Tuesday, August 25, 2009
A friend at work recently asked for my assistance in planning a dinner party. She was hosting four couples plus herself and her husband. She asked for my input because one of her guests has Celiac Disease. Her goal was to create an entirely gluten-free menu that was also delicious so that the guest in question would not be limited to a few special items and also, so that there would not be undo attention to her condition. How very thoughtful. Needless to say, she came to the right person! We put together a wonderful menu without any restricted dishes and her party was a great success. Of course, her attention to this special consideration did not go unnoticed and was hugely appreciated.
I have read in more than one book regarding Celiac Disease, that the person with the condition has every right to expect to be accommodated when invited for a meal. You know what, call me ungracious but I completely agree. There are few things that make me angrier than arriving with Jay to a gathering to have the host announce with a smile..."I didn't know how to make gluten-free food so there probably isn't anything you can eat!" Believe it or not, this happens with some regularity. So Jay sits at the side with a cup of pop, starved and pretends he isn't hungry or offended. Well, I am offended. I'll even bring a dish along or make some easy suggestions if you need a hand. The books advise after experiencing some such situation more than a few times in which the individual hasn't even attempted to be sensitive to the Celiac patient's needs, to politely inform the person that you will not attend any future functions as they do not accommodate the required dietary considerations. I agree with that stand.
Dean's folks are fancy hosts. They always set the table with table cloth and linen napkins. Never will you be served cans of pop! Iced tea in a glass pitcher on the table. Food is always transferred from cookware to formal serving dishes. Of course, all of this is in a setting of pots, pans and dirty dishes piled high around you in the kitchen where the meal was just prepared!
I'm a hostess who takes some aspects of the job seriously and others not so much. I always have Cremora for my mom and artificial sweeteners for diabetics. A pot of coffee is always brewed for guests that I know enjoy it and offered to those about whom I am not certain. If I know someone has special dietary needs, I check with them for their preferences and do my best (including internet research) to accommodate them. I never want to be a host who requires my guest to choose between the food I serve and their health. If someone is trying to loose weight, I include low calorie options without making an announcement like, "All the fatsos need to eat from this dip bowl, it's low fat you see! Only 10 calories per table spoon. Hey, you have 2 tablespoons there! Slow down Skippy!" And yes, such has been my experience as well. Oh, and diet as well as regular beverages are always stocked.
I believe that a clean house reflects my respect for my guests so if I'm planning an occasion a good scrubbing is part of the prep work. If we are planning a meal, I schedule it at the beginning of the allotted time in case people are not intending to settle in for a long visit. I try to include in my invitations time to arrive and when we'll start dinner. On the guest side, I take arriving at the appointed time seriously and if I'm late; don't hold dinner for me.
As for the finer details, I'm pretty casual. We are too large of a family to have sit down meals at the holidays so in general it's buffet style. I am not opposed to offering drinks and then encouraging my guests to help themselves to the fridge. With the increasing number of people increases the probability of paper plates and cups. Then again, the food dictates the need for "real" plates sometimes.
I may cook everything or order pizza. More than likely I'll shoot out an e mail and we'll all pitch in dishes.
So what kind of host are you? Sit down meals with candles and china? Pizza on napkins? How do you deal with special diets? Would you ever ask a guest to contribute to the meal? Do you feel that people with particular preferences should bring their own food?
If you're inviting us over, please let me know if I need to bring something for Jay!
Small grace: I made soup!
Danny: Has pneumonia, doctors are predicting a 20% chance of survival.