Who doesn’t love a fabulous dinner party? Enjoying a formal meal with friends and loved ones is one of life’s greatest pleasures – an ancient ritual untainted in our modern world. Food and friendship combined in a classic setting makes for a wonderful evening.
However, if one key component is missing – food – then you aren’t likely to enjoy the evening. There is nothing worse than attending a luncheon or dinner party and being unable to enjoy the food due to allergies. The host will wonder why you are not eating, and will most likely feel awful that they did not accommodate your needs. You will go hungry and feel awkward the entire evening.
In a memorable episode of this summer’s Ladies of London, Noelle (who is severely allergic to shellfish) is presented with a shrimp appetizer. Since she cannot eat it, she goes in search of an alternate dish – but ends up asking for vodka instead. Her castmate, Caprice, is a vegan and knew to request an alternate meal. Caprice enjoyed a beet risotto while Noelle drank on an empty stomach.
In these situations, an “allergy” is anything that gives a serious adverse reaction. It would also include anything that violates your personal beliefs. Be honest with your requirements – you may think mushrooms are slimy and gross, but if you aren’t allergic you should not request an alternate meal.
Recently, I attended a formal luncheon with a five-course meal. By sheer luck, I saw the proposed menu beforehand and saw a glaring issue. I have always had a very bad reaction to seafood, and three-out-of-five courses were purely sea creatures. I would have found the clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, and seafood salad inedible. Luckily, I knew to inform the hostess that I required an alternate meal.
How to request an alternate meal at a party
RSVP right away. The sooner you inform the host, the better they can accommodate you. If the RSVP is mailed, send it off and call the host the same day. If it is via e-mail or phone, include your request with the RSVP.
You can request an alternate meal. It is very normal and highly accepted, especially in today’s society. Any host, restaurant, or caterer will be familiar with these requests.
Be honest with yourself and with the host. Only make a special request if you have a serious reason for it. Again, slimy mushrooms is not an appropriate reason, but religious beliefs or medical reasons are.
What if you don’t like slimy mushrooms? Good etiquette suggests you try a small bite, but if you really cannot stomach it you can leave the dish untouched. It might not hurt to mush it up a bit, so it looks like you tried it.
What do you say to request an alternate meal? “I am very much looking forward to the event, but I am wondering if you could [provide an alternate meal as I am allergic to] / [accommodate my aversion to] / [suggest an alternative entree without] seafood/shellfish/pork/etc/”