Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Food Allergies

On Twitter a few weeks back I wrote that a friend’s employer had invited me over for Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) dinner. One response tweet in particular stopped me in my tracks: @allergicgirl do you find hosts that invite you seem 2 regret invite after learning of your allergy needs?

I know that happens in our community, a lot. So, let’s walk through how I handled this invitation and how you might handle a future dinner invite and get invited back.

First, I approached the event thinking it would be safe i.e. I used a positive attitude. Because I know I can take care of myself in any situation (medically and emotionally), I did my best to communicate my FA needs clearly and early and trusted my hostess would do her best to accommodate those needs. But, I planned to have a nice evening, full stop.

Second, I have all the emergency medications I need in any situation, on my person, at all times.

Third, I know my emergency plan (i.e. what to do, when.)

Forth, I know I’m not the focus of the event, in this case Shabbat was. If that means I need to eat a little something ahead of time so I’m not stuck, I do that. (I didn’t in this case.)

Fifth, I communicated my food allergy needs via email so it was all nice and neat and written out (See the verbatim below). NB: Included on the what I cannot eat list is what I can eat, helps with menu planning.

Dear Hostess,

Thank you for your kind invitation for shabbat dinner this Friday. I'm so looking forward to finally meeting you! Thank you, too, for going out of your way to accommodate my severe food allergies.
My list includes:
Allergic to all tree nuts [walnuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts etc]
Allergic to salmon - I avoid all fish
Allergic to eggplant
Allergic to honeydew and cantaloupe melons
Intolerant to wheat and soy [not an allergy but I will have a bad stomach ache]

I cannot consume any of these ingredients in any form -- nor can I consume anything that has come into contact with them via serving utensils, sauces, garnishes or toppings.

What I can eat:
Plain roasted meats or chicken
Green vegetables
Other fruits like citrus or berries
Fats like olive oil or butter

I know this is a lot, I'm am here to make this easy for you, let me know how I can help.

Thank you again and looking forward!

Based on this list, the hostess created a dinner that everyone could enjoy, especially me. We started with a choice of chicken consume or watercress soup, the entrée was brisket with onions and prunes (that was OMG good) with sides of steamed brown rice, baked white and sweet potatoes, steamed green vegetables (asparagus, broccoli and brussel sprouts) and roasted mushrooms. Dessert was a gorgeous plate of fresh fruits: everything on my list.

The hostess had posted my email on her referigertaor so everyone was fully aware of my needs. And get this; the hostess’s husband, a former New York City high ranking government official, was a banana baby in the 1940s. He said he lived on powdered milk and bananas for the first six years of his life. We had a long and very brisk conversation about all of that.

The dinner was lovely. And allergen-free. And fun! (Tips six and seven, bring a hostess gift and write a real thank you note, not an email.)

I know this sounds like an ideal. And definitely these days because I have a blog, a book and a business all about food allergies - if someone is inviting me over, they pretty much know that there are some allergies involved. But before all of that public stuff, I was still invited out. And if it felt like too much to deal with for the host/hostess, I’d offer to come by for cocktails or bring a dish I could eat to add to their meal.

Like Tim Gunn says I made it work. You can, too.


Allergy Mum said…
I agree that providing written communications on your allergies help the host and avoids misunderstanding. It really is wonderful when people try to provide a safe meal. I might add that it always is a good idea to travel with some food in case things aren’t safe.
Allergy Mum -
Jenny said…
Yes, great tips! Anyone host would appreciate you as a guest. And you're right about the thank you note! Nice touch--grandma always told me to write those. :)
I loved your idea of sending a list of foods that were not safe and a list of foods that were safe. Your email was so descriptive and straight to the point! Very helpful , Thank You for all the tips.

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