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A dinner party dedication to picky eaters
A dinner party dedication to picky eaters

By Elizabeth Renzetti

“Oh, I forgot to mention – I’m allergic to dairy.” How many of us have heard those terrifying words after inviting someone over for dinner? Well, I’ve got news for you, Ms. Butterfat-Gives-Me-Buboes: You can tell you’re actually allergic to something if you need to carry an EpiPen with you wherever you go. If, upon ingesting a substance, your throat swells up and you die, then you have an allergy. I grant that sudden, violent death is a bummer at most dinner parties (though I’ve been to some where it would have been a welcome early conclusion to the evening.)

You know what else is a bummer? People who no longer know how to behave when invited to someone’s house for dinner. Sharing a meal is communion; it is an expression of love between friends. It is not an opportunity to behave like a spoiled six-year-old at the Manchu Wok buffet. Food faddishness – your dislike of beets, your deep-seated belief that gluten has ruined your life and is causing the world to spin toward Armageddon – has no place at a dinner party.

If you must be neurotic in your eating habits, do it at home, where it will only disturb your partner (who loves you despite your pickiness) and the cat (who thinks you would be much happier if you just had a bite of the tasty spider he just caught.). When your hostess emails the week before the dinner and says, “Is there anything you don’t eat?” what she would really like is a jolly, “No! I eat everything. Bring on the eels!” She does not want to hear about your dairy “allergy” (see above), your conviction that foods cooked above 100 degrees will shorten your lifespan, or anything to do with the state of your bowels. That is a conversation for you, your shrink and your mother, and even then two of those three are sick to death of the subject.

"You can tell you’re actually allergic to something if you need to carry an EpiPen with you wherever you go."

I love having people over for dinner, but these days preparing a meal involves more planning than the D-Day invasion: One guest says she’s a vegetarian, but eats chicken (this actually happened once, and I had to restrain myself from asking when, exactly, chicken became a vegetable), and another won’t eat anything fermented (you would not believe how many things this rules out, including, crucially, wine).

Of course, there are people who are allowed to legitimately restrict their diet, and they fall into three handy categories:

1)      observant followers of certain religions
2)      moral vegetarians (I have no problem with people who abstain from meat on ethical grounds, but if you’re doing it to shrink the size of your ass, get out of my house.)
3)      the morbidly allergic

You can always graciously bow out of a dinner if you’d rather stay home and eat a delicious raw tart of quinoa and goji berries, with a soya-milk chaser. Otherwise, if you accept someone’s hospitality and the blessing of a home-cooked meal, the only proper response is to eat everything that’s in front of you and make delighted noises all the while. It’s only one meal; you have the rest of your life to be picky. Besides, you’re an adult. Smile, be grateful, and clean your plate.

First posted on November 25, 2009

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While I agree that people should not rudely refuse to eat something at a dinner party because they do not like it, I do not think you should dicriminate against those with food allergies that will not kill them. I had a roomate in college who had an intolerance to both wheat and corn. When she ate these things they didn\’t kill her, but they did cause her excruciating stomach pains. I think it is incredibly rude for a hostess to think a guest should suffer pain just so her feelings are not hurt over an uneaten dish. I know lactose intolerance often cause gas and diarrhea. I think an individual\’s horrible gas and diarrhea will ruin a dinner party more than their refusal to eat diary. To sum up, I think people should eat what they are given at a dinner party whether they like it or not, unless they have any kind of food allergy. Even those with mild food allergies get a free pass.

  • Anne
  • 19 Mar, 2010
  • 9:03 pm

That\’s quite rude! I think you should be more careful on the subject. Yes there are some people that seam to have vague issues on several foods. These are like fashions that come and go (like the glutamate scare).
But you really should know that allergies do come in many forms. Getting a severe rash won\’t kill you. Neither does eating meat. So if it\’s okay to refuse foods on moral or religious grounds, let the person in question decide on how severe their allergy is.

I do carry around an EPIpen but then I don\’t go on many dinnerparties, exactly because of being the partypoooper again.

  • heidi
  • 14 May, 2010
  • 3:14 pm

I believe a hostess should find out before hand is someone has a food allergy. All the years of hosting I always ask someone new if they have a food allergy please make me aware of it before cooking. I always have enough meatless items that vegans can find enough to be satisfied with dinner. If someone is bringing an unknown I ask them to check with that person for me. I have never had a problem with guests.

  • Gerry
  • 09 Dec, 2010
  • 9:37 am

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