Monday, March 30, 2009

Whose responsibility?

I am planning my boys' birthday party for this Sunday. We have a small group of close family as guests, and it's always laid-back and informal. In past years, the menu has been mostly pizza, Stromboli, chicken fingers, meatballs or sandwiches. Last year, my aunt was diagnosed with Celiac's disease and must not follow a gluten-free diet.

Of course, this means I need to change our normal menu a bit, because she can't eat any of the foods I mentioned! After some research and thought, I decided to buy a whole ham which I will serve cold (I will offer breads and rolls for those who are able to eat wheat products). I will also have an assortment of cheeses, veggies, fruits, potato salad, munchies and, of course, cake and ice cream.

I've learned which brands and flavors of ice cream are gluten free so that my aunt can enjoy that as a dessert (the cake is just not an option).

But I am wondering, whose responsibility is it when it comes to special dietary needs?

As I planned my menu, I received different opinions from people. Some said that I should continue to serve what I normally would - my aunt is free to eat what she is able from the food I have provided. Others thought I should plan for a gluten-free "entree."

What's your take on this? If you know a guest must follow a certain diet (for medical reasons - not for weight watching), are you obligated as a host to accommodate that diet? How would you feel if you found out AFTER a party that one of your guest had dietary restrictions you were not aware of at the time?

I personally feel that I have invited my aunt as a guest in my home - it is my responsibility to provide her with a meal she can eat. I am fully aware of her restrictions, and I am willing to take a few extra minutes to change my normal menu (it wasn't hard, and I actually think this ham will feed more people and prove to be cheaper than some other options we have had in the past).

My aunt would never want to know that I am having this conversation at all. She will always say "don't worry about me - I have plenty I can eat." But I do think it's my responsibility as a host.

how do you feel?


  1. I always feel it is my responsibility, although I never thought of it with that term before. We had friends over last weekend and I planned a gluten free meal. It wasn't any extra work, just keeping an eye out at the store labels. I was happy to do it and I know that she appreciated it. :) Do what you are doing, seems you are on the right track.

  2. Good luck with the birthday party! I'm glad the tasty treats I posted yesterday can be a help to you.

    Regarding special dietary needs: I think it's up to you, but I would almost always err on the side of serving others to the best of my ability. I wouldn't change everything, but having alternative options is always thoughtful. I think of it this way: If I had special dietary needs (and I count in this being on a diet or being vegetarian), I would feel so humbled, blessed and loved if someone went out of their way to accommodate me. I have a bunch of friends on Weight Watchers - so when I make a meal for them, I obviously try to do something friendly to that diet - I don't serve like fatty high calorie lasagna!

    Let us all know what you conclude - and post pics of the party!

  3. Also - where in PA are you from? Obviously, for privacy sake, you don't have to share the town. But, I was wondering if you are from SE PA?

  4. Steph - I am from SE PA - Lehigh County. :)