When it comes to social etiquette, Emily Post’s advice is still the gold standard in good taste. However we know Emily never had to serve dinner to both a paleo boyfriend and gluten-free sister-and-law in one sitting – or, like, ever.
That’s why we’re so pleased Ms. Post’s charming great-great-granddaughter Lizzie is carrying on the family tradition and providing answers to modern-day etiquette questions far and wide, including our pressing Chalkboard-related questions below. Take Lizzie’s cues for a season full of smooth-sailing holiday parties and pick up her book Emily Post’s Etiquette for the friend that loves to entertain!
Q: I eat a special diet (vegan, raw or gluten-free, etc). How do address this with a dinner hostess without being a complete pain?
A:This is one of those thing where it’s a delicate dance between host and guest. If you do adhere to a specific diet and it’s your choice to adhere to that or if you have a specific allergy, it’s really important that you let your host know. Your host does not want to have you sit down to a meal that you can’t eat. Therefore, I think the best way to address it is to say, “I’m a vegan, I’m lactose intolerant, I’m allergic to all shellfish. Or if you’re my father, you’re allergic to all northern tree fruit, but only when it’s raw. It can be kind of complicated so I’m happy to bring a dish that meets my needs.” I know that it’s not always fun as someone who has these dietary needs to bring a dish constantly, but it’s really important that you offer it to your host that you bring it. They might not feel comfortable cooking the food that will meet your requirements. They might be nervous that they’ll somehow miss an ingredient and feed you something that could make you really sick. So it’s important to give that offer. And then let your host be the one to say, “Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you so much” or say, “You know what, I’ve actually planned a meal that you’re going to be just fine with, let me run through the ingredients just to double check” Something like that. But you begin the conversation by offering first.
Q: I’m hosting a holiday party and want to incorporate my healthy dietary choices. How do I still make sure my party guests are happy and don’t feel pressured?
A: I don’t think you do anything differently. I have a number of friends back home who are vegetarians who serve delicious vegetarian meals to us and I don’t miss the meat at all. I think it’s really important for you to serve exactly what you would like to be serving. You’re the host. It’s really your choice.
Q: My family cooks really heavy foods for holiday dinners. I want to make suggestions and ensure that there are healthy options for me and my children. How do I do this without offending everyone?
A: I think offering to bring a dish is a great way to start and you can also always say, “Hey, this year I was wondering if we might want to change up the menu a little bit.” Every single year at our Thanksgiving – a huge affair with 26 people with a 27-pound turkey -we always ask, “What are we thinking about for the menu this year?” Inevitably everybody ends up saying, “Well, all I care about is that I’m able to have this one dish that we make.” Then, usually, that person is responsible for bringing the dish or for asking the person they know that makes it best to bring the dish. But it’s really important that you speak up and say, well, “I would really love it if we put this on the menu. I’d be more than happy to make it.”