Lest you think I am picking on the cooks & hosts here and putting all the burden of a successful meal on them, guests have their duties, too.
Be a tolerant and appreciative diner. It is horrible behavior to have a snit or be militant at the dinner table. Your fellow diners are not likely to be converted to your diet by discussion of slaughterhouses, weight loss or health issues. Let them find their own best eating habits.
Politely decline dishes that you can’t eat. Usually a simple “no thanks” will suffice, or just pass the serving dish to the next person. If you are asked to explain why you are not eating Aunt Joy’s cheesy sardine and rye bread casserole, do it in a way that doesn’t make her feel like an idiot for not knowing you are vegan, gluten intolerant or whatever.
Praise the dishes you can eat and thank the cook if she made an extra effort to accommodate you (even if she didn’t get it right).
If you are attending a pot-luck, the menu planning ideas on page 3 apply. Find the common denominator. You don’t want to be the only person at the event enjoying your casserole.
If you are dining with company that you know won’t accommodate your diet, eat before you get there and pick at a few things for show, if necessary. Or plan to arrive after the meal to enjoy socialising without the awkward table scenario. It it generally not OK to bring your own individually portioned meal in a plastic container and to microwave it and serve yourself.
Is it better to let a hostess know your dietary restrictions or to do your best to find something to eat at the table? This is a difficult question to answer, as each case is different.
If you decide to let your host or hostess know in advance, help your hostess understand what your dietary restrictions are in simple language – avoid medical terms or diet jargon. Try to put the emphasis on your hostess’ ease - she doesn’t have to do anything different, you will just not be eating the roast/bread/cheese/whatever and wanted her not to worry. It is gracious to offer to bring a dish that everyone can enjoy and share. If she wants to know what she can make for you, have a suggestion ready that is not too time-consuming or expensive.
No matter whether you’re a vegan staring down a plate of creamy mashed potatoes and a slab of roast beef, or a lucky gluten-free eater whose hostess cooked rice instead of pasta, be as charming, happy and fun as you can be. That will make the meal a memorable one, no matter what is on the menu.
Posted by kuri at October 23, 2007 08:27 AM