Thanksgiving And Allergies/Intolerances

The NYT printed 20 tips given by three well-known hostesses on being a gracious host and guest at Thanksgiving. However, the women who gave their tips must not have read the others’ tips [most likely]; the managing editor didn’t reconcile any conflicting advice [possibly]; or worst case, the NYT didn’t care that number two and number 16 conflict [who knows].

Contrasting opinions are fine, a debate is great, but in this case the list is neither: the conflict occurs at the intersection between the health of those of us with food allergies and food intolerances and a host’s menu choices.

Here’s the partial list, the rest is here:

#2. Ask about dietary restrictions when you make the invitation. If it’s a small gathering, you will have to provide a dish for vegans or vegetarians. At larger parties with more food, they should be able to find enough food to make a meal. Ignoring nut or shellfish allergies is poor form.

#16. If you have a special dietary need, delicately let the host know, but immediately offer to contribute a dish that you can eat. Never dictate to the host, though. If the offer is declined, respect it and hope for the best.

Here’s my advice: never “hope for the best” when it comes to your “special dietary needs”--NEVER. Let your host know exactly what you can and cannot eat and absolutely offer to bring a dish or two that you, and everyone else, can eat. But never respect someone else's dietary choices for YOU. That's crazy talk.

There has been many a year, as a vegetarian with nut and fish allergies that I brought an entire meal to Thanksgiving that I knew was safe. One year I brought a whole dinner from Zen Palate. One year I had pasta whilst everyone else had my Aunt Robin’s green jell-o nut mold. If you’re worried you’d never live that down, trust me, most people are more concerned with how much sweet potato pie with marshmallows is left versus the allergen-free whatever on your plate. And I’m certain I’m the only one who remembers that I did that, except maybe my mother.

Be a great guest, bring a dessert, a savory dish, flowers in a vase. Chat with newcomers, help with dishes, compliment the decor: YES!

But also: have no qualms about bringing a meal with you if you need to.

Family and friends are people who love you and don’t want you to get sick. Communicate with them.

Don’t be shy. Hurt feelings are nothing compared to feeling sick at the table or worse, a trip to the hospital.

And shame on the NYT for letting this one slip.


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