How to entertain a vegan Celiac anaphylactic locavore

9 steps towards a relaxing get-together every palate, diet and lifestyle can enjoy.

By Lauren O'Neil

Entertaining tips 1-5
While many Canadians are thrilled that they can now more easily access items to suit their wants and needs, it seems as though just as many are confused by the growing array of specialty diets available; especially when it comes to cooking for the people who are on them.

"Whether it's for health reasons, ethical beliefs, or religion, it seems to be getting harder and harder to please everyone's palate for dinner," says Sebastien Centner, director of Eatertainment Special Events and Catering in Toronto. "Just like a hot new décor trend, it seems every year brings a new type of 'tarian to the table'."

Centner, who hosts high profile events for clients like Hugo Boss, President Bill Clinton and The Toronto International Film Festival, says that he is seeing a growing number of special dietary requests. "There is no doubt that this trend continues to pick up speed," he says. "With the influx of pescetarians, vegans, and flexitarians, cooking must not only be done with a recipe book nowadays, but a dictionary!"

So what do you serve when you're expecting a group of gluten-free pescetarians and macrobiotic vegans around the table, if you don't even know what these terms mean?
We asked some of Canada's top entertaining, nutrition and etiquette experts for advice on how to deal with this increasingly common culinary conundrum.

1. Be prepared
There's nothing worse than whipping up an elaborate cream-based pasta dish, only to find out when your guests arrive that one of them is lactose intolerant and another has celiac disease. Don't wait until your party is seated to ask about dietary restrictions. "When you make the invite is when you should ask the guests if there are any restrictions or preferences," says Amy Casson, an etiquette and communication advisor from London, Ontario. "As a host, you want to make your guests feel as welcome as possible. You want to be able to prepare something that wows them."

2. Be sensitive

Prodding a diner with questions about why he or she chooses to eat the way they do could lead the conversation into uncomfortable or even heated territory. "It's just not polite dinnertime conversation," explains Toronto-based etiquette expert Linda Allan. "The way they eat may seem strange to you, but poking fun could be highly offensive to someone who eats a certain way for religious or cultural reasons."

3. Be discreet
Making a fuss over the fact that someone is eating a "special meal" will only make them feel singled out and embarrassed. Try not to call attention to the fact that your guest is eating something different and make sure to plan your cooking time wisely to ensure that all meals are ready to be served together. 

"The last thing you want as a diner is to have your meal delayed because somebody's fixing you something special," notes Allan.

4. Ask for advice
If you're having a hard time figuring out what to cook, don't be afraid to ask for a recipe or suggestion. Your guest will appreciate the effort and may even offer to bring something along with them. "The thoughtful guest might say ‘I am a vegan, but don't worry – I'll bring my tofu chicken to pop in the microwave and any vegetables you serve will be fine for me'," says etiquette coach Louise Fox, of Toronto's 'The Etiquette Ladies.
 
5. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, Sweetheart!)

"If I'm cooking a chicken with sauce, I'll serve the sauce on the side and I'll serve vegetable salads with toppings in bowls on the table," says Allan. By keeping foods separate, you let your guests have more control over their meal and increase the likelihood that they'll be able to enjoy something you've prepared. Simple, wholesome foods with a short list of ingredients are not only more likely to satisfy a large group of diners, they take less time to prepare and are less stressful for the host.


Page 1 of 2 – On page 2, learn how to ask your guests for food suggestions to make event planning a breeze.



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