Last year I hosted a Thanksgiving full of vegetarians, pescatarians, fructarians and a mélange of other special-diet Arians. I wisely contemplated serving spinach and sweet potatoes arranged in various ways so as to appear like six different courses but instead decided to get creative, thus ruining everyone’s holiday.
Things I learned:
-Spelt flour isn’t gluten-free.
-Dairy-free means no butter, stupid.
-The word ‘soy’ never fails to inspire conversation about farts.
-Forgetting what ingredients went into what dish but acting like you know = wrong.
-Calling them ‘special diet preferences’ earns you an earful.
-Inviting friends with 5 varieties of special diets over on the same night is enough to make you want to poison your own Tofurkey.
This year however, I’m prepared. Below are 3 tips to get you through your special day of special diets:
1.) Serve Everything on the Side
Your gluten-free friend likes the turkey but can’t have the stuffing. Your vegan friend likes the stuffing but can’t eat it out of a turkey’s cavity (I’m not even sure how I can eat stuffing out of a turkey’s cavity...what a disgustingly delectable tradition.) Your friend with Candida can consume the water in the mashed potatoes but that’s all. Solution? Serve every little thing separately. Your thanksgiving table will be littered with mini-bowls, sides and toppings that your friends can mix and match, providing an even greater sense of control than a trip to Starbucks.
2.) When in Doubt...Kale
When hosting the Arians, there is really only one safe choice: Kale. Kale is on everyone’s diet and we all feel just a little bit better about ourselves after eating it, like we’ve cut the cravings for cake, dodged the desire for dairy, forgotten about French fries and ascended to the top of the health-conscious mountain where there lies nothing but a single leaf of kale. We can get no healthier than this! If you want to get your vegan friends really excited, bake the kale in the oven with olive oil and sea salt (you can downplay how much you put on) and let them cook until crispy. These crunchy, salty, greasy little chips are the closest to Lays your virtuous friends will ever get--and they’ll love you for serving it.
3.) Serve Wine
The frequency with which the guests forgive your botched attempts at catering to their dietary needs increases in direct proportion to the amount of wine they’ve consumed. Go for organic, fair trade wine like Bonterra or Parducci Sustainable--they’ll drink more. Make it a bottle of red (or three) since it’s an aphrodisiac; you can get them all hot ‘n bothered and jump their perfectly-toned health-nut bones, thus further intoxicating their ability to bitch about your cranberry loaf.
Finally, pursue a little bit of fun for yourself: Tell everyone you’ve got a really great new gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free, dairy free treat...and break out the bacon.