Hosts strug­gle turn­ing home to gluten-free zone

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Your Daily Break -

DEAR AMY » Ev­ery year my hus­band and I host a hol­i­day get-to­gether for sev­eral of our friends and neigh­bors. We pro­vide the main dish, a cou­ple of sides and drinks. We ask friends to fill in with other sal­ads, sides and desserts.

This year, with lit­tle no­tice, my friend “Barb” reached out to me via text, say­ing, “This year, I will need you to pre­pare my food dif­fer­ently” — due to her re­cent di­ag­no­sis of celiac dis­ease.

She ex­plained to me that “even a crumb of cross con­tam­i­na­tion” will re­sult in her not feel­ing well. She in­structed me to check all of my spices and in­gre­di­ents, and to thor­oughly clean all of my cook­ing and serv­ing uten­sils be­fore pre­par­ing food for her.

She even pro­vided me a list of on­line re­sources I could use to learn more.

Amy, I was shocked speech­less — and my hus­band was livid.

I re­sponded that I would check in­gre­di­ents and try my best to ac­com­mo­date. My hus­band said that if the dis­ease was so dire, she would need to pack her own plate of food.

He said I should not reach out to our other guests and pro­vide any in­struc­tion on Barb’s be­half.

I was con­sid­er­ing mov­ing moun­tains for Barb when the fi­nal straw came: She asked us to thor­oughly clean our grill grates, should there be any gluten left on them from when we last grilled.

Is our friend be­ing ridicu­lous here, or are we be­ing in­sen­si­tive to her dis­ease?

How far does a host cou­ple need to go out of their way to ac­com­mo­date a guest in this sit­u­a­tion?

— Gluten-free Hosts DEAR HOSTS » You should not at­tempt to gauge whether “Barb’s” dis­ease is as se­ri­ous as she in­di­cates. You should sim­ply as­sume that it is. I agree, how­ever, that she is not com­mu­ni­cat­ing about her needs in a way de­signed to in­spire such a Her­culean ef­fort on your part. In fact, her re­quire­ments seem quite over­whelm­ing and are com­ing off as de­mands. She is also at­tempt­ing to shift re­spon­si­bil­ity for her health from her­self onto you. Don’t take it on.

In­stead of you com­mu­ni­cat­ing her needs to your other guests who are bring­ing food, you should sug­gest that she con­tact them. With such spe­cific re­quire­ments, she should not trust any­one else to com­mu­ni­cate her ex­act re­quire­ments.

You should as­sume that your best ef­forts might not be enough to com­pletely de­con­tam­i­nate your kitchen to Barb’s stan­dards, and you should tell her so: “Hi, ‘Barb,’ I worry that I can’t guar­an­tee that all of the food and the kitchen area will be de­con­tam­i­nated the way you might need. It would def­i­nitely be safest for you to bring your own food this year. If you feel you also need to bring your own plates, sil­ver­ware, etc., I as­sure you we won’t be of­fended. And don’t for­get to bring a dish to share with the rest of the group. Look­ing for­ward!”

DEAR AMY » I have four grand­chil­dren and am plan­ning on send­ing a nice check to each of them this year.

Three of my grand­chil­dren are sin­gle; the fourth is mar­ried.

If I send the mar­ried one a check in his name only, will his wife’s feel­ings be hurt; or if I use both names, will he feel he is only get­ting half of what his sib­lings are get­ting?

This is a small dilemma, I know, but it is both­er­ing me.

— Won­der­ing Grand DEAR GRAND » You should never as­sume that your mar­ried grand­son will feel he re­ceived less than his sib­lings. He might in fact feel that way, but you should not as­sume it or worry about it. Peo­ple lucky enough to have partners ben­e­fit from their part­ner­ship in many ways. Hang the money — his feet are warm at night!

Even if you sent a check in his name only, pre­sum­ably, he would (or should) find a way to share his bounty with his partner. If you sent the check with a note ad­dressed to both he and his wife, this might help to bridge your anx­i­ety about her feel­ings.

DEAR AMY » I thought you gave an ex­cel­lent an­swer to “Up­set Ex,” whose ex­hus­band was hound­ing her for money. My first thought was, “Amy, tell her ‘No! No! No!”

As I have “coached” my chil­dren and now grand­chil­dren, “NO is an an­swer, too. Just not the one you want.”

And the other: “What is the worst that some­one can say when you ask for some­thing? No.”

— L, in Beaver­ton, CO DEAR L » “No is an an­swer, too.” Great re­sponse.

Amy Dick­in­son

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