It has become more and more of a challenge these days to host a dinner party or other event due to dietary restrictions that our guests may have. I’ve seen some debate about this topic ranging from “Vegans expect the world to revolve around them” to “The last thing I’d want is my guest leaving my home feeling unhappy or unloved.” My feelings tend towards the latter, not the former sentiment and I truly hope yours do as well. If you take the time to prepare a meal or an event for folks to whom you feel close enough to have in your home, shouldn’t you at least provide something they can eat?

Nowadays it is common to have friends and family who are vegans, vegetarians, gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant and a whole bunch of other intolerances and can’t-haves that it shouldn’t be surprising to find one of your guests won’t be able to eat something you’ve prepared. A good way to avoid this unpleasantness is to just ask your guests ahead of time what dietary restrictions they have.

We hosted a dinner once where the main entrée was chicken  and we had a friend who couldn’t eat any meat whatsoever so we made a lovely baked fish for her instead (I can say it was “lovely” because Dana actually cooked it and as someone who doesn’t even eat seafood I thought it looked really yummy. Garlic and lemon? Enough said).

When sending out those invitations it is easy to ask your guests to inform you of any dietary concerns so you won’t be surprised and/or feel badly when they say “Oh, you made short ribs? Thanks but I don’t eat meat. I’ll just have salad.” And it’s even worse when said meat is the centerpiece of your entire menu and you don’t have anything in the fridge you can easily whip up as a substitute.

But it is not just the host’s job to inquire about their guests’ needs. If you have been invited to a dinner and know you can’t eat meat, dairy, bread, etc. you should take it upon yourself to let your host know. They should be thankful for the heads-up.

Of course, if you’re throwing a BBQ or some other larger-scale and/or casual event, much of this propriety is thrown out the window. Potlucks, picnics, etc. usually have enough of a variety that most folks can find something to eat. Usually. I made the mistake of going to a BBQ once while on a low-fat diet without bringing my own food and couldn’t find one thing available to eat. So my survivalist instinct kicked in (I wasn’t about to starve) and I looked for the one thing that had cheese in it and ate that…