Okay, I know I’ve been harping on food preferences, poisonous broccoli, and even vegetable-based aliens in recent weeks, but here’s one more thought on food. This is actually something I wrote a while ago, updated for the current discussion. My wife and I asked a couple over for dinner. The couple had recently begun the South Beach diet. Worried about what we might be serving them for dinner, the husband sent me an email regarding his dietary restrictions.
When his wife saw the email later that day, she immediately called me to apologize for her husband’s “rudeness.”
I didn’t think my friend was rude at all.
As a host, it’s my responsibility to ensure the comfort and happiness of my guests. In order to do so effectively, I need as much information about their needs as possible. My friends have placed themselves on a very restricted diet, and as a result, there are many foods that they cannot eat. Knowing this helped us plan for them.
In fact, I believe that it’s rude for a host to not consider his or her guest’s specific dietary restrictions.
When invited over to dinner, I believe that it is the responsibility of the host to determine which foods are palatable to his guests and which are not. As a genetically superior individual when it comes to taste buds, I always appreciate it when the host of a dinner party reviews the menu with me beforehand. There is nothing more awkward than for a host to watch his or her guest pick at a plate of food that the guest clearly does not like.
Several years ago I was eating Christmas dinner at a girlfriend’s house. My girlfriend’s father considered himself to be quite a chef and had always made Christmas dinner a huge production. Wearing an enormous chef’s hat, he took great pleasure in watching his guests enjoy his culinary creations.
As the serving dishes were being passed around the table, one of the guests, a longtime friend of my girlfriend’s father, noticed that I had bypassed several food items. She questioned my decision, and I explained my limited palate and the biologic link between one’s palate and the number of taste buds that a person has. “Regrettably,” I said, “I have no control over the foods that I can eat.”
This woman exalted in my response.
“Thank you,” she said. “My mother taught me to eat whatever was put in front of me, no matter if I liked the food or not, so I’ve spent a lifetime eating foods that I cannot stand. But you’re right. I can’t control what food I like and I shouldn’t be expected to eat things that make me sick. Thank you!”
A general outburst of agreement consumed the table, upon which people began bypassing several of the items on the table, noting each time that they did so. For more than fifteen minutes, the conversation was consumed with talk about this new and exciting revelation.
Not surprising, my girlfriend’s father was not pleased.
My girlfriend and I broke up less than a month later.
Please note: I’m not saying that the menu of every dinner party should be geared around a single individual, but some account of each guest’s preferences should be made. At least publicize your menu so that your guests can be prepared.
For example, when Elysha and I went to dinner at a friend’s home the following week, we knew that they would be serving butternut squash soup and salad. This was not an entrée selection that I could stomach.
Therefore, I came prepared, with a bowl of clam chowder and a portion of meatloaf for myself.
Everyone was happy.
My in-laws threw my wife and I an engagement party several years also and planned on serving a cold salmon dish as the entree. Not liking salmon, especially cold, my wife went to the store and bought me a hunk of meatloaf for dinner, and I heated it in the microwave as dinner was served. Though everyone loved the food that my in-laws served, I had more than a few people ask me where the meatloaf was.
“At the supermarket,” I replied each time, much to their dismay.
So I thanked my friend for alerting me to his dietary restrictions and allowing me to make his visit as pleasant as possible. What seemed rude to his wife was common sense to me.
And isn’t this too often the case?
Social mores trumping common sense.