“Dear Alma” Tackles Holiday Entertaining and Food Issues

Dear AlmaHappy holidays, everyone!

As we wind down this year, we have a few questions about entertaining during the holiday season and beyond but also about the never ending food issues with teens. Take a look and remember to send in your questions.

Dear Alma,

We love to entertain.  But this time of year, with food so much a part of the celebrations, it can get difficult with food allergies, food sensitivities and dietary restrictions so common among our friends and their children.  In particular, we have several friends on gluten free diets, a number of vegetarians and we feel like we need to be always wary of nut allergies.  Do we have to eliminate all of those ingredients from the menu for the night or is it enough to just have a few options that cover those circumstances?  What is the appropriate etiquette?  And can you suggest some good recipes that will be safe and delicious for our guests.?  We usually serve more on the casual, buffet style side of things.

Thank you!
Allergic to Parties

Dear Allergic to Parties,

You are so thoughtful to be even asking these questions. It shows that you are a kindhearted entertaining soul. What I have to say to you is this: As long as you have a little something that your friends and family members can eat, you’re fine. It is an honor to be invited to someone’s house but if all your specialties include ingredients that some people can’t eat, you can’t and shouldn’t stress yourself out to accommodate everyone, making every dish that they can eat.

The above advice refers to a large party. If you are hosting an intimate get together, you of course want to try to accommodate your guests and ask them if they have restrictions you don’t know of. For example, I once heard of a dinner party with six couples where the host knew of the dietary restrictions of three of the couples and made food that none of them could eat. It made for a very awkward evening and went down in the books as fodder for what “not to do” as a host. You don’t want to be that person either.

In addition, if you know for a fact that someone you have invited has a dangerous allergy, the kind where even a whiff of the ingredient could make them sick, it would be dangerous and inconsiderate to prepare dishes with those ingredients. The onus, of course, is on the parents or the people themselves to tell you the food issue and to watch their own children to keep them safe. I am sure you could find many other recipes without peanuts, let’s say, if you needed to. Feel free to peruse the many gluten free, vegetarian and nut free sites on line, of which there are hundreds if not thousands. Take Back the kitchen.com has numerous gluten free and vegetarian party dishes so, of course, feel free to start there! Good Luck!

Dear Alma

We just discovered my 15 year old who has had belly aches for years does great without cheese – so she is trying to kick the habit but pizza is everywhere! How can I help her take care of herself but not feel deprived — as I write this I think she is at Enzo’s

No More Pizza

Dear No More Pizza,

Yes, pizza is everywhere but at least you are pretty much done with the elementary and middle school pizza parties. Lord, I am thankful for that. Your job is a hard one and you are correct in that she has to learn to take care of herself. Hopefully she can pay enough attention to her own body’s signals and make healthier choices but you can also help her be more vocal with her peers about going to eateries in town with more options. Fortunately most pizza places have other items, although typically not as cheap as pizza, like salads and sandwiches. There are many Middle Eastern places in town as well as Indian and for a cheap equivalent, there are so many bagel joints.

It may be a good idea for her to bring snacks with her in her bag so she never feels left out or deprived. Lastly, hosting cooking parties at your own home is another fun way to make social eating inclusive. Good luck!

Dear Alma,

I am mortified! I was invited to a holiday party and showed up a half hour fashionably late with a hostess gift of a bottle of wine. When my husband and I got there, everyone was waiting for us and I saw that the dinner table was set. It was a sit down dinner! I know that it is never polite to show up late for a dinner party!

If that weren’t rude enough, as we started eating the delicious menu items, I learned that everyone had brought a dish but us! I learned during the course of the dinner that on Paperless Post, it had clearly stated to bring a dessert or side dish! OMG!

Alma Schneider, Physician Who Needs To Heal Thyself

Dear Physician Who Needs To Heal Thyself,

Always read the invitation! We can never assume that a holiday party is just a big free for all. No matter how busy we are, if we are invited to an event, we need to respect the hosts and read the invitation in it’s entirety. Again, it is an honor to be invited anywhere, especially to an intimate event.

Also, always make sure to surround yourself with kind and understanding people who assure you the next day when you apologize, that you are forgiven and that you deserve to be cut some slack.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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