Whenever I invite people to our house for dinner or a big party, I always ask if they have any dietary restrictions. It’s not that I’m nosy. But it can be embarrassing for both hosts and guests if, for instance, several vegetarians show up at your backyard barbecue.
So it’s a good idea to ask in advance if your guests have any food allergies, food aversions or dietary restrictions. Some people are truly allergic to certain foods or food additives (such as wheat, celery, soy, lactose, sulfites) or have medical reasons for not consuming trans-fats, cholesterol-laden foods, or alcohol. Others adhere to special diets for religious reasons, avoiding shellfish, meat (or certain kinds of meat), caffeine or alcohol. And some people have self-imposed restrictions or follow the latest fad diet (gluten-free, high carb, low carb, high protein, paleo, vegan, vegetarian).
Sometimes people are reluctant to tell you at all, because they don’t want to inconvenience their hosts. And I’ve known vegetarians who’ve asked me not to go to any special trouble for them. “Just cook whatever you want,” they say, “and I’ll be able to find plenty of things to eat.” They’re always pleasantly surprised to discover that I can put together a meatless meal so interesting that the meat-eaters at the table don’t even notice they’ve been denied their pound of flesh.