Whether you are hosting the family Christmas dinner or a Christmas party, you need to read this guide on negotiating the pitfalls of the complex and varied dietary requirements of your guests. Simply cooking up a meal or traditional Christmas dinner is a thing of the past. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian … the sky is the limit with all the new diets people follow.
What is … ?
- Coeliac – People who have a medically diagnosed condition which requires them to eat a completely
gluten-free diet. What they cannot eat: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, incl durum, couscous, semolina and bulgur. They will give you suitable alternatives.
- Gluten-free – People who chose not to eat gluten because it might upset their tummies, bloat them or give them other undesirable symptoms. This is not a medical condition as such, but people who cannot tolerate gluten will thank you for making a gluten-free meal. They can eat rice, corn, gluten-free oats, quinoa or amaranth. You can use rice or corn flour as substitute in cooking and for gravy. Gluten-free flour is widely available in shops.
- Dairy-free – People who chose not to eat any kind of dairy. This usually is limited to cow’s milk products. This could be for reasons such as experiencing digestive or skin issues when eating dairy. You can substitute with a wide array of “nut” alternatives such as almond or cashew milk. Oat milk or soy milk may also suit. There is also a case of true food allergy, but your guests will inform you properly ahead of time.
- Vegan – This describes people who chose not to eat anything at all of animal origin. Here, you are cooking entirely dairy/honey/eggs and meat/fish-free. Think grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Remarkably, you can produce very nice meals using only vegan ingredients. It may appear a bit of a challenge, and if you feel that you cannot produce a decent vegan alternative, you are well within your right to ask your vegan friend/family for suggestions and/or to bring their own alternative.
- Vegetarian/pescetarian – People who chose not to eat meat (vegetarian) or who chose to not eat meat but to eat fish (pescetarian). Again, ask your friends for suitable alternatives, often they will come up with suggestions or even bring along a suitable alternative. It may be as simple as buying veggie burgers or sausages to make them happy. They generally eat eggs as well.
When do I have to be really careful with my ingredients?
The answer here is in the case of true food allergy or coeliac. These are two conditions where your guest relies on you to be meticulous about your cooking and handling of ingredients. More than likely, they will offer support in the form of offering to bring alone their own food or giving you extensive guidance for your own cooking. In the case of true food allergy, even a tiny amount of “cross contamination” with the offending food (e.g. peanuts, nuts, dairy, eggs, etc) can cause a life threatening reaction. In the case of coeliac, the reaction is generally less pronounced though potentially extremely painful and debilitating for your guest. So, be safe and ask ahead!