Do you have to deal with picky ADULT eaters when you host Thanksgiving or any other dinner party?

You always hear about kids being picky eaters, and only tolerating so-called “white food.”

Well, a Crazy reader sent along this fun blog from the New York Times’s City Room about how complicated it can be to host a dinner party for adults these days with so many people having so many different dietary issues–and when food choices can even become a political and social statement. The writer begins:

Having friends over for dinner used to involve a minimal and fairly unremarkable to-do list: There were groceries to buy, along with flowers and a couple of bottles of semi-respectable wine. I would put out some guest towels and a collection of fancy soaps that were off limits to blood relatives, and then — voilà! — dinner was served.

Nowadays, it’s fairly common for many of us to have relatives and friends who are vegetarian, or who don’t eat red meat. Some of us also have friends who only eat kosher. And, now, out there, especially in the Bay Area, are those who identify themselves in more specific categories, as vegans and lacto-vegetarians, or as dedicated raw food eaters.

And then, in my circle of friends, and acquaintances–and in the circle of friends and classmates of my son–are people, for whom certain food choices truly make them sick, sometimes seriously. They can’t eat dairy, gluten, chocolate, nuts, or shellfish. Briefly, my husband and I were friends with a couple who were vegetarians, and the husband claimed it literally made him ill to have anything non-vegetarian–fish or chicken–cooked on the same grill as his veggie burger. Of course, there was the one weekend he was out of town, and the wife came to dinner and happily gorged on a grilled chicken breast she had brought herself.

Let’s just say that we’re not friendly with that couple anymore.

According to this New York Times writer, things can get political when you have guests who will give you that withering look if you serve, say, anything that belongs to the endangered sea creatures list. Then again, I myself picked up and have tried to adhere to that handy-dandy Seafood Watch card they pass out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and which is available online. It suggests which sea creatures to avoid and offers good substitutes. I worry about overfishing of species and the long-term environmental consequences that will have.

If you follow that card, that means no Chilean sea bass–a big “avoid,” according to the Aquarium. However, with it costing $25 a pound last time I saw it at the store, I’m not going to be serving it anytime soon. I wouldn’t give another host or hostess a withering look if they served it to me at their home.

I have to say that my own seafood-loving son went through a salmon boycott because he had heard about the salmon fishing ban off the Pacific coast. We went along with that and went sans salmon for some months.

Basically, as a hostess, I try to accommodate people’s dietary needs by usually avoiding a red meat dish and offering something easy like a pasta that can be turned into something vegetarian by an individual diner. And, if I hear that a guest has a peanut allergy, I wouldn’t cook anything stir-fry in peanut oil. But, I’d draw a line at choosing a vegetable stock in favor of chicken stock if I believed the chicken stock would make the meal taste better.

And tomorrow we’re going to my sister’s in Danville, and will enjoy the usual–turkey, gravy (cooked with chicken stock probably), stuffing with some kind of gluten-filled bread, and pie with fresh-whipped cream.

6 thoughts on “Do you have to deal with picky ADULT eaters when you host Thanksgiving or any other dinner party?

  1. I know, I am one of those vegans so I am cooking a totally vegan Thanksgiving dinner. Those who want to join great! I wouldn't impose my choice and expect someone to cook something special for me so its up to whoever want to join in.
    Open minded eaters usually really enjoy it!!!!


  2. I'll never forget the time I went to an Ethiopian family-style restaurant in SF that serves a group's food on one big platter. I've been there numerous times, with friends or acquaintances in tow, but on one occasion, I had to ask to have my food served on a separate plate because a vegetarian in the group objected to the idea that my chicken might “touch” her food.

    She was a nice person, but I'd probably think twice about having her over for a meal.

    p.s. the restaurant is great, if you like spicy food. It's Massawa on Haight Street

    And, whether you're vegetarian or a meat eater, Happy Thanksgiving to all ! Pass the potatotes!:)


  3. Greetings Soccer Mom,

    May you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    May people with opinions about food choices restrain themselves among friends on Thanksgiving Day.

    May the coming year bring hope to everyone and everything, as this why we celebrate this holiday.

    Thanksgiving blessings to all of us both near and far.


  4. We visited the Monterey Aquarium recently too. Though I can say I won't give up preparation H, especially after childbirth.

    Did you know that was on the endangered list too? Shark oil ingredients. Not that I use it very often, if needed, I'm certainly not going to suffer!

    BTW, I've heard the Preparation H is a wrinke eraser as a face cream. Truth.


  5. Generally most Thanksgiving dinners offer a wide variety of foods to satisfy most diners. Having said that, if one of my guests had a dietary need or a strong preference about certain foods, I would probably try to accommodate him/her. It might be as easy as adding one or two veggie dishes for a vegetarian.


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