It is that time of year when many people set their tables, preparing to host festive holiday gatherings. A lot of work and preparation goes into planning these events, but what about when your guests have special dietary needs? Hosting guests with food allergies can be intimidating, but not to worry! With careful precautions put in place, you can make this an inclusive and special time of year for everyone.
Reach out to your guests ahead of time to ask if anyone has food allergies. Those that do will be pleased that you are willing to accommodate them. Have a conversation with these guests to assess their comfort level and discuss any concerns they may have. Many people with food allergies feel uncomfortable eating at someone else’s house due to the severity of their allergies and may want to bring all of their own safe food. If this is the case, respect their decision! Trying to convince them that you can handle cooking for them will not change their mind.
If they have entrusted you with cooking for them, take this responsibility seriously. Ask them what you can do to keep them safe, and talk through the necessary steps and precautions that you will need to take in order to prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen. Clean and sanitize your kitchen ahead of time and keep all allergens out of the cooking zone.
If baking, buy all new ingredients! Do not use the half-empty bag of flour that might have been mixed with the almond flour by mistake. Ingredients that have been sitting in your pantry for months are likely to be cross-contaminated with allergens from previous baking endeavors. It is safer to use new, unopened ingredients.
Unsure what to buy? A list of common allergens and their substitutes can be found on FARE’s website, here! Send pictures and screenshots of ingredient labels to your guest, allowing them to confirm that these ingredients are safe for them. Using cheap pie tins or disposable casserole dishes can also help minimize cross-contamination. If they are new, you don’t have to worry about whether or not they have been used with the individual’s allergens before.
An alternative way to make guests feel more included is to have a potluck-style meal. Invite guests to bring a dish of their choice, kindly reminding everyone in advance of any allergies in the party. The individuals with food allergies can contribute a dish that they know is safe for them so that they can eat something in the buffet. It is less awkward than having to bring an entire separate meal for themselves.
Finally, the biggest thing you can do is not overemphasize the importance of food in your gathering. The true value comes from spending time with friends and family. Even if your guest chooses not to eat anything that you make, do not take it personally. Instead, empathize with them, as they may feel bad that they can’t partake in what everyone else is having, and remind them that you are just happy that they came.