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Dale Williams

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a minor vent (surprise vegetarian)

by Dale Williams » Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:55 pm

So we had a rather disparate group for Thanksgiving. Betsy’s niece came home from college to have kidney surgery Wed (she is doing great), and so we knew her sister (a pesce-vegetarian), BiL, and nephew would spend day at hospital and come later in the day, but not be there for initial sitdown. Betsy’s mom is here. We invited a young (well, to me, early 40s) couple who have always gone to her mother’s, but her mother passed this year and so knew they needed a place- and we knew they were mostly gluten-free. Plus a retired violist, who is a vegetarian, but not very food centric. Then the couple mentioned they had a friend, a bass player from Nova Scotia studying for his masters in NYC, who might want to come - great.

So Jonathan and Donna said they’d bring squash plus gluten-free rolls, pumpkin pie, & apple pie. We did a fresh local turkey (we thought all but 2 people), dressing (Betsy threw in bacon as we figured 7 out 10 would eat -one gluten free is less strict), brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, kale & mushrooms in a miso cream sauce. For appetizers I did smoked salmon with horseradish creme fraiche on rice crackers (9 out of 10)and Betsy made Korean meatballs (7 of 10). We don’t think everything has to appeal to everyone, but we just like to make sure everyone is happy.

So all of the initial guests arrived. I opened Champagne, gave the dog a bone, and put out appetizers. I went into kitchen, where Betsy had a stunned look on her face. Donna had known that their friend Peter was a vegetarian, but hadn’t wanted to “bother us.” So the 20-something we had counted on as a turkey, meatball, and salmon scarfer doesn’t eat any of those- and none of our appetizers (we were counting on 45 minutes or so of canapes and Champagne). OK, we survived- the cheese course quickly became an appetizer, we had enough nice greens to add a salad, and we had a head of broccoli that was quickly steamed and seasoned.

Different people react differently as hosts to people with dietary restrictions - some try to only make food that everyone likes, others are more “they’ll have what I fix.” We try to strike a medium- not putting restrictions on the omnivores, but making sure that throughout the meal people feel included and have options. But that only works if you know the restrictions! Aaaaggghhh. It’s a sign someone doesn’t entertain much if they don't want to "bother" hosts with the info that the friend they are bringing is a vegetarian! I've never felt restricted by a guest's needs, it's part of the fun making sure everyone is happy.
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Rahsaan

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Re: a minor vent (surprise vegetarian)

by Rahsaan » Fri Nov 29, 2013 4:19 pm

Dale Williams wrote:It’s a sign someone doesn’t entertain much if they don't want to "bother" hosts with the info that the friend they are bringing is a vegetarian! I've never felt restricted by a guest's needs, it's part of the fun making sure everyone is happy.


I guess. It also depends on how well the people know you and what that friend is prepared to do. Most of the time, the people in my circles ask about food restrictions, especially as we have a child and people are sensitive to that stuff with kids and potential allergies. But if I don't know the host very well then I don't go out of my way to advertise my eating restrictions. Especially if it's a larger event where I'm not the only/main guest, because I figure the event is not about me. But, in those cases, I am perfectly prepared to eat whatever I can find, and would never make a big deal about it.

(Although in my case, the only restriction is that I've never really eaten meat so I can't digest large quantities, but am fine picking it off bread, whatever, it's not a big deal. But I suppose if someone has strict religious issues, that might be a different story)
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Dale Williams

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Re: a minor vent (surprise vegetarian)

by Dale Williams » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:47 pm

All understandable. The frustration is this case is that until he walked through the door, I had no communication with this nice young bass player. The other couple (who have been to dinner at our house a couple of dozen times, and seen countless "let us know any dietary restrictions" emails from me) knew this guy was vegetarian, and didn't tell us. Apparently the husband suggested it several times, but she didn't want to bother us.
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Mark Lipton

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Re: a minor vent (surprise vegetarian)

by Mark Lipton » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:57 pm

Dale, you and Betsy went well beyond the call of duty. I agree that Donna should rethink her idea that such information would bother you. What bothers me is being blindsided by a guest's needs. FWIW, we do exactly as you, making sure that there's enough for everyone to choose from but not restricting the omnivores, either. Since Jean is now gluten-free, Thanksgiving presented a few extra challenges beyond the usual familial dramas.

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