Asking for a Friend: How Do I Deal with a Guest's Dietary Restrictions?

Miss Conduct on where to draw the line on dietary restrictions
Dinner Party Allergy Etiquette
Photo: Tasting Table

Hey, (dinner) party people! It's me, your lovingly judgmental pal, Miss Conduct. This week, I'm bringing you an extra-special quandary that has inevitably stumped every modern-day entertainer—even, believe it or not, culinary know-it-alls like this anonymous Tasting Table staffer.

Dear Miss Conduct,

As someone who hosts many a dinner gathering, I'm always trying to figure out how best to accommodate guests with individual dietary restrictions. I can't tell you how many times I've planned out the perfect menu only to get a text saying that so-and-so's wife can't handle nightshades or what's-her-face has gone Paleo this month.

Is it offensive not to cater to everyone's individual needs if it means I don't get to cook the meal I want? Or am I obligated to accommodate these people even if it's at the expense of everyone else? What's a guy to do??

- A Host Perturbed

OK, AHP, here's the thing: Regardless of how you feel about them, dealing with dietary restrictions, both others' and our own, has become a routine aspect of everyday life. So if you think you can just keep on serving the same peanut-sprinkled pad Thai you've been whipping up for years, you're dead wrong . . . literally.

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Full disclosure: I am a lifelong allergy sufferer, with documented sensitivity to peanuts, tree nuts, avocados and a slew of additional food items not worth listing, so I can understand both sides of this slippery coin, friend. That being said, I am definitely not a member of what I like to call "Generation Anaphylaxis." I managed to survive despite the throngs of PB&Js floating around my school lunchrooms back in the day and even flew on airplanes littered with bags of mixed nuts.

I'm not saying this is everyone's experience, but EpiPen safely within reach, I simply made do.

So the question is not if a good host should pay heed to these requests, but rather how they should. On the one hand, part of being a good host is making sure every guest feels as comfortable as possible in your space. Who wants to watch a group of grumpy, awkward partygoers push their soy-glazed sheet pan salmon around their plates all night? You have to make the people happy, and in 2017, that means bending over just a wee bit backward to make sure everyone can partake in the feast you've so graciously prepared.

Here are a few tips for survival:

① Sending out e-vites? Great move, you modern man. Add a note asking RSVP-ers to include any dietary restrictions with their responses. You might think that reads as overly cautious, but you'd be surprise how much of a difference that small nod can make to an afflicted dinner guest. Once they've laid their cards on the table, it'll be much easier to figure out a suitable menu that won't leave anybody caught with their carrot stick in their hand.

② When planning your get-together, make sure to serve one or two different options for each course. They don't have to be lavish, but if you're going to go through the trouble of passing around oyster shooters, throw together some chips and salsa for the shellfish-adverse. That way, everybody gets a bite even if they can't partake in every dish.

③ Finally, my dude, just try to be nice. Judging the way another person governs their own body without first walking a mile in their certified cruelty-free faux leather loafers is a surefire way to drum up some pretty bad karma. After all, it's all fun and games until somebody develops a sudden booze allergy.

Got a pressing question about food and drink etiquette? Drop us a note through our handy Google Form.

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