For One Night Only
Be upfront about your needs. If your host doesn’t know you have dietary restrictions, it’s not nice to blindside them upon arrival at their home. Let them know ahead of time if there are things you absolutely cannot have so they have time to plan, but keep it as simple as possible. If you’re allergic to or cannot eat a long list of items, it might be less overwhelming to give them a list of what you CAN eat.
If you’re super sensitive to certain foods, make sure you mention to your host the basics of cross contamination. Unless you are in the presence of a sociopath, your host will want to do everything they can -- within reason -- to make sure you’re safe. On the flip side, do your best not to make your host feel bad if they slip up, especially if your restrictions are of a personal or religious nature. If you have allergies or food intolerances, make sure you have any medications or enzymes with you just in case.
Don’t expect your host to make their entire meal in accordance with your diet. Depending on your restrictions, it may be difficult -- and expensive -- for them to accommodate you. Do your own planning ahead by offering to bring a dish or dessert to share.
Be calm and polite. If your host momentarily forgets and offers you something you cannot eat, don’t make a scene. Simply smile and say, “No, thanks,” and move on.
Now, there is always the chance that your host will not be able to safely feed you, and there are the few rare folks who simply refuse to cater to dietary restrictions. In case of complete failure to find anything noshable at your host’s home, do some research and find restaurants where you can find something to eat on the way home, or take your own “safe” snacks with you.
Sit and Stay a While
If you are being hosted for longer than one meal -- say, a weekend -- it’s even more important to be clear about your needs. All of the rules above apply, times ten. If your host asks you for dietary information, don’t be vague under pretense of “being polite.” Keep things simple, straightforward, and specific.
Again, it’s a good idea to take some food with you and to look up restaurants and grocery stores that can cater to your diet. Your host may be beyond awesome and have everything covered, but it’s good practice to anticipate and fulfill your own needs, especially if you’re in someone else’s home for any length of time.
With all of your dietary concerns out of the way, don’t forget to relax and enjoy the good company you’re in! Spending time with friends is one of the greatest luxuries there is, so soak in -- and give back -- the love and joy.
Photo credits: Dinner Series, sriram, and skampy.