Sage Advice: A Gluten-Free Holiday Party?

By Amy Dickinson | December 12th, 2018

How far do party hosts need to go for dietary restrictions?

Gluten_Free Image

Dear Amy: Every year my husband and I host a holiday get-together for several of our friends and neighbors. We provide the main dish, a couple of sides and drinks. We ask friends to fill in with other salads, sides and desserts.

This year, with little notice, my friend “Barb” reached out to me via text, saying, “This year, I will need you to prepare my food differently” – due to her recent diagnosis of celiac disease.

She explained to me that “even a crumb of cross contamination” will result in her not feeling well. She instructed me to check all of my spices and ingredients, and to thoroughly clean all of my cooking and serving utensils before preparing food for her.

She even provided me a list of online resources I could use to learn more.

Amy, I was shocked speechless – and my husband was livid.

I responded that I would check ingredients and try my best to accommodate. My husband said that if the disease was so dire, she would need to pack her own plate of food.

He said I should not reach out to our other guests and provide any instruction on Barb’s behalf.

I was considering moving mountains for Barb when the final straw came: She asked us to thoroughly clean our grill grates, should there be any gluten left on them from when we last grilled.

Is our friend being ridiculous here, or are we being insensitive to her disease?

How far does a host couple need to go out of their way to accommodate a guest in this situation?

– Gluten-free Hosts

Dear Hosts: You should not attempt to gauge whether “Barb’s” disease is as serious as she indicates. You should simply assume that it is. I agree, however, that she is not communicating about her needs in a way designed to inspire such a Herculean effort on your part. In fact, her requirements seem quite overwhelming and are coming off as demands. She is also attempting to shift responsibility for her health from herself onto you. Don’t take it on.

Instead of you communicating her needs to your other guests who are bringing food, you should suggest that she contact them. With such specific requirements, she should not trust anyone else to communicate her exact requirements.

You should assume that your best efforts might not be enough to completely decontaminate your kitchen to Barb’s standards, and you should tell her so: “Hi, ‘Barb,’ I worry that I can’t guarantee that all of the food and the kitchen area will be decontaminated the way you might need. It would definitely be safest for you to bring your own food this year. If you feel you also need to bring your own plates, silverware, etc., I assure you we won’t be offended. And don’t forget to bring a dish to share with the rest of the group. Looking forward!”

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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