food sensitivities and allergies, such that she doesn't eat anything she doesn't prepare herself (she's had too many bad experiences with supposedly safe stuff). Her solution is to discretely bring a small dish with something safe, which I have no problem with.

                                                                                    I have another friend who is vegetarian, and doesn't eat soy, dairy, wheat or nuts, is prone to fad diets, and tends to proselytize about his dietary preferences while eating. We don't eat together.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                                      westsidegal Feb 18, 2013 12:08 AM

                                                                                      i had a friend who was on dialysis and was on a low sodium and low phosphorus diet.
                                                                                      i knew his days were numbered and even though it was a PITA, i cooked for him with love.

                                                                                      (found out btw, that ALL of the JennyO turkey products were infused with stuff that made them off-limits)

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                        sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 03:06 AM

                                                                                        that's the most challenging part -- is reading all the labels -- because there's always a surprise that pops up where you're not expecting it!

                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                          LMAshton Feb 20, 2013 04:56 AM

                                                                                          Yup. But labels are not mandatory everywhere and requirements vary. Ingredients listings are not required in Sri Lanka, for example. And generally, even when ingredients aren't listed, all spices are lumped together. Which doesn't work for me - I have severe reactions to cloves, star anise, cassia (which is called cinnamon in most of the world), and other such things. I have to guess which foods aren't going to have those items. Or, much more realistically, pretty much always cook from scratch.

                                                                                    2. m
                                                                                      MonMauler Feb 17, 2013 10:24 PM

                                                                                      I generally ignore dietary restrictions, or at least I don't ask. Food I think attendees will enjoy are prepared and served. If a guest doesn't like or want some or any of the offerings, that's on them.

                                                                                      My regular dinner parties often include 10 or more people, and I would never make a particular dish for a specific guest. Similarly, when I am a guest at the others parties, I would never think to request a particular dish or type of dish.

                                                                                      When I'm hosting a smaller group - say 4-6 people - I will solicit ideas and generally adhere to specific requests, as long as it fits with the overall theme.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: MonMauler
                                                                                        sunshine842 Feb 17, 2013 10:40 PM

                                                                                        I would be mortified if I invited someone to my table and they were unable to eat anything in my home -- so I ask.

                                                                                        Feeding people is a big deal to me, and an integral part of my personal definition of hospitality.

                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                          westsidegal Feb 18, 2013 12:10 AM

                                                                                          i am with you on this sushine842,
                                                                                          i don't invite people to my home unless i really care enough about them to cater to their needs.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                            sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 03:05 AM

                                                                                            and I'm super-touchy about allergies -- I was at a party where one of the guests was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance -- the dessert-bringer didn't know about her walnut allergy (which I know hits close to home for you)

                                                                                            She was fine, but it was really scary, and made me hyper-vigilant from there on.

                                                                                      2. TorontoJo Feb 18, 2013 05:15 AM

                                                                                        I always ask, as I couldn't imagine inviting people into my home to share a meal, then discovering that they couldn't eat most of what I had prepared. As a host, I would feel terrible. And I don't care whether the request is due to allergies, personal tastes, or silly whims -- I want my guests to feel welcome and enjoy themselves. I honestly cannot understand the attitude of "screw you, you'll either eat what I serve, or just not eat at all."

                                                                                        Normally, the restrictions I've had to accommodate are vegetarian, vegan or lactose-intolerant, all of which I find pretty easy to deal with. My latest dinner party, however, seriously tested the limits of my planning skills. In and amongst the 6 guests were various combinations of: no meat, no gluten, no carbs, no refined sugars, no alcohol, no dairy. Everyone was very gracious and insisted that they would just eat around anything they couldn't have. But I took it as a challenge and came up with a 5 course dinner that made everyone happy -- it was a lovely evening all around. How different it would have been had I just ignored people's restrictions and half the table just sat there not touching their plates during certain courses.

                                                                                        I'll also add that most people are very gracious and insist that I don't go out of my way to accommodate them (unless it's an allergy, of course). I do it simply because I want to. :o)

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                                          GretchenS Feb 18, 2013 08:14 AM

                                                                                          TorontoJo, I would LOVE to hear your 5 course menu that met that very challenging set of parameters! How could it not be a lovely evening when you put so much care and thought and love into cooking the meal. Great hostess!

                                                                                          1. re: GretchenS
                                                                                            TorontoJo Feb 18, 2013 12:58 PM

                                                                                            Sure, here it is. It was a fun challenge to put this menu together! :o)

                                                                                            Apps:
                                                                                            - grapes rolled in goat cheese and chopped almonds (goat cheese was ok for the lactose-free guest)
                                                                                            - roasted cauliflower and garlic dip served with crudites
                                                                                            - a platter of prosciutto, parm and figs drizzled with aged balsamic (had to have something for the carnivores and cheese eaters!)

                                                                                            1st course:
                                                                                            - garlic and white wine sauteed shrimp served on a grapefruit, avocado and jicama salad.

                                                                                            2nd course:
                                                                                            - roasted tomato soup with a parmesan frico (no frico for the lactose-free guest)

                                                                                            Intermezzo:
                                                                                            - pear, lime and ginger sorbet sweetened with honey

                                                                                            Main course:
                                                                                            - seared salmon with a Korean marinade and glaze over sauteed spinach
                                                                                            - stir-fried baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms
                                                                                            - basmati rice (left this out for the no-carb couple)

                                                                                            Dessert:
                                                                                            - Brown butter, pecan cornmeal cake topped with berries and bourbon whipped cream (no cake, just fruit and cream for the no carb couple)

                                                                                            1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                                              GretchenS Feb 18, 2013 01:00 PM

                                                                                              Wow, fabulous menu! Lucky guests!!!

                                                                                              1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                                                c
                                                                                                CanadaGirl Feb 18, 2013 03:55 PM

                                                                                                Mmmm. Yummy. FYI,as long as the Parmesan was real, it is old enough that all the lactose has been digested; my 7 yo is very happy about that :)

                                                                                                1. re: CanadaGirl
                                                                                                  TorontoJo Feb 18, 2013 04:03 PM

                                                                                                  Funny you say that -- when I brought her soup without the frico, she said she would take it because the aged hard cheeses are generally ok with her. Surprised the heck out of me, but I was happy to oblige. Learned something new that night!

                                                                                                  1. re: TorontoJo
                                                                                                    sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 11:08 PM

                                                                                                    that one's tough, though -- some people can eat cheeses and yogurts, some can't, and it is strictly person-by-person -- you were definitely in the right to keep it off until she requested otherwise.

                                                                                          2. p
                                                                                            Puffin3 Feb 18, 2013 10:56 AM

                                                                                            IMO having a bunch of people for dinner who have numerous 'food issues' is like trying to chase a herd of cats. It's just not worth the effort.

                                                                                            1. l
                                                                                              LJS Feb 18, 2013 12:37 PM

                                                                                              Great thread! some years ago I would likely have agreed with the poster just above me, Puffin ( if I type fast!) who suggested its just not worth it. I would have agreed as someone who has a very minor allergy and manages to 'eat around it'. I thought others should do the same.

                                                                                              I am no longer so arrogant. My child was diagnosed, mercifully, as Celiac after years of mysterious, often-frightening, ill-health. She was on her way seriously down-hill before the illness was recognized. Now, 10 years later she lives totally GF and enjoys robust good health.

                                                                                              Until she goes out to eat. Then she has to be very, very cautious. There are so many well-intentioned folks out there both in home and commercial settings that don't get that GF means totally Gluten-Free. In the past year,DD has been made violently sick from chili in a restaurant (probably transfer from a spoon dipped in a cream soup vat) and from a dinner party where the hostess "just used a little AP flour, didn't add gluten at all" to thicken a sauce she swore beforehand was okay for my daughter to eat.

                                                                                              So now, I do ask and I take the answers seriously. Seriously enough that if a guest's needs are too much for my skill/timing/patience then I say: "Hey, I do great veggies and dessert, but I won't be offended if you want to bring your own main dish".

                                                                                              It is the person I want to see and have to assume they want to spend time with me...everything else is negotiable.

                                                                                              1. jmcarthur8 Feb 18, 2013 04:32 PM

                                                                                                A dear friend is allergic to gluten, poultry, chocolate, peanuts, bananas and walnuts .... But he loves to eat anything that isn't going to send him into anaphylactic shock. He is a joy to cook for because he is so adventurous and so grateful for interesting food. We have dinner often with him and his wife, and I've found it more of a cooking adventure than a restriction to find recipes he would enjoy. We never have a meal that feels like it's lacking anything.

                                                                                                1. j
                                                                                                  JeremyEG Feb 18, 2013 04:52 PM

                                                                                                  I also have some guests who consider anything they haven't tried to be a restriction. I remember making a roast duck dish for a New Year's dinner one year and guest of mine said she had never tasted duck and so considered it off-limits. That can make it hard to adjust menus and ingredients last minute. That's again why I just ask for restrictions based on allergies or religion.
                                                                                                  JeremyEG
                                                                                                  HomeCookLocavore.com

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: JeremyEG
                                                                                                    sunshine842 Feb 18, 2013 11:13 PM

                                                                                                    there's nothing you can do about it last-minute...but I ask because I a) dont want to go to the time and expense and effort to prepare something that just sits there untouched, and b) I try to ensure that my guests can manage something to eat.

                                                                                                  2. h
                                                                                                    HillJ Feb 19, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                                                                    Chowhound's Special Dietary Needs board may point you in some great directions.

                                                                                                    When we have called or sent invites (I don't email invitations) we ask about any dietary restrictions. Usually we know most of the people so our cues are made early in the friendships but if there's a new girl/guy friend or relative, neighbor we just ask at the time of invitation. This way I know how to shop/order/prepare way in advance.

                                                                                                    I am also NOT opposed to guests bringing their own x,y,z food item if truly needed.

                                                                                                    1. pikawicca Feb 19, 2013 06:36 AM

                                                                                                      These days when I throw a dinner party, a make a bunch (maybe 20) of Mediterranean small plates. A few will have meat, most likely lamb or chicken, but most will be traditional non-meat dishes. I'll put out some good cheese as well. There's always at least half a dozen items that someone could eat, regardless of dietary restrictions. This is a fun way to entertain, and my guests always seem to enjoy themselves.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                        weezieduzzit Aug 21, 2013 10:44 AM

                                                                                                        That's the kind of dinner party I love to go to! Lots of things to try and its easy to skip the things I prefer to not eat.

                                                                                                      2. NonnieMuss Feb 19, 2013 06:40 AM

                                                                                                        Accomodating serious health issues, religious beliefs, or standard vegetarian/vegan is one thing. I wouldn't try to accomodate every crazy diet fad/nutrition trend/picky preference that people may be into.

                                                                                                        You are not their personal chef. You should tell them what the planned menu is ahead of time; they can either come or not come. Sure - leave the dressing off the salad and let everyone dress their own. Don't butter the bread - that's okay. But if they only eat organic, or raw, or fruit that falls from the vine, then they probably shouldn't attend, or should bring their own food.

                                                                                                        My MIL is vegetarian - when at a dinner where the host didn't know ahead of time, she cheerfully filled up on sides and bread, complimented everything, and didn't make a big damn deal about it. She's a great guest - are your friends like that?

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: NonnieMuss
                                                                                                          m
                                                                                                          masha Feb 21, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                                                                          This is my attitude also. Both my husband and son are Type 1 diabetics. Our good friends know it and take that into consideration when they have us over. When someone "new" to our social circle invites us, I rarely volunteer the information, and expect that they will be able to pick & choose suitable food. But if the host/ess inquires in advance as to special food needs, I'll provide the information, but downplay the need to make much fuss about -- usually along the lines of, suggesting that it would be best if the main dish did not involve a preparation that was intensely sweet but otherwise there was no need to adjust the menu.

                                                                                                          Of course if their special food needs involved an allergy with potentially lethal consequences, we'd be more proactive in alerting the host/ess.

                                                                                                        2. p
                                                                                                          Puffin3 Feb 21, 2013 07:11 AM

                                                                                                          To be honest I can't be bothered catering to a bunch of strangers 'dietary' needs. IMO too many people have gotten a bit too 'precious' about what they believe they can and can't eat. Not to mention hypocritical. I used to see it all the time when I had a restaurant. The servers/chefs were asked to 'accommodate' the wildest 'special orders. That went on for about a month until I put an end to it. The servers were told to tell anyone who wanted something not on the menu that the chef plans the menu and those were the only dishes available. Sorry but there are no exceptions. If the guest/s didn't like it it was one more hassle the staff didn't ever have to deal with again when they left.
                                                                                                          Going back to the 'hypocrisy'. I saw hundreds of instances were a guest would ask for something not on the menu b/c they had "special dietary needs". When they couldn't get the food cooked/served their 'special way' they were all too happy to tuck into that big juicy 'triple burger' with lots of fries and a large Coke.
                                                                                                          End of today's rant.

                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3
                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                            HillJ Feb 21, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                                                                            In a restaurant setting no subs makes some sense. But a dinner party you're throwing for people who know and like...unless it's some outrageously hard to find food item, I can accommodate just about any food restriction if a) I know in advance and b) I can find the substitution.

                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3
                                                                                                              a
                                                                                                              adrienmarie Sep 6, 2013 07:16 AM

                                                                                                              My question refers to how to handle a dinner invitation only to find out that the main dish was marinated in diet ginger ale, among other ingredients. Aspartame causes severe migraines for me and it seems that diet-conscious people (those trying to lose weight) eat/drink a lot of foods that contain this product. I was polite and ate a little, no gravy on top, and still got sick. I am thinking of taking my own food with me the next time I go to this home; after reading many of the posts here, I have to say that it sounds like it would be ok to do that.

                                                                                                              1. re: adrienmarie
                                                                                                                sunshine842 Sep 6, 2013 05:57 PM

                                                                                                                marinating something in diet ginger ale would give me a headache, and I don't even have a sensitivity to aspartame.

                                                                                                                1. re: adrienmarie
                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                  sweethooch Sep 7, 2013 01:37 PM

                                                                                                                  I would never bring my own food to a dinner party, and would be offended if someone did because of one prior item served. I understand you regretted eating it, but the likelihood of being served something with aspartame again is low. If it does happen, I suggest eating around it (i.e. eat the side dishes, you don't have to have even a little of something that will make you sick). The instances where people said bringing your own food is OK is when the host and guest have discussed food issues, and agreed that was best (e.g. the host says I'm serving A, B and C, if that won't work for you, you could bring a dish).

                                                                                                                  1. re: adrienmarie
                                                                                                                    p
                                                                                                                    pine time Sep 7, 2013 01:54 PM

                                                                                                                    adrienmarie, it would be fine with me for a guest to bring her own food. In fact, it happened: a friend had some severe medical issues going on, and she was on a very restrictive diet. She wanted to be part of our social circle, though, so she just brought her own meal to be reheated at my house. We all were happy to see her, she had confidence that "her" food was fine, and I was happy that I didn't have to guess and make something she might not have been able to eat. Good all around.

                                                                                                                    1. re: pine time
                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                      sweethooch Sep 7, 2013 02:21 PM

                                                                                                                      Right, but someone's very restrictive diet is a lot different than "you cooked with aspartame once, so I think you'll cook with it every time." If you're *that* worried (and I wouldn't be, one sensitivity is something you can eat around), how about talking to your host rather than just bringing your own food.

                                                                                                                2. r
                                                                                                                  ratgirlagogo Feb 21, 2013 10:48 AM

                                                                                                                  Back in the day,I had a lot of big parties. I always made rice, beans, greens, pasta and and sauce, etc. all vegan. I would have cheese and sour cream on the side for those who did dairy. I told carnivores I had no problem if they brought a meat dish but I wasn't cooking any.

                                                                                                                  This no longer works for me even at small parties. Of the people I am closest to here and most likely to have over for a dinner, two have type-2 diabetes, one is celiac, one is vegetarian with a wheat sensitivity, one is vegan and won't eat mushrooms or nightshade veggies, another a general vegan, three general vegetarians, two paleo diet folks with rheumatoid arthritis, and two omnivores (that would be myself and Mr. Rat). At this point if I want to eat with all of them together we either have to pick a restaurant or do a potluck, since my kitchen just isn't big enough to cook several separate meals.

                                                                                                                  I should add that the picky eater thing comes heavily into play here. The two diabetics, the celiac,and the paleolithics have actual, real, medical conditions. Unfortunately they also share a purely psychological hatred of vegetables, which one has to respect if they are your friends, and you are cooking a meal for them. I was at a party (not mine) with the diabetics and the celiac and they turned their nose up at the entire delicious vegetarian dinner, choosing to have diabetic cookies and diet soda instead.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                                                                                    sunshine842 Feb 21, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                                                                                    okay -- turning up your nose at a dinner that someone has gone to the trouble to make to fit YOUR diet preferences is just stinking rude.

                                                                                                                  2. m
                                                                                                                    Meralexpierce Aug 21, 2013 09:08 AM

                                                                                                                    I usually only invite people over for cook outs since grilling is my favorite stress relief. I usually tell them I will have a vegan appetizer (usually make some hummus or bean dip), a vegan side, a "regular" side, a grilled meat and a grilled vegetable. Lots of dips and sides for BBQs are already vegan anyways. I also say that if they want to bring a covered dish they are more than welcome. That way if they know what I am making so if they don't like veggies or whatever, they can bring something to share. I just stay away from pork altogether when I have a BBQ. If they don't want to eat any of that or bring something, I just encourage them to come hang out and socialize afterwards.

                                                                                                                    1. e
                                                                                                                      escondido123 Sep 7, 2013 12:08 PM

                                                                                                                      I had two couples I hadn't cooked for over last month. One said she was a vegetarian and another didn't eat meat. I made a vegetarian meal and then my husband added some grilled tuna. Turns out that the "vegetarian" eats fish and chicken, as does the non-meat eater. The meal went well, but if I'd known I would have made a grilled chicken......................

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: escondido123
                                                                                                                        sunshine842 Sep 7, 2013 05:57 PM

                                                                                                                        a *lot* of vegetarians I know have textural issues with meat...but "vegetarian" is easier and (admittedly) sounds more mature than "I don't like the texture of meat".

                                                                                                                        Most of them will eat fish pretty happily.

                                                                                                                        I know this doesn't apply to *all* vegetarians...just commiserating that this is not an isolated experience.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                                                          e
                                                                                                                          escondido123 Sep 7, 2013 09:59 PM

                                                                                                                          I don't need to know why people don't eat something, just what they don't eat. But don't call yourself a vegetarian if you eat fish and chicken--say I don't eat "red meat" which is totally understandable. Truly I don't need to know and don't want to know my guests peculiarities around food and would rather those things remain private. If someone asks me what I don't eat my answer is beets and organs meats. Aside from those, I can pretty well work around anything.

                                                                                                                          1. re: escondido123
                                                                                                                            sunshine842 Sep 8, 2013 06:44 AM

                                                                                                                            I've never asked, by the way -- the information was offered freely.

                                                                                                                            Chicken counts as "meat" for these folks, texturally-- so while I agree with you about the technical definition of the word, I totally see that "vegetarian" is just easier. I'm quite close to all of them, so I'm pretty sure that they offered the information to a good friend far more easily than they'd offer it to a stranger.

                                                                                                                      2. d
                                                                                                                        DebinIndiana Sep 8, 2013 09:44 AM

                                                                                                                        I tend to stick with the people who say that providing a variety of foods that ensure _most_ people will find something to their liking should be all that is required. Avoiding a few items among many is easy for a guest.

                                                                                                                        However, (and I know you said "dinner party" but am commenting anyway) if some guests will be children, I think you should inquire very specifically and adjust the menu as needed, since the little ones are not always aware enough of what foods might contain ingredients they should not eat, or don't have enough will-power to refrain.

                                                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                                                          madbaker Sep 8, 2013 11:17 AM

                                                                                                                          I do generally ask if there are foods someone can't eat, but that's because the vast majority of the friends whom I'm likely to invite have only a few food restrictions at most (i.e., a few vegetarians, someone who's allergic to seafood, and only one person who is lactose-intolerant and also has been avoiding gluten because they're trying to work up some digestive issues), so I know it can't get too complicated. If the party is big enough, it becomes a potluck or buffet, so I can usually count on having something for everyone. If it's a small party, like 6 or so people, then I do try to observe dietary restrictions -- but as I said, the people in my social circle don't have that many dietary restrictions.

                                                                                                                          I'll note that one thing that has really helped is cooking sous vide. It means that without too much trouble, I can cook different proteins for the main dish and let people choose which protein/sauce combo they want. I'm doing this on Saturday for a dinner party: cooking chicken and pork souvlaki separately (to be seared right before serving). Oh, and I'm serving the meat with a choice of tzatziki or tahini sauce and fresh pita bread v. rice (for the LF/GF friend).

                                                                                                                          I agree that restrictions are different from preferences. I'm fine with occasional preferences, like, "I don't like mushrooms." But I do get annoyed with picky eaters, which may date back to high school. We had a friend who was such a picky eater that when we got together to make pizza (and you understand, when we were 16, cooking *anything* from scratch was a major accomplishment for us), she made herself a separate dish of spaghetti with butter. But I think what was more annoying was mostly the way she did it -- you know, tell us in advance that you have food preferences so that we don't go to all the trouble of making something for you and then have you tell us you don't want it. In its own way, cooking for someone is like a gift, and it's disappointing when someone rejects it bluntly.

                                                                                                                          1. m
                                                                                                                            MissElle2013 Jan 24, 2014 11:02 AM

                                                                                                                            OK. But there are some people who are just plain "difficult" and feel they are entitled to rearrange everyone else's plans, why? Because they must order salmon that is "wild" not "farmed"...when they are being taken out to dinner...Yet when it comes to them paying--they will eat the "farmed" less expensive salmon. If you take this person to brunch--they complain that the eggs are NOT organic! People need to bend around her--and the restaurants she chooses to go to. Inflexible.

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