Lingering conversations. A home cooked meal. Cloth napkins from the sideboard drawer. A second glass of wine. I pretty much love a dinner party.
And we are lucky enough to occasionally get invitations for such at friends and family members’ homes. Most of our invitations are from those who know me and so the invitation comes with straightforward instructions along the lines of “send me what you can’t eat”.
Sometimes, however, we receive dinner party invitations from people who have yet to experience the allergy side of my life and images of me enjoying that second glass of wine fade into panic over the theoretical peanut butter pie served for dessert.
I’ve learned that while I strongly dislike feeling as if I am a high-maintenance guest, it is necessary to notify the host of my allergies before agreeing to dine in their home. I’ve also realized that it’s not actually being high maintenance. It’s being safe, healthy, and unapologetic for a medical condition I did not choose – all things I will instill in W as he, too, navigates friendships and experiences with allergies.
So, a narrative that has developed over the years to address the issue, without putting the onus on the gracious host, often goes like this:
Host: Hi Margaret, can you guys come over for dinner on Friday?
Me: Thank you, we would love to join you! However, I have severe food allergies (then list them) and wouldn’t want to make it difficult on you. Would you like to come to our house instead, or meet at a restaurant if that’s easiest for you?”
This leaves room for the host to decide if they are comfortable or not accommodating my dietary restrictions. If they are not, I have offered two other options in which to enjoy each other’s company. In my experience, however, they usually are, so the conversation continues:
Host: That’s no problem!
Me: Thank you so much for accommodating. We look forward to it and will bring an appetizer.
These last two lines are important. Of course, I want to say thank you and will do so again during the dinner and again afterwards. I am incredibly grateful for those who open their home and plan and execute a menu especially for me (which probably requires straying away from their go-to meal to serve).
Also, bringing a dish is clutch. Saying that you will is better than posing the question “what can we bring?” as most hosts reply with “nothing”. Allergies or not, however, one doesn’t want to show up empty handed. More importantly, by bringing a dish, I remove a piece of the dining experience in which the host has to consider my allergies – ultimately making it easier on him or her.
Which will hopefully lead to another invitation!