Food Etiquette Question: How to handle dinner parties

This is something I’ve been pondering for quite some time and watching yesterday’s episode of Giada at Home brought it back to the forefront of my mind.

Giada threw a dinner party and the meal consisted of three simple pasta dishes.  One of the pasta dishes contained beef and all of them had minimal veggies.  Now I adore Giada and I love her shows.  This was the first show of hers where I sort of just cringed and thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of pasta.”

And then I started thinking, if I were invited to that dinner, what would I do?  It’s a dinner party serving up stuff I don’t eat.  I’m not a huge pasta lover, I only eat it on occasion.  And when I do eat pasta it’s either whole wheat or a whole grain pasta.  I do not eat basic white flour pasta.  I’m also not a big meat eater.  When I do partake, it’s going to be something I made because I know where it came from.  Otherwise I tend to steer clear of animal flesh.

And this is the trouble with dinner parties isn’t it?  You don’t know what’s going to be served until you get there.  And then you’re stuck.  At a sit down event, it would be very obvious if you weren’t eating.  A buffet or potluck, you might be able to skirt around that a little bit easier.

But the truth of the situation is, someone is going to notice if you are not eating or pretending to eat.

What do you do?  What is the proper etiquette in these types of situations?:

1. If you are invited to a nice sit-down dinner party and are served food you do not eat (and I’m making this specific, it has to be foods you do not eat as opposed to foods you’re allergic to; allergies are a whole other situation), how do you approach the situation without offending the host?

If I were at Giada’s party, I probably would have very small portions of everything and have a few bites of each dish. I don’t think I could bring myself to actually eat the beef though.  Then once I got home, have a meal more suited to my tastes.

2. You’re invited to a pot-luck or a buffet-style party and realize that there is nothing offered that you eat.  What do you do?

I’ve been in situation #2 many times since my new healthy eating journey started.  My usual approach is to find the most Andrea-friendly foods and have small portions of them.  And then as mentioned above, have a more typical meal once I get back home.

If possible, I also try to eat before the event for two reasons.

1. Because I don’t know what kinds of foods are going to be offered.

2. I don’t want to be hungry only to find out there is no food that I would want to eat.  That doesn’t make for a good situation.

However, both situations can be tricky and if not handled properly could possibly lead to hurt feelings.

Is there a proper way to handle these situations?  If you are faced with these situations, how do you handle them?

12 thoughts on “Food Etiquette Question: How to handle dinner parties

  1. I would do the same thing as you, get little portions of everything, just not to seem rude.

    I have to do this ALL the time in my own house! My family is crazy into eating and it’s all soaked in butter and mayo…so I get the least scary offenders and hope that my grandma doesn’t call me out on it! hahah

  2. Heather says:

    I do the same thing as you do – take small portions and eat what I can. I’d have no problem at that dinner party since I love pasta. ;) unless it has red peppers in the sauce. Blech. The odds of me being invited to a dinner party are pretty slim tho. ;)

  3. Heather says:

    Although I would hope that if someone is only serving pasta (which seems kind of weird) they would tell you in advance. as in you are invited to a pasta party.

  4. I always offer to bring something to the party. If it’s an italian theme, I offer to make a huge salad. If it’s a mexican theme, I bring a homemade guacamole and sliced veggies. The hostess usualluy appreciates not having to worry about the appetizer/salad course and then I can stock up on thse part of the meal.

  5. I think your strategy would be effective – a good way to show your appreciation for having been invited into their home. It seems to me that most people nowadays are conscientious of their guests’ food preferences; I’ve been asked before if there’s anything I don’t like or can’t eat (no peanuts or garbazos!), and I answer honestly while trying not to sound demanding.

    It’s a balance between host and guest: the guest should be appreciative but the host should try to find out what their guests would like.

    Not much in the way of offering strategies to the situation but it’s a great question!

  6. When I throw dinner parties, I cook to the specifications of my guests. At one dinner, I made sure that I had vegan options as well as options for someone who was on the atkin’s diet. It’s a little extra work, but it makes my guests feel extra loved. I’d like to think that, anyway.

  7. I do the same types of things. Sometimes I offer to bring something myself, too, so I know there will be SOMETHING healthy. Or ask ahead of time to be prepared. And most of the people I know are very aware of how much I enjoy being healthy, so they take that into consideration, which is really nice.

  8. With hubby being so very picky. I either bring something I know he will eat or I warn him ahead of time (feed him before we go) and then he can get a small plate and pick at it. Sometimes he finds things he didn’t know he liked – but usually not. We do this especially when we go to his family “get togethers” as he only likes what I make.

  9. If it were me, and I knew the person well, I would ask ahead of time what they thought they are going to prepare.

    Then you have the choice to snack before you go, and enjoy the company, not the food!

    I’ve actually brought food to events, like when I would bring boca burgers to a bbq and no one seemed to be offended! :D

  10. I do the same thing you do in that I just eat a little bit and then get something later on at home. I run into it quite a bit b/c I have a picky palate so people often serve things that I simply don’t like. There aren’t many things that I can’t eat at all in order to be polite (peanut butter is one of them), so I’ll just take a little bit or if possible, avoid it all together (depending on how many people are there and if the host will even see me).

    But at the same time, when we host, we generally ask our attendees if there’s anything they can’t stand and mention the possible menu for any feedback before locking it in.

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