The End of the Dinner Party?
You want to invite a group of people to your home for dinner. You create an evite and shoot it out to your foodie friends.
A couple of weeks later, people come over and you have a great time sharing a meal, good wine and convivial conversation.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to eat together, and I blame us.
An article in the New York Times this summer laid out the gauntlet of possible conflict. It seems most of our friends are now one or more of the following: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.
Is it because everyone is trying to lose weight? Some of us certainly are keen on monitoring our caloric intake, but it appears that these picky eaters are making a statement about their personal values, and bringing them with that hostess gift right to our doorsteps.
When did everyone become allergic to everything? When did it become so important to let the world know you only eat celery? Why did you accept an invitation to a party where you knew the hosts were making a standing rib roast?
The food-industrial complex concerns many of us. The conglomerates have turned the American food supply into a monolithic pipeline of processed everything, drenched in chemicals, genetically-modified ingredients smothered in a glaze of high fructose corn syrup. It is a horrific state of the food union.
Don’t even get me started on “fast food”. Only one word in that phrase is true. My girlfriend calls it stomach paste.
There’s incremental pushback, but it is growing in momentum. Consumers are starting to become more discriminating. Farmers markets sell tomatoes that don’t taste like slow-pitch softballs. Organic offerings are becoming more abundant, but Big Food is cheating that category too. I reject Coca-Cola (usually), preferring the Mexican version made with cane sugar.
Some of us are indeed allergic to walnuts. It’s legitimate to ask whether there are items in the party offerings that can kill you.
I continue to believe, however, the vast majority of our food pickiness is infantilism. We’re acting like a bunch of babies and I want us to stop it.
When you are hosting a party, it’s indeed good form to let folks know what you plan on serving. It’s gracious to acknowledge your veggie-loving pals and provide sufficient options. You can serve a leg of lamb with a pile of potatoes and sides to sate the appetites of those who choose not to partake. That’s perfectly fine. It’s when folks start showing up with Tupperware , asking you to heat it up (or not), that grinds my gears. It feels selfish. I call that a group picnic, not a dinner party.
Think of the poor waiter at your local restaurant. So Mr. or Ms. It’s All About Me shows up and starts the inquisition about each and every offering on the menu, requesting entree #4, minus half the ingredients. It takes them 2o minutes to order, and it’s almost guaranteed they will never once say please and thank you.
When entertaining a diverse group of people, you’re sure to have great conversations featuring many points of view. That’s what makes this such a fun event.
But if what the host is preparing isn’t your thing, decline the invite. Don’t make your “friends” kowtow to your specific appetites, the vast majority of it political.