Etiquette by 83

Modern Etiquette: Navigating Food Allergies + Dietary Restrictions

Illustration by Anna Emilia

I’ve been fortunate to eat a lot of truly delicious meals lately and it made me think about all of the things that go into preparing food for someone. Not just the planning and shopping and cooking, but the thought and consideration behind each decision. Any entertaining to dine or drink at someone’s home is an invitation to be cared for and treated like family. So the way we welcome people into our home and prepare food for them should be an extension of that care. But lately I’ve been hearing a lot from readers who are feeling frustrated and confused by the various allergies, restrictions and diets people are dealing with today. From vegans and vegetarians to guests who are gluten free, soy free or paleo-dieting, there is a veritable minefield of things to avoid when cooking for guests. So today I thought I’d tackle this topic, keeping in mind that everyone has the right to eat/cook/host the way they see fit. This post will try to focus on how to make both the guest and host feel comfortable without costing anyone too much time or money. As always, I heartily welcome your input, thoughts and experiences. All of it helps makes each one of us a better informed and more appreciative host and guest.

These are the rules I try to live by (and adjust when necessary) when cooking for and with others.
There’s obviously some wiggle room in each of these based on circumstances and needs, but it’s good to remember that guidelines like these will help both the host and the guest feel comfortable and welcome- which is the goal of any meal spent together.

1. You (host) chose to welcome these guests into your home, making them feel welcome is part of the deal. If you choose to invite a couple that has been vegan for years, providing them with vegan-friendly food should be a given. Does it mean you have to spend an arm an a leg on pricey meat alternatives? Of course not. There are so many vegan-friendly recipes that are delicious, affordable and delicious for everyone. Just choose one and everyone can eat comfortably- and happily.

2. You (guest) are being welcomed into someone’s home, so being polite and helpful is part of the deal. If you have a dietary restriction (either by choice or by birth) you should let your host know well in advance so they can prepare. Please note, dietary restrictions are not licenses to be picky. If someone makes you a delicious gluten-free meal but you would have preferred squash over asparagus, it’s best to keep that to yourself. If someone goes to the trouble of making you a meal from scratch in their home and takes all of your needs and restrictions into place, it’s part of your role as a guest to at least try everything you can safely eat (considering all your allergies, etc.).

3. Preferences are not the same as genuine restrictions. Every now and then I meet someone who genuinely hates a certain food. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t try at least once (except anything still crawling on a table), but I also can’t think of anything ruder than a fully grown adult who chooses to turn their nose up at several standard staple foods like rice, potatoes, peas, etc. If you don’t like it, give your host the respect of at least trying a bit before you declare you don’t care for it. I think part of being a mature adult is being open to trying new things, so unless you know for a fact that you’ll be in major intestinal distress from eating rice, just east the rice and say thank you. You don’t have to eat it all, but a few bites goes a long way toward not making your host feel bad.

4. Consider the Size. If you’re the only people invited over, serving a meal that suits your needs 100% is completely within reason. However, if you’re 2 of 100 people invited, you should not expect that every aspect of the meal will be 100% suitable for your meals. At a large event where there is a buffet, it’s not always practical to make 100% of the options gluten free, vegan, etc. That said, with more and more people dealing with allergies and restrictions, it’s fair to assume that (when informed ahead of time), hosts will accommodate as much as possible in their planning.

5. When in doubt, offer to bring or suggest a meal. I think it’s incredibly kind and helpful when guests with extreme allergies provide either suggestions or actual food at events. You of course aren’t obligated to, but it’s a nice touch. For example, if you’re gluten free and eating at someone’s home who’s never dealt with that allergy before, it could be helpful to mention something like, “We love cooking with Quinoa and would be more than happy to suggest some group-friendly recipes if you need any help!”. If your hosts are still lost, offering to bring something like a salad or make-ahead dish is incredibly helpful. (It also gives them an idea of something they can cook next time)

6. Be clear about what’s in each dish. Few things bug me more than hearing a picky guest repeatedly asking something like, “Does this have butter in it? Does this? What about this?”. If you know a guest has a specific and genuine allergy or dietary concern, mention that at the start of the meal. For example, you can say, “We made a delicious vegetarian pasta salad, as well as roast chicken and some of our favorite grilled vegetables- all of which were made with just our favorite olive oil.” Or you can let people know simply that all of the vegetables were prepared without animal products, period. I always feel terrible for vegetarians when it turns out that veggie sides have been cooked in bacon, etc. While it’s delicious for some, it renders the dish off limits for them.

7. When in doubt, a simple “We’re sorry” is helpful. If a guest fails to inform you about an allergy or restriction, it’s not the end of the world. Simply apologize for not being able to accommodate them and see what you can do to remedy the situation with what you have. Maybe you can give them a larger portion of the salad being served as a starter or just skip the dairy dessert and give them sorbet you had in the freezer. Either way, a simple “sorry” is all that’s required. A guest should also pass along the same “sorry” if they failed to inform the host they are currently eating, say, an all-meat diet and won’t be trying the delicious bread, pasta and rice dishes you prepared.

5.

Pin It
Categories
Etiquette

83 Comments

Shannon

I think this is a really good guide. I love to cook, and while I will gladly accommodate religious, ethical, and allergy needs, my feathers get ruffled when I get an “oh, I don’t like cilantro” in response to the food needs question. You’re an adult! Suck it up! Part of what makes cooking for other people fun (and eating at other people’s houses) is trying new foods and having an excuse to be creative and make elaborate dishes. I often find that there *are* ways that I like certain foods that I thought I didn’t like.

GertrudeM

I like most of these suggestions but would personally find something like: “We love cooking with Quinoa and would be more than happy to suggest some group-friendly recipes if you need any help!” really annoying! In a case like this, offering to bring your own would probably be an opener to discussing what they could make for you.
I’ve been veggie for years but forced myself to eat meat rather than offend friends when they’ve forgotten – but that’s probably an extreme representation of my terror of upsetting people!!

Laura M.

Great post, Grace! For those of us with life-threatening food allergies, please understand if we decline to try something or skip a course (such as dessert). It is standard for doctors to tell food-allergic people to avoid not only the food they are allergic to, but foods that are prepared in proximity to their allergens. I liken it to keeping kosher. We are not criticizing a host’s cooking or cleanliness, but we are simply following doctor’s orders. I know I personally am always happy to contribute a “safe” dish to make hosting easier. Nothing busts up a party like having to call 911!

patricia

I encountered this situation recently. I invited 10 guests for dinner and asked everyone what their dietary restrictions were. Only 2 out of 10 would/could eat anything. The easy solution was to make small plates, yes, it was more work but then everyone could mix and match according to their desire. I made a vegetarian lentil soup, cheese plate with soy options, bread/gluten free, roasted beets, fresh salad greens, grilled sausages with chocolate cake & sorbet for desert. Of course it was all eaten and everyone was very appreciative that I made the effort. I myself am a picky eater so I know what it takes to be a good host & a good guest.

Kim

This is such a touchy issue. I have some food restrictions, and so I know to ask about others’ allergies/preferences when inviting them to a group meal, but people who don’t deal with this regularly don’t necessarily think of it. I try to give a heads up about my vegetarian-ness as soon as possible when we get invited somewhere, along with an offer to bring a veggie dish. I think its also a good idea to reassure the host that I routinely make meals out of side dishes, and that there’s no need to make a separate meat-substitute entree.

Eileen

but too much of dealing with invitations has become part of the general culture of entitlement….My needs trump everyone elses….Thanks for the good pointers.

Leah

My husband is allergic to nuts and shellfish which can be difficult at times. A lot of weddings or other events that we go to have nuts in the salad, entree and dessert! I understand that its not a host’s obligation at a big event to cater to specific allergies but it is surprising to me given how common nut allergies are.

Ellen

This is spot-on. I have two daughters with allergies – one to nuts and the other to milk. Though the nut allergy is more severe, both are entirely avoided.

In my observation, handling allergies works best when both parties (host and guest) are as considerate and flexible and possible. My three year old has already learned to accept it without fuss when she has to skip a dish.

My other standby is to carry backup food items for when the options are very limited. I have found that when presented politely, people appreciate it that I can cover our needs without fuss. A common example for us would be desserts. Many desserts have dairy or nuts or both, so I carry organic suckers or dried fruit bars. Hosts tend to be grateful when I can cheerfully say, “Oh, desserts are awfully complicated for us and so I carry some backups to save everyone the trouble!”

We live in a culture of plenty and few of us know true hunger. I think a positive attitude in the face of a few limitations is the least we should expect of ourselves.

Ros

As a guest, I’m always so thankful when people accommodate dietary issues. I’ve got a wheat intolerance (it gives me a rash and is a migraine trigger). I can medicate through the rash and the migraine, but, for obvious reasons, I much prefer to not eat wheat!

I’ve gotten all sorts of “ugh, everyone has dietary issues” comments about it, though, and have absolutely been invited to meals that were based around pasta and cesar salad (croutons already in there and all), and received the comment of “well, you’ve got meds, don’t you?”

All I can say is that it’s a great way of figuring out which of your friends you’re not particularly close to!

danielle

as someone who has a very dietary diverse group of friends and family (vegan, gf, allergic to everything – no really, uncooked vegetables, chicken, tree nuts, onions, tomatoes, sesame…) i’m happy to read this.and actually during large holiday meals i usually make little cards that list the ingredients so i don’t have to keep telling people what they can/can’t eat (i like to make recipe cards too cos a lot of times people will ask for a recipe if they have never had a ‘good’ vegan meal before). as a host i feel better knowing if someone absolutely hates something or can’t eat something due to a restriction cos the worst thing to me is when someone just says “oh i’ll be able to find something” – though they usually mean to be nice, it sucks if i’ve invited them to a meal and they can’t eat anything! on the other hand it kind of drives me crazy when people get all mopey and are just like “i can’t eat that” if other guests offer them something. a polite no thank you is fine, as not everyone is aware that of everyone else’s allergies. umm sorry i ranted but yay for this post!

Nikki

My husband can’t handle dairy or soy, and we have good friends on no sugar, low cholesterol, paleo and gluten free diets. Interestingly, no vegetarians, maybe because we live in Montana where it seems almost everyone raises or hunts meat. I personally think it’s a fun challenge to try to make a dish everyone can eat AND enjoy, or at least put together a menu with options for each person. Fortunately all of us are kind and accommodating so there’s rarely an etiquette issue, just a logistical one. We often do potlucks and we’re getting good at checking labels and doing substitutions.

kiki

Love this. Thank you! I remember watching Martha’s TV show years ago, and she addressed this as well. She basically stated that she had absolutely no patience for people with food allergies who do not tell their host in advance. It wasn’t the most sensitive statement…but she’s not really known for her empathy. Being one of those pesky guests myself, I always try to offer to bring something that I know is safe for me to eat :)

Julianne

I’ve heard (and experienced) people trying to trick vegans into eating animal products. It’s a horrifying violation of autonomy and body. Likewise, I don’t try to deceive people that my tofu or TVP is actually meat. Many vegetarians don’t bother with the meat analogs – they’re generally unhealthy, and why would I want to pretend I’m eating ground cow?

I have been to several dinners where the only option is salad or roasted veggies. Sometimes I attend just for the company, but I also don’t feel any guilt for declining an invitation to a meat-centered restaurant. We can either meet for drinks after dinner, or get together another time for a lighter all-veggie meal.

It’s great to have a large vegan community in Los Angeles, but we still love sharing meals with our friends with different diets.

Christy

Great article and well covered. Having someone in my family who has Celiac disease, I appreciate the helpful tips and advice. Thanks!

Catherine

I agree, it’s so important of the guests to realize they are not the only ones being fed at a large function, not everything is going to appeal to everyone, and guests should be gracious and considerate to the host no matter what. It’s only in your own home can you be truly picky. :)

jess

I agree with all of your points EXCEPT for number three. I think it is okay to specify one or two foods that you genuinely can’t stand if you GENUINELY can’t stand them.

I hate chicken. I know it’s a weird thing to hate. But the texture of chicken in my mouth, the smell of it, and the physical appearance (sinews, gizzards, cartilage) really turns my stomach. And no matter how it’s prepared, I hate it (I have tried more than one hundred chicken recipes). That being said, I routinely take some for the team at social gatherings.

When chicken is prepared at gatherings, I eat it, due to the scarcity of other foods. However, my stomach turns for days, even weeks afterwards, whenever I think about the experience. Recently, a friend invited me over for chili, and it was chicken chili (she knows I don’t like chicken and she didn’t tell me it was chicken chili until I arrived). I ate some and tried to enjoy it and then she started talking about how she had bought an entire (whole) chicken at a farmer’s market and cut it up herself on her kitchen counter to make the chili. I was chewing it during this story. I was completely grossed out and couldn’t keep eating it no matter how much I wanted to show my appreciation for her cooking in the first place. I know my particular aversion isn’t “real” in the same way that a dietary restriction is “real”, but it certainly affects me to a higher level than just someone who is merely picky.

Joyce

I really like this post, being a vegetarian myself. But I feel that hosts wouldn’t like for me to say “I don’t eat meat” beforehand, at least inside my social circles.

Usually I just have the side dishes.

emilee

A true hostess cares more for people than food. Cares more about the people she has invited over than what dish is served. As a family with allergies and limitations nothing endears me to a friend more than one who is willing to nourish us.

Laura @ Found Beauty Studio

I’m a long time vegetarian and was diagnosed with Celiac a few months ago, so my food restrictions are irritatingly complex. There are a lot of foods I think are going to be ok, and then they turn out to be a gastrointestinal nightmare the next day. So instead of declining every invitation I get, I’m a firm believer in #5 – I offer to bring a dish that I and everyone else can share (and label it with the ingredients). Or I eat something ahead of time so I won’t be annoyingly hungry if it turns out I can’t eat anything there. Often hosts will be incredibly gracious and accommodate me with dishes they’ve prepared, and I’m so appreciative, but I in no way expect someone to go out of their way to cater to me. I’m in it for the company, not the food :)

Elizabeth

I especially think #6 (be clear about what is in each dish) is really, really helpful.

I also think you can’t go wrong with vegetables prepared with olive oil, fruits, bread, and fish or chicken. All prepared and served seperately. That way people can find something that works for them – gluten free, meat free, dairy free, whatever.

But of course, I’m the person who has served chicken to a friend who is allergic to chicken. Yes, there are people who are allergic to chicken. He would have probably preferred pork.

Ellen J

I strongly disagree with #3. The “picky eaters” I have known, one who is my husband, would never want to just try the dish, just trying would run the risk of making them nauseous. What they have always preferred is to have their food quirks ignored, if the food is already made. They fill up on something else or eat later, but they do not want to have the host hovering, trying to make it right or haranguing them to try a little. For them, the shared meal is about the social gathering, not the food.

bridgette

Being gluten free and dairy free – I think this is a great list from which to start. Two things I would add.
1. It’s totally acceptable to ask your guests ahead of time if they have any food allergies (which also includes food restrictions/diets). This puts both of you in the clear and sets the expectations.
2. If you do have allergies or a special diet and you’re going to a party where you don’t know what is going to be served – eat a snack first so you’re not starving. Or at the very least bring a granola bar/energy bar with you so you won’t bonk if there’s nothing you can eat.

Melissa H

Great pints for both the attendee and the host. I like to have fun with the food signage or menu to share what is included. I see your point about being bugged by lots of questions, so why not have fun communicating the details to people. I would add, please do not be offended if a guest has to ask for the ingredients. My loved one with a special diet really needs to know ingredients despite wanting to eat everything. He is asking because he WANTS to eat the food, not in an effort to evade eating the food. We try to frame it as casually as possible and take interest in the cooking, but some hosts get a little anxious.

I might also add, no need to shout out or alienate the people with a special diet. I have more than once witnessed someone yelling across the buffet: “Sally! You cannot eat this because there is CHEESE in it!”. There are more quaint ways to tell Sally without drawing attention to her or drawing people away from other happenings.

Jeanne

When I’m hosting a potluck, I like to ask each person bringing a dish to also bring a card with the ingredients listed to place alongside it or on a skewer stuck into the food. This is also a good way to help guests identify a dish that isn’t easily recognizable, such as a cheese-covered casserole.

Jeanne

P.S. Forgot to say what a good addition this is to your other articles on modern etiquette! Thank you.

Miss Agnes

With two kids suffering from multiple food allergies, I agree with everything written above. We’re not often invited because of this, but when we are, I try to make it as easy as possible for my hosts. I send out the complete list of no no’s beforehand and also specify that they eat all kinds of meat and fish, and give a few tips for cooking to show that it is not hard as they imagine. I really appreciate when people make the extra effort to cook something for them, and I usually bring their gluten- free bread and a quick dessert.
Then I coach my kids so that they try everything that is being offered. Last meal with friends they ate everything and asked for more. My friend was so pleased and indeed she had made a delicious meal suitable for all with minimal adjustments.
I remember how hard it was for me to adjust at first. Therefore everytime someone makes this extra effort, I treat it as a gift and show gratitude before, during and after with a thank you note.

Ashley Johnson

I have been missing your etiquette posts and was happy to see this one up today.

I am one of the many unfortunate people who have severe anaphylactic allergies. I am anaphylactic to all nuts, buckwheat, salmon & shellfish. This is something that is EXTREMELY serious. I carry an epipen with me wherever I go. Even cross contamination can be a problem for me.
Going out to dinner parties can be a nightmare, especially if I do not know the hosts well. I do not like causing a fuss, but things such as mixed nuts out in a bowl that others eat, then up end with nut oils on their hands, so I shake their hand and am given a kiss on the cheek and my life is suddenly at risk are a HUGE issue. I know this can sound ridiculous to those who do not understand severe, life-threatenig allergies, but it’s the truth. I cannot go to any sporting events where they serve peanuts in the shell as the proteins I am allergic to get airborne, I inhale them and end up in severe distress.

I am SO grateful for those who at least try to understand and accommodate. I always offer to bring something that is safe for me, but I still have to request that things such as mixed nuts are not served to the group, and that nothing is cooked in peanut oil, as even the smell is dangerous for me.

In turn, I always do my best to respect and accommodate other peoples’ dietary restrictions. But I do have to say, those who are simply picky and say they are “allergic” to something to get out of eating it, give us with serious concerns a bad name.

Like most things in life good communication and common sense help the most in these situations, as well as respecting the efforts and feelings of others.

Thanks for the post Grace!

Teri S

I don’t mind at all working around food allergies/intolerances, medical needs, or “I hate XX”. If you’re on some strange program by choice “only eat organic” or paleo or something of that order, and I would have to buy all sorts of things I don’t use… then I don’t fool with it. We’ll do something to socialize besides eating.

RinT

Hi! Interesting topic, one close to my heart. As a low fat, gluten free vegan (I say ‘plant based) I am so grateful when hosts rise to the occasion and produce not only something that ticks all the boxes but is a brand new dish that I have not tried before. On occasions when usually people get the vegan bit right but have lots of oil I accept and get on with nibbles of the meal. I want to be a guest who get asked back and is not defined by a her diet or being difficult to friends and family. I find all my hosts have been amazing with it. (I do it for health reasons). Guest ettiquette should also be as mindful esp if you follow a restrictive diet. It can be tough sometimes for a host to accomodate different diets as they do not have heaps of time to research recipes or the ‘rules’. To anyone hosting a vegan, especially a low fat vegan then engine2 or happy herbivore offer great and dollar friendly recipes :-)

Christina

As someone with a lot of allergies, I try to inform people right up front what they’re getting themselves into trying to cook for me. I give them a list of things I can’t eat and I’ve recently tried to tag on the end a quick idea of meals or easy ingredients I can have. Given that, if I provide a list far in advance for some well-planned event like a wedding I expect to eat more than salad. I expect to have alternatives that I can eat, not just a well compiled list of the things I must avoid. And I’m always very appreciative of peoples efforts, even if it’s a flop. I know I’m a pain to cook for, and I’m usually surprised by people’s generosity.

I love these etiquette posts!

Cassidy

As an event planner, I often utilize buffet items that meet everyone’s requirements with add ins for specific preferences. It’s so much more pleasant for people to add what they like than remove what they don’t. I do this at home, too!

I think it’s also important that if you prepare a special meal for people with restrictions that it is at least similar to the majority meal. Guests can feel excluded if, for example, the vegan meal is a salad and everyone else is getting something more elaborate.

Amy

I love that this is being addressed here. I’d say that number 5 is the biggest one for me- I have some severe intolerances and allergies to the point where a crumb or a nibble of something can be all it takes. When I bring a dish, I am guaranteed to have at least one thing that I can eat without worrying about getting sick in the middle of a party. Also, little things like putting out a tray of fresh fruits and veggies goes a long way- there are very few people who can’t eat raw veggies and sometimes nibbling on a carrot stick is all it takes to get the “why aren’t you eating anything?” people off your back.

Evee M

I really enjoy these Modern Etiquette posts you create. It is always good to be reminded of good manners, plus you help us see the issue from a neutral perspective.

Jane

These are great tips! As someone with dietary restrictions, I try to be as considerate as possible of those nice enough to serve me food, and I try to remember that coming up with meal ideas for special diets can be hard.

An additional tip from my experience: respect others’ dietary choices by not pressuring them to eat foods they cannot or choose not to eat. There is nothing more infuriating than the phrase “oh come on, one bite won’t hurt you, live a little!” to someone struggling to stick to a diet for whatever reason.

Jennifer

Thanks for this post. I am dairy/gluten/ fish and seafood free but not by choice. I always feel awful when I have to break the news to someone who has been kind enough to invite me to their home for a meal. Usually I ask what they intended to make and just suggest what to leave off my plate or how to make something with olive oil instead of butter, etc. The best scenario for me as a guest is when my food allergies aren’t announced to the whole party at each course. I am really happy to thank the host publically for adapting to accommodate my needs, but feel uncomfortable when my health issues become the centre of conversation, especially when it is a party I don’t know well.

Catherine

I hosted a Mexican theme party for my birthday with yummy 5 hour pork belly tacos. My friend called that morning and let me know his girlfriend who is Muslim was coming, so i quickly whipped up some shredded chicken filling, and as the party started my other friend came with his vegetarian girlfriend – luckily Mexican food allows for lots of salad. Lesson for me – ask people BEFORE the party for their food preferences!

Barbara Connelly Bruch

I enjoy having the challenge of cooking for a vegan, gluten free, soy free friend. You’d be surprised what great things you can find on the internet!

Diane Parsons

Thank you for posting a practical guide! As a mom of a 7 year old with severe allergies to milk products, tree nuts, and MANY fruits and vegetables, it becomes incredibly frustrating when people don’t take her allergies seriously and brush it off as her food preference. We bring our own foods to events because we feel that we shouldn’t put that burden on our hosts to accommodate. Thanks for posting this!

'Becca'lise

Oh, the food issue! I hate to be the person that asks what’s in everything, but some of my relatives consider something vegetarian if it doesn’t have actual meat in it. When I ask about lard or broth, I feel like I’m annoying them :|

rb

this is one of the things that stresses me out about throwing dinner parties, enough to (gulp) just not do it. I grew up in a family where you ate everything on your plate and said thank you. consequently I feel some tension around folks who strictly follow particular diets by choice – I feel like I’m judging them for being too picky, and I also feel like they’re judging me for not being as ethically- or environmentally-minded as they are, or hurt that they don’t appreciate my hospitality.

thanks for starting the conversation!

pippa

Oh how very timely! I just cooked lunch today for my husband’s colleagues: vegetarian, which is standard for this group and not a problem at all. However one colleague declines to eat pesto, lamb, risotto or zucchini. One person (on medical advice) is only able to eat a primarily vegan diet of steamed vegetables and fruit, without any cooked oils and the occasional egg.

As it’s high summer here zucchini and tomatoes were hard to resist. In the end I made eggs poached in a zucchini, bell pepper, tomato and chickpea stew. The person with a medical condition received an oil free dish of steamed peppers and tomatoes with a poached egg. The person with the preferences had to pick the zucchini out and give it to their spouse!

JL

My 2 year old has a severe dairy allergy, and several other doctor-mandated restrictions. Because of the severity of his allergy, we were instructed not to introduce, ie feed him, eggs, nuts, fish and shellfish until he’s four. So we function like he’s allergic to all of those, because it’s not a preference or an option. Eating out is complicated, and going to people’s homes, even family and close friends, is also complicated. I ask LOTS of questions, because dairy is in so many things, and hidden in a lot of foods. Some brands of graham crackers are ok, some aren’t. Ditto hot dogs, bread, on and on. And of course this doesn’t have milk in it, except for the pat of butter or the whey in a component’s ingredient list.

I have to really trust the cook who made it, in order to feed it to my child, because he trusts that what I feed him is safe for him to eat. I don’t ask questions to be annoying, but because I have to. We bring snacks and alternatives, and we bring things we know are safe to potlucks, and offer help.

If someone has a severe allergy — which to me means that they carry an epipen in case of emergency — then they’ll make sure their host knows about it. {Nothing ruins a good time with friends or family like an anaphylactic reaction and a call to 911.} Anyone who isn’t courteous of their host has to deal with the consequences with good grace, like not having lots of options or preferred choices. I always assume my host is doing their best– keeping track of what is ok and what isn’t is (a) really complicated and (b) principally my job.

That said, if you know you’re hosting some one with serious or multiple allergies, it helps to have one or two items that are simple in terms of ingredients, because the more components there are, the harder it is to know what’s in it. Sauces and dressing separate if possible, and cheese and toppings on the side, also help. If a salad is already tossed with blue cheese and walnuts, for instance, it can’t be undone so a plain portion can be served.

Elisha

My son has the dreaded peanut allergy, and we have to carry an Epipen because of it. You can darn well bet that even if a host specifies at the beginning that there is no peanuts, I will continue to ask it. (My cousin knows of my son’s peanut allergies and still served peanut M&Ms to other children at a recent birthday party–I wished I hadn’t attended). If my own parents and in-laws don’t “get” the seriousness of his food allergies, I do not trust that friends will. (Son is also allergic to eggs, soy, and dairy, but mostly just ends up with a nasty rash from those, as opposed to risking anaphylaxis like with peanuts–although he did end up in the ER following a flu shot grown on eggs).

I think the addressing food PREFERENCES is the same breath with dangerous food ALLERGIES is a huge problem. It perpetuates that those with allergies have a choice or are just being dramatic, when the fact is the lives of those with food allergies could be in danger with the smallest exposure. If a host interprets vigilance as pickiness and chooses to be insulted, that’s their problem.

sloganmaker

Thanks for the tips! It really feels awkward to prepare a food for guests and suddenly knowing they’re allergic or don’t eat that food. Better to be always prepared.

Jane / MulchMaid

I think this goes for attending an event where prepared meals will be served. Either find out ahead if your particular food restriction can and will be accommodated, or plan to bring food you can eat. Event planners want to keep everyone happy and well-fed!

Nicole Smith

Thanks for bringing up this topic. About 6 years ago (as an adult) I suddenly developed a pretty bad allergy to nuts. If I’m invited to a gathering, I can almost never eat anything because if there’s one thing containing nuts on the whole buffet, I can’t eat anything on the whole table for fear that a bit of nut protein (and believe me, a teeny tiny bit is all it takes) could cause an anaphylactic reaction.

Not knowing exactly what ingredients went into preparing a dish is also a problem. Many breads, most chocolate and pretty much anything made at a bakery is off-limits to me because of cross-contact. I can’t eat about 1/2 the frozen food from Trader Joes. I have had the hardest time explaining this, even to family members. It seems they just don’t get it.

One thing I would add to your list is that if someone with severe food allergies doesn’t eat your food or brings their own snack over to a party, try not to be offended. Unless you went over every single dish including the brand and ingredient label of every single ingredient (and that’s hard to do if it’s potluck) with the allergic person beforehand, chances are they might have some concerns. They’re just trying to be safe.

Capucine

I was raised vegan, we even only ate raw until I was five and never did include sugar. So I grew up developing manners around all those limitations that now, as an adult, let me be at ease with being a polite guest. On a practical level, I have a handful of habits for being a guest at occasions beside small dinner parties (where I just make sure the host knows I don’t eat meat or fish ahead of time).

For large gatherings I feed my family a peanut butter sandwich beforehand and have a bag of nuts in the car for after so nobody will be hungry if there aren’t options, but I do not bring food to the event and I keep what we ate boring so my kids aren’t looking forward to eating the GOOD food after we leave.

I accept what was barbecued for me, without focusing on whether the grill was scoured between meat items.

If I learn after the fact something was cooked with chicken bouillon, I don’t say anything or if the host is mortified I say, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m having a great time’.

If the veggie options are not my favorite, I fill a plate anyway and eat some and discreetly part from the plate when the host has moved on to other activities. Most hosts want to be sure you have plenty to eat and will stop worrying once they see a full plate.

I often ask for a recipe for a particular dish when I leave, it helps the host feel like I LOVED what I ate. Especially when I know they tried hard.

I feel that gathering is for connection; the food is secondary. I once read how Ramakrishna sat eating some poorly cooked questionable fritters at a feast and his devotees asked why he didn’t eat the GOOD food like them, and he explained a poor old woman had made them for him and the food itself did not matter because the love she expressed with them was so pure.

So I guess that is the grace I try to keep around my everyday food choices when a festivity appears. I don’t make my food choices a guest at the party. I will not die (unlike allergies) and the love in the food is perfect.

Alicia

I second Teri’s comment. Beyond happy to accommodate allergies, but diets seem different. If we invite just one couple over, I’ll try to make it friendly for their diet. But if 2/20 guests are doing Paleo, maybe they can just try to figure out what they can eat and skip the rest. Also, I’m currently pregnant and do not expect folks to cater to my off-limits foods. But it is SUPER sweet and appreciated when people offer something baby friendly, and a good reminder to do the same for others because it makes them feel welcome.

amy

These are great! I’m gluten free, and have found that if we have people over for dinner first so they can see how we cook, eating at their house is much easier the next time around. They have a chance to see that they don’t have to spend hours cooking expensive things from the health food store, when tacos would do the job.

Also, I’d add another rule on here: If you’re the one with the food allergy/intolerance or dietary restriction, plan ahead! Even if you’ve told someone ahead of time, they still may have no idea that pasta has gluten in it. I take a page out of a family friend’s book, who brings an avocado to dinner parties in her purse, and always have a backup snack, just in case.

Clair

I agree that when you are inviting people to your home you should try and make them feel as welcome as possible but I don’t necessarily bend an entire meal to the person with the allergy or food restriction. For example, if I have a mix of vegans and carnivores, I offer meat but also have hearty vegan sides that can stand alone as a meal as well.

I also agree in open communication. If a friend keeps kosher, I let them know what I am planning to make just to make sure it will work for that friend.

I don’t necessarily agree on eating something you know you don’t like as a guest. While I will pretty much eat anything, there are a few foods that I’d rather not eat. I don’t think it is offensive to skip a component of a meal and enjoy the rest of what is being offered and I certainly wouldn’t be hurt if someone opted out of a part of what I prepared.

Christina

I think it’s important for people without allergies to realize that for them a meal out may just be a casual event, but for someone with severe allergies, their life could be at risk just doing something others do all the time without thinking. That said, it’s both a huge honour for someone to take that risk by eating in your home, and a huge responisibility for you who is hosting them.

An older relative of mine had a fish allergy and him & his wife went to another couples home for dinner. This was many years ago when allergies were uncommon and unfamiliar. Despite trying to get across an understanding of their severity, many people didn’t believe that they existed and thought they were a figment of the imagination. The hosting wife was of this opinion and she decided that she would “cure” him of his allergy. He double checked and asked if there was any fish in the meal as they sat down and the woman looked him in the eye and told him “no”. She had put fish sauce in the food. He left via ambulance and spent days in the hospital.

Needless to say, it put a strain on their friendship. I think they kept in touch with the unknowing husband, but never talked to the wife again. An example of what not to do, I suppose. Certainly she was not a good host. But also a reminder that good etiquette really is about respecting people and caring for them. I agree with Emilee’s comment that “nothing endears me to a friend more than one who is willing to nourish [me].” It immediately says something to me about who that person is.

MarT

!) If I ask you to my house for a meal, it means I want to feed you and spend time with you. I assume that if I don’t already know you well, you will tell me your restrictions. I agree that it’s frustrating to be surprised by dietary restrictions on the day.
2) If you are worried about cross-contamination, or feel your needs are too complex, by all means, feel free to bring something. If eating out is too stressful and you still want to hang out, suggest some other activity.
3) Sometimes It’s a little easier to plan meals besides dinner. I have friends who go crazy for the steel-cut oatmeal bar at a local restaurant where they can pick their toppings. It’s not hard to find guaranteed GF oats. If you have people over and do a sandwich bar for lunch, it’s easy to swap out breads and cheeses for things that work for people.
4) Serious food allergies are a way of life these days. If your host is not as discreet as you would like for them to be, well, maybe they are trying to to be expedient while taking care of everyone’s needs. I know I don’t always have time to write ingredient lists for meals.

Jess

My husband hates nuts. It’s a texture thing. Recently, we were invited to dinner at my aunt’s house, and I mentioned beforehand that he “does not eat nuts”. She was making a rice + chicken + veggies + raisins + sauce one-dish meal that usually involves nuts, so she placed the nuts on the side. I thought that was simple enough. However, when she found out that he merely didn’t like nuts, and was not genuinely (medically) allergic, she glared at us. Why is it any different whether he’s allergic or hates them if the change is such a simple one as placing them on the side? Isn’t the whole point to enjoy a meal together in a way that makes everyone comfortable?

cathy

Both of my kids have severe food allergies. Between them, they’re allergic to dairy, wheat, nuts, peanuts, sesame, and a whole host of other foods. They carry EpiPens with them wherever they go. Most people who don’t deal with allergies on a daily basis don’t understand that it’s not enough for those with allergies to not eat the foods to which they’re allergic. Cross-contamination–either from the facility where something was produced or packaged or from where/how a dish was prepared–presents a huge risk. I’ve had family members who truly want to be able to provide something for my kids to eat, yet they don’t understand cross-contamination; if they’re going back and forth between making the pesto and making a nut-free dish, they’ve likely transferred some nut protein to the nut-free dish without knowing it. (This extends to the plates and utensils as well.) And I would never expect someone who doesn’t have to deal with it all the time to read ingredient labels as closely as I have to; many allergens also lurk under hidden labels. (Did you know that “dairy-free” rice and almond cheeses still contain casein, which is a milk protein?)

For the (small) handful of people who DO get it, and whom I trust to safely prepare something for my kids, I am beyond grateful. For the vast majority, I ask what’s on the menu, and then we bring a safe equivalent for the kids. I always offer to bring a dish, even if it’s not potluck, so we know there’s one safe thing to eat. Generally, I’ll absolve the host of worrying about it because I KNOW how complicated it is.

As far as having allergies and attending large catered events, I don’t recommend giving a list of allergies to the host. Instead, explain the situation to the host and ask who the caterer is, and their contact person. When my son was going to a lot of bar/bat mitzvah parties, I always contacted the caterer as far in advance as possible. My approach was to ask what they were serving and what was in each dish. My goal was to determine what (if anything) was safe for my son to eat. Only twice was he able to eat anything–and in both cases the chefs went out of their way to prepare something safe. Both involved simple substitutions. I’m sure some of the hosts thought I was being a pain–definitely one event planner did. I don’t care, though. What I was, was an advocate for my son.

When we host parties, we always ask people if they have any dietary restrictions. If I’m preparing all the food, I try to have a wide variety and to include things that are safe for everyone to eat. (Believe me, people with food allergies and other medical dietary restrictions, get really tired of standing out because of their food issues.) To me, it’s a fun challenge. If we’re hosting a potluck, I keep the allergy-friendly food in a safe place and discreetly tell those with allergies what’s available for them (besides what they brought).

Bottom line: Communication and Education. Those with dietary restrictions (both by choice and not) should let the host know. I think it’s also much nicer to offer to bring something–rather than suggest foods/recipes to the host. If you’re hosting, though, just ask your guests. But don’t assume–especially where true allergies are involved–that by providing what you think are good alternatives that everything will prove to be safe. You can offer gluten-free bread to all your guests, but then find (surprise!) the person with the wheat allergy is also allergic to the cornstarch in the GF bread. It’s hard, and I applaud anyone willing to try. But allergies do not belong in the same category as picky eating.
For those of us who live with allergies every day, I think we also need to do our best to educate others. At the very least, no host wants their party to end with a call to 911.

Leila

I like this post! I was brought up to always eat anything prepared by my host and to clear my plate at someone else’s house even if they serve something you hate. I find it horribly rude when people won’t eat things because they are picky (I do not find it at all rude when people are allergic to things and will go out of my way to make something they can eat). I just think, you’re a grown-up – it won’t kill you to eat something different for once. I also don’t mind at all so long as I’m warned in advance, but I am amazed at the number of people who will look at something you’ve spent ages cooking as though it were dog shit and then announce they don’t eat x, y or z even though you asked them in advance if they had any dietary requirements. I had one woman do this and say ‘is this vegetarian?’ while sneering at her plate, and in fact it was veggie because I’d been warned, but I felt she was extremely rude. What’s wrong with saying ‘that looks lovely, but can I just check if it’s vegetarian?’ or similar? I’d never met her before and still remember her as that rude friend of my partner’s!

Ashley Johnson

Everyone’s comments are so fantastic.
But seriously, this now makes me want to think multiple times before having a dinner party.
I wrote above about my severe anaphylactic allergies above, and I truly empathize with all of you parents out there advocating and protecting your children with the same affliction.

I think it is important to remember that those who just don’t get it, simply don’t understand it…

Miss Heliotrope

I find the number of grown ups who can’t distinguish between genuine allergies & not liking something just silly.

My mother is allergic to – of all things – garlic & chocolate, so I’m used to meals avoiding these things & if someone has a genuine allergy or belief-based non-eating (veg, vegan, kosher & so on) that’s fine. But the number of people who seem to think “I don’t like broccoli/anchovies/red food” deserves equal respect is just silly. I have eaten out in a group & watched an adult sulk through his vegetarian pasta – apparently it had vegetables – & it was disgusting & embarrassing. I’ve eaten things I dislike when out, and things I love – it’s the thing about eating some one else’s food, but I am a grown up & can cope with politely eating something I dont like, and saying thank you that was nice.

Indeed, most of the food my parents cook when I eat at their house isnt my style or taste, but they have tried to make something special for me, and have cared enough to make it, so why dont I care enough to eat it & be complimentary?

Martha

As a child I was taught to eat everything when a guest and never complain about what was served. When older and in the Peace Corps, I often visited in homes where it would have been extremely rude not to eat many of the strange dishes offered to me as an honored guest. My hosts were poor and they were truly being generous by sharing their food with me.

Now in the United States, I find it strange that, except for food allergies, people feel that their special diet should be accommodated when they are guests. I too, often don’t invite people over to eat because it is just too complicated to cover so many different dietary restrictions. We have such food abundance, but are such a poor society when people feel what they eat is more important than accepting the hospitality of a shared meal.

cathy

So true, Ashley. Most of the things our family are invited to are casual events held by close friends and family. Some get it, others don’t. Some have offered to prepare “something special” but I know, as well-intentioned as they are, they wouldn’t be able to put something on the table that’s truly safe. So we always take a lot of food–either for our kids, or for everyone. Also, at gatherings where there is “safe” food, we’ve found it helps if we request that our kids be first in line–before there’s any cross-contamination.

I do think it’s possible to have people for a meal without making it too stressful, but you do have to find your comfort zone. You could always go with a theme or ethnic food. There are great resources on the web and plenty of cookbooks. And certain things work for the majority of people. If you make a vegan dish, you’ve covered the person with a dairy allergy, the friend who keeps kosher, and the vegan. I’d venture a guess that even someone who eats Paleo could work it out for one meal. (maybe?) I know it can be done because we not only host parties large and small, we’ve had 30+ family members for Thanksgiving, and I’ve also prepared the food for a 150-guest luncheon after a bar mitzvah–all of it vegan, gluten-free, allergen free (no wheat, dairy, nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs, sesame, coconut, corn, and on and on). People enjoyed the food. Most–except those who needed to know–had no idea the recipes were different from what they were used to. For me, being a great host means I can tell EVERYONE to go ahead and eat.

Ruby

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a dinner party where the host was, like, hovering, making sure everyone was eating everything. THAT, I think, would be rude. I used to be a quite strict vegetarian (I have loosened up over the years), and I’ve certainly experienced occasions where someone would make something “vegetarian” that was just, like, sausage lasagna with one corner that theoretically didn’t have any actual sausage bits in it. Whenever something like that happens, or if someone serves me something I am seriously nauseated by like sweet potato casserole, I just smile, be gracious, and pretend to eat it while actually eating something else, then discreetly get rid of it when nobody is looking. Obviously this is not an option for the allergic! But for those of us with non-health-threatening food restrictions or preferences, I really think 95% of the time nobody is paying any attention to what you’re eating unless you draw attention to yourself by being obnoxious about it. (It’s like Nigella Lawson says about being on a diet – if you MENTION it then everyone around you will feel compelled to convince you to go off of it, but if you just don’t draw attention to it then nobody will notice that you’re not eating much.)

Sharon

Thank you for such an informative post! I have gluten, soy and dairy intolerances but
do manage to find something I can eat. However, there have been many times I am left eating plain salad (not even dressing as the main ingredient is usually soy oil). I appreciate whenever someone creates something just for me and doesn’t make a big deal about it. What a friend!

On a side note, I did bring a dish one time and it was the one and only dish I could actually eat (and it was explained that way to the group) was eaten by other guests so they could ‘try’ it and I ended up getting a spoonful. Yes, it’s happened! Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Beth

Great, post and a great advice! One comment in response to the second commenter – I happen to be one of those “I don’t like cilantro” types and unfortunately it is actually genetics that makes it inedible to me and many others. Annoying, yes, but to me, it is every bit as important as the fact that I don’t eat meat because if something has even the tiniest bit of cilantro in it, I can’t eat it. Even the smell makes me gag. It’s not just being picky. Belieeeeeve me when I say I wish I could like it as it would make my life much easier.

So just keep that in mind – I know it’s annoying to have to adjust recipes, but unless you know that the person is just picky about all sorts of foods, there may be a very good reason for them to ask you to avoid certain flavors. If someone served me a dish with cilantro in it at a dinner party when they know I can’t eat it, I would be pretty disappointed. And hungry. :\

Beth

Which is not to say I’d make a big deal about it if there was cilantro in something (there usually is now-a-days), just saying, don’t dismiss all requests as people just being kind of picky.

Maren

Seconding Beth, I was just coming down here to say that if you don’t like cilantro, it’s really inedible to you, as if someone had sprinkled soap powder over your food.

I’ve had an incredibly restricted diet for the last few months (pregnancy-related acid reflux and IBS), and while I haven’t been to any formal dinner parties, getting together with people has been really difficult. I end up just bringing my own food most of the time and then apologizing profusely, because it feels so rude not to share what everyone else is eating but if I dictated what we ate it would pretty much be plain chicken breasts and rice. I didn’t realize how strong the social contract of sharing food with friends was until now.

K

Backing up the cilantro thing. It’s a weird genetic quirk (Julia Child had it!). To me, it tastes like someone poured dish soap all over my food. I dodge it if I can, but people put it in to ALL kinds of things, and restaurants will do it without warning, which is sort of maddening. (Taco Bell started putting it in Mexi-melts, wtf? I hadn’t had one in years, took one bite, and had to pass the rest to the fiance.)

If it ends up in a dish, for politeness’s sake, I will choke down a few bites if I have to, but I’m honestly not being picky. I am a very will-try-almost-any-food-once-unless-it’s-bugs-or-something kinda gal. I wish it didn’t taste like it did to me, and most people don’t really understand it.

Clair

I guess I am just rude? Why eat something that you don’t like? In a similar vein, I would hate to think that someone would feel like they had to spare my feelings and eat something that I made that tastes bad to them. It seems silly.

When I entertain, I really do try to accommodate people and I think I usually hit the mark. Maybe not every dish can be enjoyed by everyone (and I certainly wouldn’t serve something that could make one of my guests sick). I make sure there are yummy options for all, though.

Does anyone agree?

cindy

I love cooking for people, and if they are new people I always ask about their dietary restrictions…it’s just part of the hosting for me and I just want everyone to enjoy the meal! I don’t mind going meatless, gluten-free, paleo, or whatever for small parties. At larger parties, there’s usually a lot of variety anyway so substituting a few dishes that are safe for certain guests is no problem…especially if it is a potluck situation. Clear labeling is also something I think is a nice touch for large gatherings, I don’t like the idea that someone would have to hunt the host down every time they wanted to try a dish and weren’t sure of it’s contents.

Amy

I disliked picky allergic eaters when I was young. Before I developed allergies to wheat and mangos. Before my kids developed allergies to nuts and salmon. Bottom line: if you care about us, you don’t want us to have rashes or vomiting. Yeah, I know it sucks. We’re sorry.
I would almost always rather host. It’s easy for me to make a good meal that won’t make us sick. It’s hidden ingredients that kill us. Bread, mixed nuts, salmon fillets — easy to avoid. Sauces have tricked all three of us. Yes, even small amounts make us sick. Hosts that read labels and take us seriously, bless them.

Amber

I’m meat/dairy/gluten free, the latter two by necessity. Few things make me feel more loved than being invited over to a friend’s house for dinner and actually being able to eat a filling meal, and not just be left with a few tiny nibbles of something, or only having a sad little side salad. I usually offer to bring something (especially if I’m not absolutely certain that what the host is serving is ok), which usually creates peace of mind on both sides – for me, I know I can actually eat, and for the host – they don’t have to have extra stress wondering what the heck I can eat. I also carry snacks with me everywhere, just in case. :)

I will say though, that one of my pet peeves is when (this most often happens at a restaurant with visiting family, etc.) people try to order for me, or advise me on what is “safe” to order. Gee, thanks everyone, I’ve never eaten “safe” food before, I would starve with out your help! When you’re not around to help me, I cry on the floor because I don’t know what to eat. *end sarcasm* Seriously though, I understand that they’re trying to be helpful, but I’ve been eating like this for YEARS, and I can skillfully find my way around any menu. If I want/need to know about something, I’ll ask.

Chris

I agree with Clair. If someone doesn’t like something, why would that bother me? When I have people for dinner, I ask about not only allergies, but likes and dislikes.

Personally, I struggle with an addiction to food. I have lost 170 pounds in 2 years through diet and exercise alone. The most important “rule” I have is if I don’t love something, don’t eat it. The second most important rule is if it is not in my calorie allowance, don’t eat it. One off-plan meal can derail me for weeks and lead to gaining up to 20 pounds in a week! Is eating something to be polite worth me gaining 20 pounds? I think not!

W

What a great article!
I would add that as a host – it’s TOTALLY OKAY to say that you are ill equipped to handle someone’s food allergy/intolerance. A very well meaning hostess wanted to take on the challenge of feeding me, but never thought about things like condiments and cross contamination. Then we both felt bad because she went through so much effort over something I wasn’t able to eat. (At least everyone else said it was delicious!) I don’t expect anyone to have to learn how to keep gluten out of a meal – it took me over a year. (Cast iron pans…wooden cutting boards and utensils…hidden food additives… Gluten hides everywhere.)

For many people with food issues, even the tiniest amount can make us ill. PARTS PER MILLION. That means a single crumb can make someone ill for days.

This post is great. I plan on sending it to future hosts.

Darcie

I am corn-free, which is nearly impossible for other people to cook for. I now bring something specifically for myself when I eat at my parents’ because this is a frequent enough thing that they know me and my restrictions. If I can, I bring a dish to share with them.

For New Year’s this past year, we had me with corn allergy, a gluten intolerant, a dairy intolerant, and a peanut allergy. Everyone brought a dish to share, and everyone specified what was safe for whom. I made a dairy/gluten/peanut/corn-free pumpkin pie for dessert. For larger neighborhood potlucks, I bring a dish to share and ensure I have taken a portion so that it isn’t snatched up by other guests before I can eat my safe food.

One note on #6, if you’re going to say “just” a certain ingredient, ensure that it is truly a single ingredient item. Someone once told me their bread dish was “only” lentils, when it truly contained additional ingredients upon further prodding. I asked nicely of the recipe as though of genuine interest; I wasn’t the bugging picky guest you describe.

Rachel

I think that there are times when it is appropriate to try something new and unfamiliar, and there are times when it is perfectly acceptable to say “No thank you” to a dish. I hate the taste of pineapple with a fiery passion, and have taken to telling people that I am allergic because the past two times I’ve eaten it (to be polite) have resulted in me being sick to my stomach for at least a day afterward. I don’t want to have to say I have an allergy to a food; I don’t know why I have the physical reaction that I do, but I’m really not interested in having it again! And just like Beth and K (regarding cilantro), I really wish I liked pineapple!

The truth is, my stomach is not the same as yours and yours is not the same as mine. While we should be polite and try new dishes when a host cooks for us, if an ingredient really makes us feel badly (even if it isn’t a full-blown allergy) it should be okay for us to decline the dish. My grandmother used to pass on avocado, saying “it just doesn’t agree with me;” her reaction to avocados was very similar to my reaction to pineapple. As (hopefully) gracious hosts, you should also try to understand when someone tells you that they would love to try a dish, but that a particular ingredient doesn’t agree with them. Why would you want someone to go through physical discomfort if only to be polite (and not actually enjoy your food)?

Kelly

I completely agree with the majority of this. I love throwing dinner parties and try to accommodate to all sorts of dietary restrictions. My cousin has Celiac, my husband is lactose intolerance, and two of my best friends are vegetarians. I also have two friends that hate mushrooms and I know this just because we’ve eaten so many meals together. I really don’t mind editing a menu for these people. However…
I have one friend that, while I love her, I hate having her over to eat.
She is “allergic” to everything. I add the quotes because she self diagnosis. She has never been medically tested for any of her “allergies”. Her only symptom is that she gets headaches if she eats/drinks certain things.
So she can’t have beer, wheat, wine, pesto, eggs, potatoes, certain nuts, certain sodas but not caffeine… the list goes on and on. If she eats something and has a headache within the next few hours she blames it on the food. She keeps adding to the list. This is becoming increasing frustrating to the point that I just don’t invite her over anymore.

Felicity

Great Guide! Thank you for this! As a vegetarian (pescetarian at unaccomodating restaurants and when I am eating at someone’s house who are ‘meat people’) this outlines a lot of things I try to adhere to. And with a roommate that can’t have gluten and several vegetarian and vegan friends, I’ve found that the appreciation you get as a host for being accommodating is always worth forgoing dairy or whatever else it is. I love food, but you are getting together for a meal for the people, the food should follow suit.

Vita

This is a lovely guide :) So many times I find myself accommodating others when it comes to their dietary restrictions and then it’s their turn to host a dinner party and all they care is their food preferences. Of course, it depends on people, so it might be my fault that I associate with them.
What I don’t like is that vegans/vegetarians seem to be accepted without any “You are an adult and you won’t die from it, so eat it” nonsense while other dietary restrictions are not this welcome. The author notes how she feels bad when vegans find out that veggies were fried in bacon fat. However, when it comes to gluten/grains sensitivity, the author feels as if nobody could have a good reason to not eat them unless it’s a serious medical condition. Well, vegan/vegetarian diet is about what other person believes, it’s about preferences and not restrictions, so I don’t see why people who believe that rice, quinoa or potatoes are not okay for them, should eat those products.

C.

This article is great. I knew nothing of food allergies until about 6 years ago when I met my husband. He is severely allergic to dairy and eggs. The surprising thing to me is that I have a degree in health science and food allergies were barely even discussed.

For my husband he prefers to bring a dish or even help cook at the friends house who is hosting the party. There are so many items that have whey or casein in them that will cause my husband to have an immediate reaction. Even products marked vegan will be processed in the same facility as dairy and its a no go. Thankfully most packaging does offer this information. Buffets are even tricky. If the cheese is behind the meat, usually some has fallen in and no more meat option.

It has been such an eye opening experience to me. I have always been a picky eater, Cilantro tastes like the dish has been peppered with dirt, cantelope & beets cause an automatic gag reflex. But I’m so fortunate that these are not items that could potentially kill me. One day I could wake up and love eating them. My husband cannot do that with dairy or eggs.

We are always so thankful to friends that are understanding of his allergy and sometimes we run into situations that are not allergy friendly and we do our best to make it work. I find that being as flexible, open, helpful and informative as you can be is the best way to handle the allergy and dietary restriction topic.

B

I always appreciate when a friend with severe food allergies brings some food of their own when they are spending a few days at our home. For example, I have a friend with celiac that always brings her own snacks and some sort of breakfast food. (She also bought me a stainless steel pan for a wedding gift since all mine are non-stick, which was really helpful.) It takes some of the pressure off me to come up with 3 GF meals a day that avoid cross-contamination and makes unplanned/spontaneous snacking easier.

Also, PLEASE offer to bring a dish you can eat if you are at a get together with people with multiple allergies. As someone without allergies who is not a good cook, I am totally overwhelmed trying to plan a meal for a group with competing allergies (vegetarians, GF, paleo, lactose-intolerant, etc.). If you bring your own dish, you also ensure that you can eat something at the meal in the event that your host makes an ingredient blunder (a la wheat in soy sauce–why?!). And, whether it’s fair/logical or not, I would totally bristle if a guest (with or without allergies) gave me a recipe to make for them that I hadn’t solicited.

A

Interesting article. I don’t understand why if you don’t like something you have to eat it?! I would be horrified if I’d made something with a particular food in it that someone wasn’t allergic to but that made them feel ill and they ate it anyway!!! I am this way with cheese. No I won’t “just try it” I have tried it multiple times and every time it makes me need to throw up. I’m also a vegetarian (pescetarian actually but no one seems to understand that word) which complicates things because every vegetarian meal seems to have cheese on it!! No I am not a “picky eater” I don’t eat meat or cheese or tomatoes. Which apparently means I’m picky because they’re staple foods. Reiterating my point, if I made something for someone that they didn’t like I would be horrified if they ate it! It’s just plain crazy to be honest!

internet shopping

You have made some decent points there. I looked on the net to find out more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

Lexi Carter

Thank you for writing this article! I recently was invited to my father’s 70th Birthday Party but was told that there would be several things there that I have Airborne Anaphylactic Allergies to served. Therefore, making it unsafe for me to attend. It truly hurt my feelings because I was invited and then un-invited all in the same breath!

Leave a Comment

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business.

Current day month ye@r *