With everyone spending so much time of social media these days, those “in person” social events become that much more special. The last thing you want to do when you’re invited to dinner is dampen the mood with special diet requests.
How to ensure you can accept that invitation gracefully, and that everyone—yourself included—will have a wonderful time?
1. Bring Your Own.
It just stands to reason: if you want to be sure you can enjoy the food at a social gathering, make it yourself. As soon as you receive that invitation, offer to bring something to the party. Once you’ve made something in your own kitchen with your own “safe” ingredients, you’ll ensure that you can also consume the food without worry. At the very least, you’ll guarantee at least one dish you can enjoy even if the rest of the menu is off limits. Just be sure you bring enough to serve the entire group (or, if it’s a large event, at least 8-10 people). That way, others will appreciate that you’ve shared and you won’t feel isolated as the only person munching that baked tofu or kale salad.
2. Consult in Advance
These days, store shelves are brimming with the latest gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or other options, so most hosts are aware of the growing number of people with food allergies and sensitivities; and most are also more than willing to make an effort to be inclusive. If they’re amenable, speak to your host(s) in advance and let them know which foods you can or can’t eat. You can even make their task easier by offering some tried-and-true recipes they can use so they don’t feel they have to obtain a PhD in food science before they can safely feed you.
If they share the menu in advance, you can also identify which items are “safe” for you, without forcing your friends to cook a separate dish. For instance, when I’m invited for the holidays with friends and they roast a turkey, I ask them to set aside some of the salads and to roast a few of the veggies (that would normally accompany the bird) in a separate small pan for me. It takes only a few seconds more of their time, and everyone is happy.
3. If All Else Fails, Keep Your Mouth Shut.
No, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t socialize and chat with people! Keeping your mouth shut at the appropriate time means simply not eating something that’s suspect or that you know doesn’t agree with you; no apologies necessary. If your host serves dinner and you can’t eat anything but the steamed carrots, then relish those carrots with gusto. Enjoy each bite as you interact with everyone at the table, and leave everything else untouched. Believe me, no one will notice. And if your host does happen to ask why you left the chicken cacciatore in pristine condition, you can quietly mention that the food is just delicious, but you must have overdone it at lunch time.
4. Focus on What Really Counts.
While it’s true that food is often the centerpiece of any social gathering, don’t lose sight of the real reason you’ve all come together: to socialize and interact with friends and/or family. If you must, eat something before you go, then avoid the food and indulge in the conversation, camaraderie and comforts of people you care about.
And what if it turns out you must cook for someone else on a special diet? Here are some tips on how to handle it from the other side of the table.