With the rise of so many food allergies, entertaining at home can be scary or overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. So today I am sharing my thoughts about the etiquette of food allergies as well as some encouragement for those who may feel insecure about hosting people in their homes.
I think it’s sad that my generation does not entertain in their homes as much as past generations. I think there are several reasons for this: the pressure to create a Pinterest-worthy table and the rise of the “foodie” who may expect to be treated to something akin to a Top Chef’s creation being some of them.
But entertaining graciously doesn’t have to consider either of those things. I truly believe it is about the company and conversation. Last weekend, for example, I entertained 18 people in our small house. I was worried it was going to be too tight and people were going to jet out early due to the claustrophobia – but that was far from the case! Just about everyone stayed late into the night, enjoying each other’s company. The bottom line: once we get over our insecurities about entertaining, we are usually blessed by serving and loving others in this way.
Now, another issue that may scare us from entertaining in our homes (but shouldn’t!) is food allergies, particularly when you are unsure about them. So I’ve detailed a few tips for both the host and guest when it comes to dealing graciously with this issue:
For the hostess:
- If you know one of your guests has allergies reach out to him/her beforehand and see how you can help. In most cases, it’s not too difficult to set aside some salad before you dress it or not marinate a steak before you cook it.
- If you don’t know your guests well, you may consider putting “Please advise of any dietary restrictions” or something similar on the bottom of the invitation or email.
- If you are unable to accommodate the guest, hopefully he/she will offer to bring his own meal (see below). As a last resort you can always pick up a meal at an approved restaurant – or have it delivered – earlier in the day and just reheat before dinner.
- And this is not necessary, but when people can’t enjoy dessert I like to buy a special treat for the guest just to make them feel loved. Central Market and Whole Foods type stores have individual gluten-free cupcakes (or sugar-free if someone is diabetic). In the freezer section of most major grocery stores, they have gluten-free (and other allergy friendly) cakes and cookies that are easy to serve!
For the guest:
- First and foremost, take it upon yourself to make it easy on the people who invited you.
- Reach out to the hostess at least a week before the party to inquire about the menu and to make sure they don’t count you in their food count. You may think your friend knows you can’t eat a particular food, but she may not. Showing up at the party and realizing you (or your child) are unable to eat the meal may make the hostess feel bad (and there may not be anything for you to eat!)
- At the same time, if you cannot eat what is being served, offer to bring your food or food to supplement. Don’t expect special accommodations, but be grateful if they offer! For children’s parties, bring a treat for your child to enjoy if he/she can’t have birthday cake.
- My sweet friend, Lindsey, gave this great advice: “At dinner parties we all just want to relax and feel part of the group so if I have to bring my own food, I try to find something that fits in with the meal and is more discreet.”
A word on diets of choice (rather than diets due to health factors): If we want to lessen the stress of entertaining in our homes, we cannot expect hosts to accommodate every trendy health kick, diet, or cleanse. If you are on strict eating regimen by choice, I would say eat what you can on the plate and definitely don’t draw attention to why you choose not to eat something. (Comments about why bread is terrible for you may make the person sitting next to you, who just downed four dinner rolls, feel a little sheepish!) If you are worried about being hungry, either eat a little something beforehand or just decline altogether. Remember, being gracious is about putting others first and you never want to offend the person who kindly invited you into their home.
Any tips you’d like to add? Tell me in the comments below. And please share this post on Facebook if you think this was helpful!