Remember dinner parties? Where you’d serve food, guests would eat what was put in front of them, and everybody went home happy? Unless you’re talking a fondue party. In which case, everyone went home hungry and constipated.
These days, throwing a dinner party is a little like managing a high-strung show poodle in heat. A close friend’s recent experience -- which I’ve only slightly exaggerated for comic effect -- illustrates what I mean.
“Lisa” invited a group of 30 adults and children over for Easter brunch. (Side note: It’s crucial to get an accurate head count for Easter because, as Lisa jokes, nothing lasts forever -- except a baked ham). Because she lives in Southern California. and not on the East Coast -- where a blizzard could bury toddlers during the egg hunt -- she planned an outdoor event.
Yet before Lisa could begin to contemplate the menu, she had to consider the “special needs” of her guests.
A won’t eat protein. B & C’s children are allergic to dairy (but can do soy milk). D,E, F and G’s kids will puff up like ticks if they’re in the same room with peanut butter. H, I and J keep kosher. K has sworn off chicken (thanks, Avian flu). L is vegan, M is lacto-vegetarian, and N is lacto-ovo, but L also hates cilantro and N has glycemic index “issues.” O is macrobiotic, P is a diabetic, Q will hurl if he ingests shellfish, R can’t process gluten... you get the picture.
Then there were the guests on Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Jenny Craig, L.A. Weight Loss, Weight Watchers, the Master Cleanse, a “Fat Flush” and a juice fast. One was doing a three-hour diet. Another, a six-day body makeover. Somebody else had just joined a religious group that prohibited eating…now, what was that again? Pork? Lamb? Maybe it was Spam. If it wasn’t, it should be. Nobody should eat Spam.
A few were lactose-intolerant. Others disliked chocolate. One would only drink coffee if it was certified fair trade, organic and shade grown. Two were recovering alcoholics. Thank goodness, no Wiccans crashed the party. Who knows what dietary restrictions they might have had?
So, factoring in all these requirements, “Lisa” was able to pinpoint one item that everyone could safely consume.
Lucky for them, she did a mile-long buffet with about 137 dishes. Had it been me, I would’ve gone “old school,” served whatever I darn well pleased, and told people to pick around what they didn’t like. Hey, allergic reactions are preferable to me losing my mind and chasing guests with a butcher knife, shouting, “Lacto-ovo this, suckas!”