I agree with this point, even though I thoroughly messed up on it just this morning. City department heads meetings rotate each week among the various departments, supplying the meeting place, snacks, etc. It’s fun, and gives us some perspective, roaming from fire stations, the MLKing Center, finance, public works, police station, etc. This morning it was my turn.
Along with the usual coffee, ice water, softdrinks and orange juice I had a small assortment of pastries as well as a huge fruit tray: strawberries, bananas, grapes and orange slices.
Turns out three people there are on Atkins–for health reasons–and couldn’t eat a danged thing other than the ice water. I felt terrible. It wouldn’t have taken anything to toss together a little cheese/fresh veggie tray but I just didn’t think of it. No one made the least thing of it but I still felt terrible. How rotten, to have to watch others munch, with no safe options available.
IMO it’s not rude at all to mention food restrictions. It doesn’t have to be a demand, and shouldn’t be presented as one. But at least it gives the host/hostess a fair shot at planning. Honestly, it’s not all that hard to accomodate vegetarians, Atkins, etc. with at least something if given a chance. Equally IMO it amounts to a give-and-take social compact: give the host/hostess a fair chance to provide something munchable in return for staying flexible with the variety offered.
Who’s chagrined at flunking basic hospitality due to a lack of communication
Anyone that’s in Atkins Induction should have enough sense to know that what they can eat for that two or so weeks is going to be at odds with just about anything offered wherever they go, so they need to speak up in advance, or just bring a pocket full of salami sticks.
That said, I do make a point of asking people if they have any allergies, needs or requests when I’m doing a dinner party or lunch meeting at work. I’ve got friends and co-workers that are:
Deathly allergic to any and all nuts
In one stage or another of Atkins
Not doing Atkins, but won’t touch processed starches or sugars - won’t eat cake, but there’s no limit to the fruit or honey they’ll eat
Won’t get near anything with alcohol in it for religious reasons
So I’m used to asking. If someone fails to mention that they can’t eat ANYTHING that I’ve made for dinner other than the roast beef, well, have another slice while the rest of us have our potatos.
I noticed that both the vegetarian and the nut avoider mentioned their dietary peculiarities to the hostess before the party. She is under no obligation to deivne her guests’ dietary habits before the party. If you agree to attend a dinner party, you agree to eat what is serve, or at least pretend to eat it. It was forsightful of the vegetarian to bring a dish. There’s no reason the Atkinser couldn’t do the same.
I’m going to bookmark this thread and copy and paste this quote, as a reminder the next time there’s some annoying discussion which basically argues that vegetarians ought to serve meat at their dinner parties. Because that notion has been put forth on this board, several times.
I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian, so honestly, I don’t have a whole lot of problems eating anywhere. I’ll eat cheese, milk, eggs—unless someone has some fascination with putting some meat by-product in everything (including dinner rolls and deserts), I’ll not go hungry. In fact, I’ve survived many a time on salads and baked potatoes and that’s not a problem for me. I like baked potatoes and salads—very much.
I usually tell the hostess that I am vegetarian (emphasizing that this means no chicken, no turky, no fish) not because I want them to accomodate me, but because I don’t want them bitching at me and making a scene when I don’t eat something they prepared. That’s my big fear. Not that I won’t have a main dish especially prepared for me—I don’t care about that. Also, I’d happily bring my own dishes if it was required, but usually it isn’t necessary, since there are usually enough side dishes to make me happy.
I am closer to beign Mr. Rude then Ms. Manners, but here’s my take. there are 2 types of diatary restrictions, needed (alergic) and volentary (Atkins, Low Fat, Vegan, religious restrictions, ect.)
I would think that needed restrictiions should be accomadated if reasonable by the host(est).
Other restrictions should be considered, but should not cause the host(est) to go that much out of their way, but the host(est) should al least let the guest know what foods are being offered.
I would thing the invited should be informed as to the planned meal, and let them inquire about their eating, the host(est) should let the perspective guest know if or if not the dietary request will be honored, and if the guest can bring his/her own food.
Also I don’t think a guest should be upset if invited.
Atkins (5-10 yrs ago) used to be pioneers, able to make their own lowcarb foods out of carb crazy foods, now lowcarb hit mainstream and these people just can’t cope, it’s the end of an era.
I’m still Ms. Manners on this. It doesn’t matter why someone has food requirements. Something as simple and basic as sharing food shouldn’t be a battleground. On a decidedly more pragmatic level, no host/hostess worth his/her salt would care to judge among relative needs, save those that serve basic hospitality.
I wouldn’t assume anything I could cook meets kosher requirements. My kitchen isn’t set up that way. But it takes me nothing to do a little careful shopping with an eye toward kosher symbols. So what I find and set out isn’t a complete meal. It’ll serve the purpose: to make guests welcome, as long as they’re willing to graze among the choices. I’ve gladly whipped up hummus after assuring folks (absolutely truthfully) that nothing non-vegetable has ever been in my food processor.
Same goes with Atkins, pure vegan and all the shades of vegetarian. So offer a selection. And welcome bring-withs.
Food isn’t the point. It’s the means. Hospitality, welcome, sharing, laughter, people are the point. Most people, if given a fair chance, will gladly roll with what’s offered, as long as it’s done generously and respectfully. Those who don’t respect the hospitable impulse aren’t…hospitable.
Making allowances just isn’t that hard. If guidelines are so rigid they don’t encompass human quirks, they don’t serve hospitality or conviviality.
My grandmother, who could’ve taught Miss Manners everything she knows, taught me that a menu at a dinner party should strive for a happy medium, since there’s no way you can make everyone happy.
And she’s right. If I were to invite all of my friends to my house for a dinner party, and take all of their dietary habits into consideration, I’d have to account for vegan, different stages of Atkins, different shades of vegetarian, kosher, Weight Watchers, onion- and garlic-free, nut-free, dairy-free, low-fat, non-fat, and God knows what else. Neither my kitchen nor my sanity can take that. So you either eat what I serve, bring your own, or don’t come. (I realize that there is a great deal of overlap involved, but I’m just laying out the spectrum of my friends’ dietary habits.)
That said, it is possible to take the special-diet thing too far. Last Christmas (or was it Thanksgiving; I forget), most of Airman’s relatives were on Atkins, so all of the food was Atkins-friendly. Due to my lack of gallbladder, I have trouble digesting all that fat. The after-dinner party in my bathroom was spectacular, let me tell you.
Really? That’s pretty asinine. I wouldn’t necessarily trust a vegetarian to put together a good meat dish (even though I’m sure it’s possible). Not because I doubt their cooking skills, but rather because one normally has to taste throughout the cooking process to make a good meal. I’d want my hosts to make a meal they feel comfortable and confident about making.
When I cook for guests, I always prepare a meat and vegetarian option, or opt to go all vegetarian. I will also check if people attending might have any religious restrictions (kosher, halal, etc.) The easiest way to solve most of these dietary complications is to have both meat and veggie options.
Exactly. It isn’t all that hard to either have some options available for diners, even if they’re only side portions, or have the flexibility to incorporate bring-withs.
This is why I loathe the Martha Stewart school of Perfect Dictated Entertaining. Genuine hospitality doesn’t impose; it welcomes and includes.
I’m an enthusiastic (amateur) cook but I’m not so obsessed with the output of my kitchen and hands that it obscures the people eating at my table. That’s ego, not hospitality. It disgraces the actual meaning of “breaking bread”.
As a host, I’d much prefer a fair shot at fulfilling guests’ needs. If said guests are willing to consider what I offer, or bring along their own to fill in the gaps–maybe to share–I’m all too happy to toss out a few extra plates or bowls.
It’s a slight adapation of hospitality, but a very fundamentally hospitable one, IMO.
And not all that hard to achieve, with a little flexibility.
Mr P and my younger son are both dairy and gluten free. If we go to someone’s place for dinner, we make sure we take food that they can eat. Most people know that they have those dietary restrictions but we have no expectations that other people have to cater to them.
This actually came upp for me last week.
I was in Seattle and was invited to the college Dean’s house for dinner. He asked ahead of time about my diet (he knows I am on Atkins) I told him that meat and veggies would be good for me.
Dinner that night was:
Dip, salsa, and chips
I drank one very small glass of GJ very slowly, ate about 3 chips with a dab of salsa, and dip
Breaded baked chicken
Baked mashed potatoes
Carrot and rasin salad.
I had a chicken breast, a very small serving of each of the others items.
I was presented with a piece of homemade cherry (from the cherry tree out back) pie, with a small scoop of ice cream.
Yes, I ate it.
Now except for the broccoli none of those things were on my diet. But I was not overly assertive when asked, and damn it that lady is one hell of a cook! That was the best cherry pie I ever ate.
So the next day I made sure that I stuck to an induction diet, and I still lost 0.5lb last week. One meal is not the end of the world.
On a slightly different note, our host said grace before dinner (we don’t at my house) but I laced my fingers together bowed my head and said amen.
Why? It is all about respect, and that goes both ways, host to guest, and guest to host.
I mostly avoided her total message, though some of her recipes rocked, but her general approach could best be described as ruthlessly choreographed, from food, china, silverware, accessories, background music (CDs for sale) and probably guests. My primary complaint–very basic–with the Martha Stewart approach was that guests were always relegated to passive audience. Guests are the backdrop to the party…and that’s fundamentally wrong.
The "rules"are flexible but the essence of genuine hospitality stays the same: a true host/hostess puts the comfort, ease and welcome of guests before the most carefully laid plans. The goal of genuine hospitality isn’t standing around admiring the host/hostess. It’s enjoying the people the host/hostess has gathered together. In the truest sense it’s a host/hostess serving as as focal point for the people gathered. A truly gracious, flexible, convivial host/hostess will focus the attention right back onto the gathering by absorbing the differences.
I’m a devoted hermit but that’s the fun of parties. Being an invisible facilitator instead of prima donna, doncha know.
It seems to me that the question isn’t really whether or not Atkins counts as “special needs”, but whether or not the hostess is responsible for ferreting out her guests’s special needs.
My take on it is this: If you have dietary restrictions (be it allergies, intolerances, ideological objections, religious constraints, excessive gas, whatever), you need to either politely speak to the hostess about it well in advance, or sit down, shut up, and smile a lot. No pissing and moaning allowed when there’s nothing you can/wil eat, because it’s your own damn fault. The hostess isn’t psychic, after all. By the same token, if one of your guests has let you know about a dietary restriction in a reasonable time frame, you should make a reasonable effort to accommodate him. This might mean tinkering with the menu, buying or ordering in something suitable, or having him bring a dish of his own, whatever works out for the two of you.
I think that any host who seizes the opportunity to make political hay out of something as pristine as a health need, such as a low-carb diet, is a cad. Now, it may be the case that someone is doing Atkins just because it’s trendy, but it may be the case that they have a soaring cholesterol level or are borderline diabetic and are following the low-carb guidelines under the advice of a physician. I agree with Veb that it isn’t about the food anyway; it’s about people having a good time. Singling out someone for their health needs and making an example of them by deliberately offering what they cannot eat is as far away from good hosting as you could possibly get. It is a simple matter to offer a variety of easy-to-prepare foods that can accomodate practically anyone. Asking what people prefer, without inquisiting as to why they hold their preference, is what an excellent host is happy to do.