Well, a Crazy reader sent along this fun blog from the New York Times's City Room about how complicated it can be to host a dinner party for adults these days with so many people having so many different dietary issues--and when food choices can even become a political and social statement. The writer begins:
Having friends over for dinner used to involve a minimal and fairly unremarkable to-do list: There were groceries to buy, along with flowers and a couple of bottles of semi-respectable wine. I would put out some guest towels and a collection of fancy soaps that were off limits to blood relatives, and then — voilà! — dinner was served.
Nowadays, it's fairly common for many of us to have relatives and friends who are vegetarian, or who don't eat red meat. Some of us also have friends who only eat kosher. And, now, out there, especially in the Bay Area, are those who identify themselves in more specific categories, as vegans and lacto-vegetarians, or as dedicated raw food eaters.
And then, in my circle of friends, and acquaintances--and in the circle of friends and classmates of my son--are people, for whom certain food choices truly make them sick, sometimes seriously. They can't eat dairy, gluten, chocolate, nuts, or shellfish. Briefly, my husband and I were friends with a couple who were vegetarians, and the husband claimed it literally made him ill to have anything non-vegetarian--fish or chicken--cooked on the same grill as his veggie burger. Of course, there was the one weekend he was out of town, and the wife came to dinner and happily gorged on a grilled chicken breast she had brought herself.
Let's just say that we're not friendly with that couple anymore.
According to this New York Times writer, things can get political when you have guests who will give you that withering look if you serve, say, anything that belongs to the endangered sea creatures list. Then again, I myself picked up and have tried to adhere to that handy-dandy Seafood Watch card they pass out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and which is available online. It suggests which sea creatures to avoid and offers good substitutes. I worry about overfishing of species and the long-term environmental consequences that will have.
If you follow that card, that means no Chilean sea bass--a big "avoid," according to the Aquarium. However, with it costing $25 a pound last time I saw it at the store, I'm not going to be serving it anytime soon. I wouldn't give another host or hostess a withering look if they served it to me at their home.
I have to say that my own seafood-loving son went through a salmon boycott because he had heard about the salmon fishing ban off the Pacific coast. We went along with that and went sans salmon for some months.
Basically, as a hostess, I try to accommodate people's dietary needs by usually avoiding a red meat dish and offering something easy like a pasta that can be turned into something vegetarian by an individual diner. And, if I hear that a guest has a peanut allergy, I wouldn't cook anything stir-fry in peanut oil. But, I'd draw a line at choosing a vegetable stock in favor of chicken stock if I believed the chicken stock would make the meal taste better.
And tomorrow we're going to my sister's in Danville, and will enjoy the usual--turkey, gravy (cooked with chicken stock probably), stuffing with some kind of gluten-filled bread, and pie with fresh-whipped cream.