9/4/2023 | By Amy Dickinson

What is the proper etiquette on food restrictions, in communicating personal needs to a host or hostess to avoid problematic foods? Advice columnist Amy Dickinson weighs in.

Dear Amy: 

My book club has brunch before each meeting, with each hostess providing all the food.

I am gluten intolerant and wonder what is the best way to ask if the host is serving anything I can eat.

If I eat before the brunch, fellow members ask why I’m not eating. If I mention being gluten intolerant, sometimes the hostess will ask why I didn’t tell her. If I eat only a little bit of what’s offered, I get the same question.

I have asked the hostess, in the past, what the menu will include, but oftentimes the hostess isn’t even aware of what gluten is. It’s always awkward.

While I don’t want anyone to go out of their way to provide food for me, I do like to take part in the brunch, as this is a time to catch up with everyone.

What is the proper etiquette on food restrictions? Any tips on how to communicate my food restriction?

– Gluten-free in Colorado

Dear Gluten-free: 

Some waffles and pastries and coffee to illustrate etiquette on food restrictions.

First of all, your duty is to take care of yourself, regardless of the questions people might have about your dietary needs.

These days, it is becoming more common for hosts to ask guests in advance if they have any food-related allergies or sensitivities.

In the absence of this query, you should contact that meeting’s host in advance: “I can’t eat food containing gluten, and so I hope it will be OK with you if I bring along my own food to eat with the group.”

A gracious host might follow up by running their planned menu past you to make sure there is food you can safely eat. You could also offer to bring a brunch-friendly fruit salad to share.

If this is a group of the same people meeting regularly, your various members should catch on. And, of course, when you host, you should survey members to make sure you are able to accommodate any food restrictions they might have. You’ll be modeling the best etiquette on food restrictions.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from etiquette on food restrictions to lack of grief etiquette and family favoritism. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson

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