It's A Dinner Invitation — Not A Diner Menu!

Dinner party with Synne and Mike
Image by Elin B via Flickr

Great New York Times rant today about the total PITA that some spoiled guests have turned into these days. If you’re someone who loves to cook and to entertain, there are few things more annoying and depressing than the hand-flapping dictum “We don’t eat…”, preceding a princess-y list some people now subject their hosts to before deigning to eat a free meal lovingly prepared.

A few months ago, which really put us off our game for a while afterward, we prepared a terrific salmon recipe from Gourmet. “We don’t eat fish,” the 30-ish married couple, she a friend since she was once of my students years earlier, announced as they sat down. Um, well, that’s actually what’s for dinner. Eat more vegetables and bread, slurp down a little extra wine, and deal.

Your host/ess has worked long and hard, happily, to make an evening s/he hopes will be pleasant and convivial. Turning up your nose at those efforts is just plain rude.

We had a slightly older couple over for dinner this weekend for the first time, always a slightly nervous endeavor these days in light of such fussiness.  I asked my standard question before planning the menu about their food allergies or really strong food dislikes. “We eat everything,” she said. And, bless ’em, including seconds, they did.

3 thoughts on “It's A Dinner Invitation — Not A Diner Menu!

  1. fairlingtonblade

    It wouldn’t seem a bad idea that before inviting someone over for dinner, possibly saying that you were planning on making fish? In such a case where a misunderstanding has occurred, I’d probably boil a pot of water and make some pasta. Though if you had some good cheese around, I’d happily dive in.

    I usually host Thanksgiving dinner for friends and have a few vegetarians (well, pescetarians) in the mix. So, I make a vegetarian gravy (one year I did the real thing and a mushroom gravy), I prefer to do the stuffing outside the bird for safety reasons so that’s easy, and I add an extra course. One year, it was saag paneer (I love Indian food) and then I hit upon roasting a rockfish while the bird roasts. It’s a little extra expense and bother, but not too bad and I enjoy the company.

    If it gets to the point where a spreadsheet is required, I suggest ordering Chinese takeout.


  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Great ideas, thanks! We always have other things in the house we can serve — soup, pasta, usually some cheese. I was just shocked that anyone would say it so flatly; and we did, of course, make something else for them.

  3. datajunkie

    I’ve got rabbits (vegetarians) and a lactose intolerant at Thanksgiving most years. For a big meal like that there are enough different dishes that I just make sure everyone can eat at least half of what’s there, and then tell them to bring what they like to complete it. I’ve also cooked ‘kosher-style’ and for the glucose intolerant (thank god not all at once). Most recipes can be altered slightly, like cooking all the mashed potatoes together and then doing half with butter and milk and the other half with chicken stock. I’ve learned to include on invitations to RSVP with a head count and any dietary restrictions, which seems to help. None of that is to say that your guests couldn’t have found a more tactful way to excuse themselves. Did they give a reason? Mercury concerns, or an allergy?

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