General Question

Kardamom's avatar

If you were throwing a party and you found out that one of your potential guests was a very picky eater, or had some type of dietary restrictions, would you try to accommodate them? If so how?

Asked by Kardamom (23856 points ) July 9th, 2014

I would say about 40% of the people I know have some type of dietary restriction, or they have picky tastes regarding food. The dietary restrictions are due more towards religious beliefs and health concerns. I can really only think of three people that are just picky. Anyway, I’m totally used to accommodating people’s dietary needs and tastes. I’ve heard that other people are not so accommodating and might not even invite someone they knew to have a dietary restriction or picky tastes.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Well, I have a specific theme and I’m not going to change it to accommodate Rob and his weird habits.” or “I’m not cooking a separate dish just because so and so doesn’t like what I’m planning to make.” It kind of bums me out to hear things like this, because to me, the company is way more important than the food.

If I’m inviting people over for a food themed party, I will generally ask, ahead of time, if anybody has any food restrictions and try to work around that.

What are you willing to do to accommodate a potential guest’s dietary concerns?

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46 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Ha, no.
The only thing to eat will be pork and brussel sprouts.

zenvelo's avatar

If they had diet issues for health or faith, I would do my best to accommodate them or have an alternative available. Or I would speak to them before the event and see what they could bring.

If they are just picky eaters, I’d let them go hungry for being so self centered and bratty.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I know if I were the person with the restriction, I wouldn’t ask to be accommodated. I’d ask if I could bring my own dish and I’d hopefully have a good excuse for doing so. I’ll probably never host a dinner party, though. Screw that noise. If I did, I’d send out invites that clearly stated, “all dishes will contain extra gluten and animal products.”

jca's avatar

If it were something simple like they don’t eat pork, I could easily accommodate that. If it were more complex, then no, they’d have to deal with it or take care of their needs some other way.

Kardamom's avatar

@all So if someone didn’t like tomatoes or onions, then none of you would try to work around that? My SIL is very picky and tomatoes and onions top her list. As far as I know, she’s not allergic to them, but the idea of them makes her sick. I use a lot of tomatoes and onions in my cooking, but if she is coming to my house, I make sure that there is something that she can eat that does not contain tomatoes or onions.

What about us vegetarians? Would it matter if it was a religious restriction, a health issue or an ethiical dilemma? Would the reason the person can’t/won’t eat such and such be more important than just the fact that they can’t/won’t eat meat? My cousin recently married into a Hindu, vegetarian, family. My cousin, himself is not a vegetarian, but his inlaws are. I, on the other hand am a vegetarian due to ethical reasons, and one of my other cousins has all sorts of health problems and has become a vegetarian, because it is healthier for her. Would any of you try to accommodate any of us, or would some of us be left off of your guest list?

ragingloli's avatar

I might accommodate a vegetarian/vegan that chose to be one for ethical reasons.
I will not accommodate any religious nonsense.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’d be making food for the greatest number of people to enjoy. If multiple people had the same dietary restriction, and I already had a recipe in my stable that would accommodate them, then it would be a good time to trot that out. But usually, people who have specific dietary requirements bring their own food to a potluck, because they know other people are not going to make dishes specifically to accommodate a single person. There’s no ill will on anyone’s part. It just makes more sense – they know what they like and how to prepare it. And it doesn’t require any extra shopping on their part.

If this is not a potluck, but a dinner party to which guests are expected not to bring food, then I would make something that everyone could eat, obviously. I can’t remember the last time I entertained that way, though.

jca's avatar

@Kardamom: If I have a party, everyone’s welcome and their dietary restrictions don’t restrict me from inviting them.

LornaLove's avatar

I would yes, whether for health reasons, aversions or religious reasons. I respect guests, since they are coming to my home/event and should be made to feel welcome and comfortable. I personally do not know nor would want to know people who cannot make that concession.

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t think the onion/tomato restriction is onerous. I do all the cooking, and my S/O refuses the thought of onions and beans (green to pinto). I do not eat meat. Over time, the food has gotten simpler and simpler.

If I throw the shindig, I always make it clear that anyone is perfectly welcome to bring something to eat, although that’s not required. If you will only eat raw walnuts (bless her little heart, Askvillians), bring raw walnuts, but do come.

fightfightfight's avatar

Nope because it wouldn’t be my fault they’re like that, it’s a party so what else would you expect? I think they’d be better off bringing their own food, I wouldn’t be upset or anything.

jca's avatar

If I had a party with 30 guests, and each had a different dietary need, health issue, desire or request, it would be a nerve wracking exercise to please everyone. It would not be a matter of disrespect or not welcoming the person, it would be more a matter of I’l have what I have, and you can bring something to meet your needs, or you can eat prior to coming or eat something when you leave.

JLeslie's avatar

I almost always have something vegan available, and pretty much that usually can satisfy a lot of restrictions. I can’t accomodate 30 different requirements though. A party for 30 I will also have two types of meats, so hopefully one works out for them if they eat meat.

hearkat's avatar

My mother has celiac disease, so we serve gluten free Thanksgiving dinners, with gluten-free bread stuffing and gluten-free macs and cheese. We had her supply her own burger and dog rolls for our barbecue last month – but that’s because she’ll know which ones she prefers – we did everything else gluten-free.

I make a point to ask people if they have any food allergies, sensitivities, aversions, or dislikes that we should know about.

JLeslie's avatar

Ugh, my iPad zapped. If it is a small party, like an 8 person dinner party, then I would concern myself more about the menu. A small get together I would actually ask the people I was inviting if there was anything they don’t eat.

Unbroken's avatar

As a guest and depending on my relationship with the host or hostess I ask the theme of the meal and offer to bring something that would meet my needs but wouldnt go against the grain pun intended of the meal. I might even show up during the prep with my ingredients and we cook together.

I haven’t had the space to host in some time. As a person with a lot of restrictions I’m sensitive to others needs. Though I don’t feel safe cooking homemade glutinous products. I started getting headaches and reactions to flour mist even when I followed strict cross contamination prevention protocols. I might buy something glutened or ask someone else to bring something.

I focus on the meats. Olive oils. Fruit marinades. For vegans it is somewhat easy because i don’t use dairy or whey or eggs. Although I don’t use soy products so I substitute nuts mushrooms olives beans or monounsaturated fats. So even if it is only a dip or a spread with fruits veggies or crackers or on a bed of rice/quinoa/salad or potatoes it is something. Though I don’t have any close strict vegan friends. More by happenstance then on purpose.

ibstubro's avatar

I’m in the rural Midwest, and here “picky” means you want your beef still pink in the middle.

Haleth's avatar

Let me turn the tables on this question. If you were a picky eater or had dietary restrictions, would you expect the host to cook a separate dish for you?

Coloma's avatar

I’d do my best to have some alternative items on hand but wouldn’t change my entire theme for one or two picky or restricted types. If you’re on a gluten free diet bring your own damn bread or whatever. If you’re a diabetic just step away from the cake and have a couple grapes.
If you’re a vegan, well, knock yourself out on the fruits and salads but don’t flip out if I serve salami and cheeses.

If you’re THAT picky or restricted either bring your own or stay home. Party poopers! lol

Unbroken's avatar

On the subject my social life went to hell round the same time i developed food allergies. So many social aspects revolve around food. Dates, work parties, holidays, dinner parties, weddings, funerals, benefits, street fairs, business meetings, luncheons.

Even restaurants that are supposed to be safe it depends on the cook and the server. Advertised places allergy friendly I might be ok one day but then a careless or ignorant person handles my food someone gets distracted and sloppy and I’ll feel the effects for a week. Traveling is scary I have to research places before I get there or get a place with a kitchenette. Airplanes and airports aren’t oriented to the allergy sufferers. So long trips are terrible. Hospitals, the ones I have been to don’t cater to us either.

Always be prepared. Always be polite. Never put any one out. That is what a loy of us try to do. But then ya’ll act like we have a choice. No compassion. Thing is most of us don’t want you to cook for us. It’s scary, we always take a risk. Ya’ll don’t know about cross contamination. Hidden ingredients. And we probably haven’t given you a complete list of our allergies. What we would appreciate is compassion. Be willing to go to the weird restaurant and eat with us once in a while so we don’t have to settle for a garden salad or a veggie tray sans dip or if that isn’t available juat watch you eat.

Sorry @Kardamom I don’t mean to monopolize or rant. I tried hard to make this as educational as possible. The fact is there are growing number of allergy sufferers. Another perspective seemed warrented.

AshlynM's avatar

Yes, I would.

Coloma's avatar

@Unbroken I am suspecting I have wheat allergies, and love wheat beer, but….I get really bad sinus issues when I drink it. It depends. Also, I recently learned that black pepper is full of mold and allergy sufferers should use white pepper only. I have chronic sinus issues and have spent years trying to figure out WTH the problems are.

jonsblond's avatar

We make a variety of dishes with everyone in mind so there are enough choices to please everyone.

Unbroken's avatar

@Coloma That is sad. They do have gluten free beer which would mean it was wheat free i tried a bout 2 ml of one beer, it tasted plum awful.

Wine might be a good alternative for you. Just for a week or two to see if it changes anything. Thanks for the info about the pepper. I am allergic to mold and have started eating pepper to compensate a little for low salt diet meanwhile I’ve been trying to figure out what I have been reacting to. I was reading about rose pepper I might try that too.

jca's avatar

@Haleth: No. I wouldn’t expect anybody to do anything special for me. I’d make sure to eat first and if I were hungry after the party, I could always eat something on the way home or at home.

JLeslie's avatar

At a party I don’t expect anyone to do anything special for me, but I am getting tired of really fattening food at parties.

If it is a small get together and there isn’t much I want to eat because of health or I just don’t like it (I don’t have many actual allergies, and no one seems to care if you are just worried about heart health, you need to be allergic, or worried about what is trendy) and the host didn’t ask what I don’t like beforehand (which I don’t expect) then they have to handle it well when I don’t eat much.

Cupcake's avatar

We usually just make lasagna:
– meat and cheese
– veggies and cheese
– meat and veggies without noodles or cheese

And a tossed salad (without onions or croutons).

If that didn’t meet everyone’s needs, I would make a couple of side dishes.

Or I would say something like, “We’re going to grill chicken and veggies for dinner. You’re welcome to join us.” That way, if you want to eat with us but don’t like grilled chicken and veggies, you can bring your own dish. Plus, I’m a pretty last-minute kinda gal.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I once asked a dinner party guest, well in advance, if there were any foods that she and/or her husband couldn’t (or wouldn’t) eat. She told me, No, they’re happy with anything. No preferences or restrictions.

I spent a fortune on enormous salmon steaks that I grilled outside and served with a nice sauce. The woman’s husband saw the platter of cooked food, made a disgusted face, and said “I don’t eat fish.”

All that money; all that work. If the wife had just been honest with me, I would have gladly cooked something else. Before I spend a day shopping (and emptying my wallet) and another day cooking, I’d rather know that I’m fixing a meal that everyone will actually eat and enjoy.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul That is absolutely ridiculous. Even if it was just an honest mistake that she didn’t mention it (forgetting he didn’t like fish, etc.), the disgusted look on his face would be enough to piss me off. How rude.

Coloma's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul Oh man….what a weenie!
One of my, oh maaaybe, 3 lifetime passive aggressive moments happened some years ago when I served an amazing salad and one of the male guests exclaimed how he hated everything in the salad, onions, cucumbers, radishes, etc. etc.
I took his bowl back to the kitchen to pick out all of the unsavory ingredients and accidentally dumped his remaining lettuce on the floor. I scooped it up and threw it back in his bowl, probably a few cat hairs and other little morsels included and put it back on the table for him. lol

jca's avatar

People are so unbelievably rude. If you don’t like something or you can’t eat it, you should say nothing.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul What a jackass. And what a way to ensure one will never receive another invitation. His wife must have been furious – I hope.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@dappled_leaves The guy is my husband’s distant cousin. He’s a jerk, but his wife puts up with him because he’s the senior partner of Maryland’s largest law firm, earns a seven-figure annual income, and has amassed a fortune. She lives very well, so she tolerates a great deal. Personally, I’ve grown to detest the guy – the salmon incident is just typical of his behavior – and haven’t spoken to him in years. When he enters a room, I get up and leave.

The most annoying part is that I asked in advance and sincerely wanted to please everyone. I wouldn’t deliberately serve something that one of my guests despises!

@Coloma That’s hilarious! I don’t blame you a bit. That man could have kindly said “No, thank you” or “Nothing for me, thank you”, or he might have picked around the items he didn’t like and enjoyed the rest of the salad.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca if they said nothing and didn’t eat any of the salmon, still isn’t there an elephant in the room? @SadieMartinPaul Made a dinner where the main dish was the Salmon. If I had been the guest I would have been apologizing for failing to think of fish when asked.

Usually if it is just a couple guests I ask if there is anything they don’t eat and then I also state what I am thinking of making for good measure.

@SadieMartinPaul When people ask me I tell them I don’t eat veal and my husband doesn’t like lamb. Thing is, I like fish, but I don’t like swordfish much, nor mahi, and a few others. My MIL says she likes fish, but she doesn’t call salmon fish and hates salmon. With just one couple comIng to dinner I would make sure they are ok with the menu, because it isn’t like you are making a ton of assorted dishes.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: The husband should have taken a small amount and left it on his plate.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca What good does it do to purposely waste food? Unless the dish was actually unsafe for him to eat, he should have just acted like an adult and eaten it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Is that the etiquette? Would @SadieMartinPaul have not noticed he didn’t eat it? I’d rather he take nothing and I’ll give it to my husband for lunch in a couple of days. Once on his plate it’s wasted.

I’m not defending the husband. Like I said, I think he and his wife should have been apologetic. Possibly, the husband had no idea his wife had responded saying they like everything. He might have been competely out of the loop.

Maybe the wife just didn’t want to make a fuss when asked and said they eat everything. Maybe it never occured to her that someone would cook fish because they never do. Who knows what happened.

If @SadieMartinPaul said to me she was going to serve deli sandwiches I would likely say, “sounds good.” Then when I get there if they are premade with mayo smeared on the bread or cheese on them it is a nightmare for me. I have to pick out the cheese, or ask to warm up the sandwich, and scrape of the mayo if I can scrape it off enough, or else I might take it off the bread altogether. Sometimes we don’t predict well, because we prepare things so differently in our own homes. I never put condiments on someone else’s sandwich. For other people it is automatic.

I think @SadieMartinPaul maybe should not be angry about it (although frustration over it is completely understandable). It’s just a miscommunication probably. I doubt the guest was angry in any way that she prepared something she didn’t like.

jca's avatar

@dappled_leaves: I was thinking, when I answered the question, that if it were me, I’d just eat some of it and deal with it. However, I got to thinking that people (Jellies) might jump on me and say “why should he eat it if he doesn’t like it?” or “what if he is allergic?” so I altered my answer to suit what I thought would suit more people – just take it and eat it.

@JLeslie: Yes, the etiquette is take it and push it around on your plate if you really can’t stand it. I would never be that way, as there’s nothing I’m deathly allergic to and nothing I really can’t stand that much.

Good point about the deli sandwiches. When we order sandwiches from a deli for catering purposes at work, the mayo and mustard are on the side. Some people can’t envision eating a deli sandwich without condiments, but for me, I can’t stand mayo. I used to like it but not now. I like it in potato salad and tuna and chicken salad, but not on a sandwich. Even so, I would probably eat the sandwich if it already had the mayo on it. I’d not be thrilled, but I’d deal with it.

The last thing the husband should have done was verbalize his dislike for something the hostess had. I was at someone’s house recently and she made a chocolate cake. There was a kid there and he told the hostess he doesn’t like chocolate cake. He was excused in my book (book of etiquette slights, LOL) because he’s a kid. Otherwise, you never say “I don’t like that.” You take it and shut up.

Kardamom's avatar

I tried to answer @Haleth earlier, but then my computer crashed. D’oh!

I wouldn’t expect anyone to do anything special for me, but I would discreetly let the host know that I’m a vegetarian and ask if they would they mind if I brought a dish. If they thought that my dish would cause a problem for them, then I’d politely decline the invitation. I don’t want any attention focused on me. But I wouldn’t just keep quiet, because then the host might think I don’t like her food. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but I think that people who are vegetarians and/or people with food allergies need to let the hosts know ahead of time. It would be nice, but not expected, if the hosts could make some small concessions. I have been to functions where I was happy to eat a couple of nuts and some carrot sticks. I always ask my guests ahead of time if they have any dietary restrictions.

My best friend is also a vegetarian. I remember one year, on her birthday, one of her co-workers wanted to take her to lunch, knowing full well that she was a vegetarian, and the co-worker (who I suspect was trying to make some kind of a point, not sure what, though) took her to a steak house. My friend got to have an iceberg lettuce salad with a mealy pink tomato and a couple of stale croutons. I’m not suggesting that the co-worker should have taken her to The Tofu Palace, but there are plenty of restaurants that have other things to eat, to make everybody happy, like Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese or even Denny’s. Usually the host of the birthday lunch asks the birthday girl where they like to eat, rather than the other way around. This same co-worker made some passive aggressive comments to my friend when she brought some vegetarian dishes to their annual potluck.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Interesting. I wasnt taught that. I can see why that is the etiquette though. As an adult I can eat a little of things I dont particularly like, but as a kid it was torture. I did it two times and I remember it. It really stuck with me that I ate something I hated, but wasn’t so bad that I gagged.

Would you do it with people you see often? Like with my MIL, I see her enough that if she doesn’t have proper feedback on what I like and don’t like, she is going to keep making things I don’t like.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Because I had weight loss surgery, I don’t eat huge quantities of food. When I go to a party, I take a little bit of everything (or most things, depending on what it is). I don’t load up my plate like a lot of people because that would really be a waste. I take a small scoop of this, a small scoop of that. What is actually eaten is a bite of this, two bites of that. In the end, there’s some food on the plate but nobody asks me what I ate or notices the quantity. I praise the food that I liked and say how good everything is and nobody is the wiser.

I don’t think hosts who are busy being hosts really notice minute details like how much each person ate or what they ate. They’re usually too busy refilling things, getting more napkins, do you have matches, I need a bottle opener, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I think it depends on whether it is 4–8 people at a table together, or 20+ people eating cocktail style.

Kardamom's avatar

@JLeslie A few years back, we invited my SIL’s family (her parents and her sister) to Thanksgiving at our house. My Mom and I thought it would be fun to bust out some newer recipes, rather than the strict traditional recipes that we’ve served for 50 years, because our family members like it and expect it (I do too) but we thought that since these folks were not related to us and didn’t have any memories of the particular dishes we’ve always made, we thought we go a little Martha Stewart. But then my brother (ahead of time, thankfully) pointed out that his in-laws are total meat and potato traditionalists and couldn’t bear the idea of Corn Chowder or Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips or Cranberry Salsa Also, I knew ahead of time that my SIL won’t eat tomatoes or onions. So we went back to the traditional recipes and everyone was happy. I would have been mortified if I’d done the Food Network stuff not knowing that my guests would have been afraid, very afraid. That’s why I always ask ahead of time. I also pay attention to what my friends and relatives post on Facebook. So I know who has celiac disease and diabetes and are on special diets.

Our family has potlucks all the time, and I always try to cater to some of these people, specifically, like a little gift from me to them. One year, our theme was actually healthy food and I was really surprised and delighted by what they came up with. That is where I discovered Cilantro Lime Quinoa Salad made by my cousin.

A few years back, one of my cousins (I’m sure prompted by a girl he was dating) decided to become a vegan. We were having our annual potluck and I made these Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats for him. Everyone loved them. They’re better than the icky ones with the marshmallows.

JLeslie's avatar

@Kardamom I would think about it also when talking about just a few people. I care that my guests have food they enjoy. Thanksgiving dinner I tend to not like fancy schmancy diversions from the traditional if it is going to still be turkey, potatoes, green beans, and stuffing. If the menu is completely changed to different foods that is a different thing. The cranberry sale looks good. But, I do prefer half the fat in the mashed potatoes and half the fat in the stuffing, and I don’t like my green bean casserole runny. But hey, if I am at someone else’s house I just try to take a really small portion of potatoes and stuffing and if the greens beans are runny I just pick out the beans and leave the liquid on my plate. When I cook for others I often do use more fat than I typically do, but not anywhere near what so many other people do.

My sister is vegan and I would have more than one vegan dish if I knew she would be there. For my rehearsal dinner and wedding I made sure there was a vegan option and I regret it. The restaurant and hotel would have accomodated her, but I wish I had not made the choice vegan on the main meal choices.

I almost always have more than one vegetarian item. I try to keep most side dishes vegetarian so it is easy to just make a plate of sides if the person is vegetarian. There is usually food that is gluten free or soy free, so those are taken care of.

For a potluck people can bring food they know they can eat themselves so they have one safe dish. In fact, my husband and I, if we know the person throwing a party always has very fattening foods, that is one of the rare occasions I offer to bring something so I can at least have one thing there not laden with fat. I usually don’t offer to bring food if it isn’t a potluck though, although I do tend to ask if I can do anything to help if it is a informal party.

I have a friend who takes pride in her cooking and she makes garlic mashed potatoes when she makes mashed potatoes. Everyone raves and my husband and I skip the potatoes, she tries to convince us the garlic isn’t very string or that we are wrong somehow to not like them. That lacks etiquette too in my opinion. Leave me alone. I’m not complaining, I’m eating the other stuff.

ibstubro's avatar

I’m a vegetarian, and I spend most holidays with a rural Midwestern farm family. I don’t ask questions (“The dressing doesn’t have broth in it, does it?”) and I take large enough portions of the foods it appears I will eat to ‘fill’ my plate. What’s left I mound or stir together and throw away. Over time they have adapted somewhat to my eating habits and I now usually leave as full as anyone.

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