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A Pain In The Glutenless Maximus

The following etiquette faux pas was related to me by my aunt, an experience that popped up as she planned a birthday party for her young son. My aunt wanted to throw a fun birthday party for her 7 year old, and this party marked the first time he was having friends over for the festivities.

After sending out invitations to the children her son wanted to attend she received a phone call from one child’s mother a few days later. Over the phone the woman wanted to know if the cake was going to be vegan and gluten free, and if there would be soda at the party because her child “was fed only what nature intended, and no products derived from animal slavery.” My aunt told her that while there would be juice instead of soda, the cake was going to be vanilla with chocolate frosting from a local bakery. The woman was unhappy with that answer and demanded that my aunt get a vegan and gluten free cake instead. My aunt told her that since it was her son’s first real party, she was going to stick with the cake he asked for. The woman then declared that a secondary vegan and gluten free cake be provided. My aunt told her that unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to honor that request because she didn’t think the bakery offered that option, nor did she have a lot of extra money to buy another cake for a single attendee. The woman scoffed and said that money and availability were no excuses since my aunt could easily make one from scratch herself. My aunt works over 40 hours a week and didn’t have any spare time to make a cake herself (hence the bakery cake) and told the mother that she was sorry, but she simply couldn’t make a secondary special cake. The woman promptly became upset, stating that my aunt shouldn’t force her dietary choices on other people’s children and hung up without RSVPing.

My Aunt was understandably miffed by the encounter and assumed that the woman’s son would not be in attendance when the party date came. Imagine her surprise when he arrived at the party accompanied by his mother who handed my aunt a homemade vegan and gluten free cake. As the woman gave it to my aunt she informed her that they did not get my Aunt’s son a birthday gift because she had to spend her money on the ingredients for the cake she brought, as well as the time she spent making it. My aunt accepted the cake graciously, but told the mother (with children out of earshot) she did not appreciate the unwarranted rude treatment she received on the phone. The lady looked irritated but said nothing, gave no apology, and left the party. The cake she made lay untouched by everyone, including her own child, even though my aunt set it out next to the birthday boy’s cake. My aunt is planning on a Halloween party this year and since this woman’s child is on her son’s close friends she is dreading another encounter with her.    0131-11


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  • kero February 7, 2011, 10:24 pm

    Your post is offensive. I agree that ANY type of holier-than-thou attitude is rude, and ironically that is what you are exhibiting by calling these conditions and lifestyle “poor ___.”
    Bringing my own food for my own needs is not rude. It’s natural for people to be curious and ask to try but that is why the word “no” is handy–and people need to respect that. If nobody wants to hear about my condition, that is fine and they do not need to ask…and I certainly don’t make it into a sob story either!
    People with special needs, or what you call poor genes, like diabetes can’t bring their own food? Jewish people can’t eat their Kosher food? I suppose people with different relgions/beliefs/diets/anything can’t openly mingle.

    And some cakes do have yeast, btw.

  • Otto February 7, 2011, 10:31 pm

    @ Katy – – your comment about the menu card reminds me of the story about the poor office manager that’s trying to plan the “Christmas Party” – – poor soul ends up in the place where they give you all sorts of nice pills…

  • Eva February 7, 2011, 11:11 pm

    @ UK Helen,

    I don’t think your relative was out of line, as opposed to the vegan mother. She probably spent a lot of time and effort icing that cake for you (and wedding cakes are typically huge, so you can imagine it was a lot of work), and it’s entirely reasonable to present this as a gift to you. Gifts to others aren’t just measured in monetary value. And for your comment that you thought it would be nice for others to partake in your wedding preparations… why would you think that? Unless it’s your hobby, icing a whole wedding usually cake isn’t fun, as is helping out with other preparations. This sounds more like you wanted to have a beautifully decorated cake for free and expected a big gift on top of it. Quite frankly, I find this pretty rude.

  • Tara February 7, 2011, 11:41 pm

    What was rude of the woman was INSISTING that the host make special food just for her child. That’s ridiculous. Bringing a vegan cake wasn’t the real problem, although not bringing a gift simply because it’s SOOOOO HARD to make a cake is very rude. Oh yeah, and getting all preachy about it was very rude too.

    Also, I really don’t understand the people saying it’s “wrong” to force veganism or vegetarianism on young children. Do Christians and other religions not force their children to attend church services, and abide by the rules of their religions? Once the child gets old enough (varies depending on who you ask, but I’d say it’s around the pre-teen to teen years) then they should be allowed to make their own choices on morality, ethics, and beliefs, within the bounds of good sense, of course (no drugs or alcohol for example).

    I’m vegetarian, and my husband is not. Our children will eat less meat than other children, because they are a combination of my husband and I, which includes genetics and beliefs. Were I married to someone who is also a vegetarian, I would not allow the children to eat meat at home (we wouldn’t have meat in the home so it wouldn’t be a choice really), and try to guide them to making meat free choices outside the house, but not get upset if they didn’t. Under no circumstances would I EVER insist a host make something special for me or my child, nor would I ever preach my views to others who didn’t express an interest (although I still wouldn’t “preach,” just explain). I would ask, politely, what food choices there were going to be, and if there were none appropriate, I would ask if it would be alright if I brought a dish of my own. I don’t see why any polite hostess would refuse that.

    As it stands now, if I don’t think there’s going to be vegetarian food choices where I’m going, I eat my meal beforehand. If someone has planned a special dinner for me, I make sure they know I’m vegetarian, because it would be very uncomfortable if they spent a bunch of money on an expensive lamb dinner and I couldn’t eat it. If I’m just a guest, though, I don’t say anything, because I don’t want the host to think she has to go to extra trouble for me.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson February 8, 2011, 12:31 am

    I’ve had to go gluten-free in the last year, so I sympathize with the little boy. Not so much his Momzilla. I’ve also in the last few years had to suffer with an elderly relative who’s gone vegan. Rude, entitled, supercilious and — like this ‘lady’– holier-than-thou.

    It’s not easy finding gluten-free foods away from home and must be even harder to find them for a young child whose tastes are being shaped by McDonald’s ads. But IMO this mother is using her son’s health problems to bludgeon people. If she doesn’t wake up and smell the organic, fair-trade coffee, by the time he’s 12 she won’t have to worry about it because he’ll no longer _have_ any friends.

    *typos corrected

  • Bint February 8, 2011, 6:07 am

    Eva – you said exactly what I was going to say. How long did it take the ‘very talented’ relative to ice that cake? Paying just to have a wedding cake iced costs a fortune (I should know – I made my own. I gave up having it iced because it was so expensive). UKHelen, your relative gave you something that would cost about a hundred quid minimum and took her how many hours, AND she gave you a present on top and you say she ‘fined’ you a wedding present because the extra one she gave was ‘cheap’? Good Lord.

    It may be enjoyable being involved in someone’s wedding preparations, but don’t think for a minute that that means people’s labour and time count for nothing. This is an etiquette website and that’s pure Bridezilla. It’s sad you aren’t more appreciative of someone who actually did something rather wonderful for you.

    Also agreed on the offensive Nazi comments. Can we please stop those? The mother was extremely rude, not to say silly. Anyone who pushes food choices/restrictions onto anyone else is pretty rude.

  • Anonymous February 8, 2011, 7:26 am

    You know, Eva did thank her mother for the gift, and for icing the wedding cake. Maybe she wasn’t aware of the time and expense that goes into doing that. In any case, the way I see it, she didn’t commit any etiquette breach, because she didn’t express these negative sentiments about being “fined” a wedding gift, towards her mother. All she did was think those thoughts, and if thoughts counted as etiquette breaches, I think we’d all end up in E-Hell at one point or another.

    Anyway, as for the original story, yeah, the mother was rude, her son was probably very embarrassed (about the dietary restrictions, and also about not having a gift for his friend), and…..yeah. Wrong way to handle it. It’s fine to bring your own food if you can’t eat what’s offered, but only if you politely explain your (or your child’s) dietary restrictions in advance, and do it in non-rude, non-preaching way. The mother failed on both of these counts. As for the Halloween party, I wouldn’t be too worried about that–Halloween is really more of a “candy” holiday than a “cake” holiday, so the kids would probably be happy with some candy, chips, and punch, with maybe a fruit platter or a veggie-and-hummus tray out to appease the parents. All of these options are vegan (well, with the candy, you’d have to read the labels first, but still), and all of these options are also kid-friendly.

  • Anonymous February 8, 2011, 7:31 am

    Edited to add: All of the Halloween party snack ideas I listed are both vegan* AND gluten-free.

    *When I say that potato chips are vegan, I mean the plain ones. Most other flavours contain powdered milk.

  • Bee February 8, 2011, 9:11 am

    Re: “skittles are vegan.” So are – nutter butters, oreos, fritos, potato chips, french fries (as long as they’re fried in veg oil),… the last 3 are even gluten-free, :).
    And for the record, I make vegan cakes and cookies all the time and they’re delicious. My relatives scarf them down at holidays and ask for them again. But, I use wheat flour, plenty of sugar and syrup and canola oil…. maybe it’s the different flours required for gluten-free baking that’s not as “good” or maybe tastes different to people? Never had a gluten-free cake, but have had a gf cookie – it wasn’t that great, :(.

  • Shayna February 8, 2011, 10:05 am

    I’m not sure why people think it’s horrible for a vegetarian or vegan parent to feed their children a vegetarian or vegan diet. I would guess that Jewish people feed their children Kosher diets; Muslims would feed their children halal diets, etc. Yes, I know one is a religious belief, the other a personal belief, but they can be interchangeable. Religion is personal I feel. However, what does bother me is that people assume that everyone should have the same diet, and I disagree with that. While I do hold to the notion that we should eat as nature intended, we have evolved from ancestors that had to adapt to various parts of the world where food supplies were limited. For example, the Inuit people across Northern Canada and Siberia had to subsist on diets comprised of mostly raw meats with the few berries that they could find throughout the extremely short growing season. Heck, in some parts of Canada, there isn’t really a growing season and I would guess Siberia is much the same. Ironically, until the introduction of a “Western” diet, many diseases which now run rampant through the community (ie. diabetes) were practically non-existent. Southern Canadian and American aboriginal tribes had more of a variety due to a better growing season and were able to enjoy delicious things like wild rice and corn. I could write all day about what I’ve learned about nutrition, but suffice it to say that I believe we all have different needs nutritionally. Some people need diets that are extremely high in protein, others not so much. I have tried a vegetarian diet, but it doesn’t work for me. My body functions so much better with meat.

  • Allergy Girl February 8, 2011, 10:44 am

    I have MANY allergies and so do my kids. They have known from a young age, just like myself, what they can and cannot eat or be around. They know, as I did, to say, “No thank you, I am allergic” if presented with a food they cannot eat. I do not call ahead to every birthday party, class celebration, etc. to make sure what is being served and expect the rest of the world to accommodate us. I don’t send them their own special food, either. There have been times where we didn’t get cake at a birthday party we attended and guess what? We have all survived.

    I completely understand in cases of life-threatening allergies, but otherwise it’s YOUR food restriction for whatever reason. You have to monitor it and deal with the fact that you can’t have it. The rest of the world isn’t going to make it go away just for you. Because if that were the case, then guess what, world? You can’t have chocolate anymore because I’m allergic.

  • I've never asked for a kosher cake. February 8, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Why would I NEVER ask for a kosher cake? Because I have no right to, you’re not Jewish, I am. Do you want to make a pork cake with ham filling covered in cheese and Baco’s with a huge neon cross on top? Go ahead, its your house and your kid, and your cake. I am enough of an adult that I will slip my son a treat in the car as a bribe for not touching the cake during cake time. Can we still be friends even though you enjoy desserts we won’t eat? Sure! I’ll even give your kid a present too.

  • Khalida February 8, 2011, 12:54 pm

    @ Shannon

    I appreciate your comments on not having your child become vegan because it’s a personal choice of yours… but I really disagree.

    You make decisions about your child’s dietary intake on a daily basis based on your personal choices… and I’m not exaggerating. You cook, you do the grocery shopping, you pack their lunches, and so on. Ideally, you would limit their intake of “junk food” and supply them with veggies, fruit, protein (whether animal derived or not), etc. Doing so is imposing your beliefs of what constitutes “healthy food” on your child – whether it’s true or not.

    As for not putting your child on a specific diet that would cause them ridicule, I’m sorry but that statement is ridiculous. If you are so concerned about your darling child’s self esteem, buy them the vegetarian meats! There are veggie ham/bologna/turkey/chicken slices that go well in sandwiches with mustard. You can make vegan rice krispies for a snack. You can buy chocolate soy/rice/hemp/almond milk in little tetra packs. There are granola bars, trail mixes, chocolate bars, and countless other school lunch appropriate items that can be used in place of non-vegan items.

  • Elicat February 8, 2011, 12:55 pm

    @Bee–Sorry, but french fries are not necessarily gluten free. If you order them in a restaurant, and they’ve been cooked in the same oil as breaded items, then there is cross-contamination, meaning the fries are contaminated.

  • AS February 8, 2011, 1:05 pm

    Sorry for another post, but I had to comment –
    @Kero, Thanks for your comment in response to @K. I was about to comment exactly the same thing. Having dietary restrictions or different choices of food is not a plague. The whole trouble in this story was that the mother in question was being rude, and not cognizant about the host. Saying politely that the child only eats Vegan food would have sufficed. She didn’t have to go on trying to dictate terms to the host. I think K was being extremely rude and hypocritical; and last sentence “No one wants to hear about your poor health, poor genetics, or poor religious choices” sounds really bad. No one has to hear anything unless asked, and I don’t see why people have to doom themselves to a life of hermit just because of their dietary restrictions/choices. As I said in my previous post, I wouldn’t have any trouble accommodating to dietary requirements of my guests, and now that I am a vegetarian, people usually don’t mind having a vegetarian option, or letting me bring my stuff if I am invited. Socializing is not only about food, but also to meet and enjoy other people’s company.

  • Wink-n-Smile February 8, 2011, 2:48 pm

    The adamant behavior – policing what other people eat – is the biggest annoyance for me. If you have a special diet, for health, medical, religious or philosophical reasons, I’d be happy to work with you on it, if you treat me respectfully. However, don’t command me to make everything to suit you. I have other guests, after all, who may have conflicting needs.

    I do think a gracious hostess makes at least one dish that everyone can eat, if that’s possible (with some groups, it’s just not possible). Thus, I really like the idea posted earlier about making cupcakes that the gluten-free vegan could eat, and freezing the extra for future use.

    I hate food cops. I once was sitting in a cafeteria, quietly eating my lunch, when a complete stranger sat down at my table and proceeded to lecture me, quite sternly, about my food choices, and what I needed to eat, and do with my life. Perhaps he mistook me for his own child. He was old enough to be my father. I was raised to respect my elders, but I had no respect for him. My body is NOT his business.

    The aunt’s son’s body, and his guests’ bodies, are NOT the other woman’s business. Make a small treat for the boy with special dietary needs, and keep your hands off the son’s and guests’ culinary enjoyment. It would be gracious to make something good to share, and you can even turn it into a teaching moment, by gently explaining that some people have different dietary needs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have good food. “It’s quite tasty! Would you like to try some?”

    But her attitude was the real problem here.

  • Wink-n-Smile February 8, 2011, 3:15 pm

    For the vegans here – Please don’t think I’m knocking veganism. I’m sure it’s very healthy, when done properly. I do, however, believe that it is not, as the mother in the story said, “What nature intended.” Our teeth show we were designed by nature to be omnivores. However, we can be perfectly healthy going against the omnivore directive, and eating a vegan diet. It just takes a whole lot more work to make up for the nutrition easily found in animal products.

    I have respect for vegans, because they really do have to work so hard at it, and it’s a choice that presents them with a lot of obstacles, including socially. There are few, if any, vegan options at most restaurants. Even the “vegetarian” dishes served often include animal products, such as chicken broth or dairy.

    So, I’m not knocking veganism. I just had to respond to what that mother said. Nature intended us to be hunters and gatherers, not farmers and grocery-store-shoppers. Macrobiotic vegans may eat all natural foods, but it is not “what nature intended.”

    It’s a whole heck of a lot of hard work, and I applaud their determination to succeed.

  • RP February 8, 2011, 3:41 pm

    I’m not sure how K’s comment got approved as they are clearly trolling.

    But since other people have mentioned it I have to say that no, it is not rude to ask what’s being served. Nor is it rude to bring your own food if you’ve cleared it with the host. Please note that everyone here who’s said that they do that has also said that they asked first. They’re just questions. We all know that not everybody can eat everything. In the case of some dietary restrictions you can end up in a situation where you can’t eat anything.

    It’s not unreasonable for a guest to make sure they won’t have a problem as far as food goes for a party by checking ahead. What is unreasonable is to expect people with dietary restrictions to walk into a dining situation unaware and unprepared and just sit there and starve if things don’t work out. (Some people simply don’t have the option of not eating for long periods. Lots of medication requires that you take it with food not to mention the fact that some people will flat out become ill if they don’t eat.)

  • Anonymous February 8, 2011, 6:16 pm

    Wink-N-Smile–if it’s got chicken broth (or any other meat-based product) it’s not vegetarian.

  • Anonymous February 8, 2011, 7:52 pm

    To the other Anonymous person–you’re right, but a lot of people think (erroneously, of course) that any food without visible chunks of meat in it is “vegetarian.”

  • gramma dishes February 8, 2011, 8:42 pm

    Anonymous ~~

    I think Wink-N-Smile knows that.

    That’s why she put the word vegetarian in quotation marks. [“Even the “vegetarian” dishes served often include animal products, such as chicken broth or dairy.”}

    By using the quotation marks, she’s stating that she knows such foods don’t qualify as being truly vegetarian.

  • Buglet February 8, 2011, 9:52 pm

    I don’t think it would have been rude for the guest to bring a vegan dessert to the party, explaining that her family had some dietary restrictions. It might even have gotten some of the other guests interested in vegan cooking. But it was EXTREMELY rude for her to demand that the hostess make another cake!

    Incidentally, I’m an omnivore myself, and I’ve had some wonderful vegan desserts. Also, some members of my family have food sensitivities, so we’ve occasionally contributed low-allergen snacks, without making a big deal out of it, when invited to an informal party. I’m certainly not offended when someone does the same in my home. But a guest who tries to order a hostess (whom she doesn’t even know well!) to make elaborate special food for her family is just being obnoxious.

  • Catwhisperer February 9, 2011, 1:15 am

    Couple of comments about the story and some of the other comments people have made.

    First of all, regarding giving the cake in lieu of a present: an invitation to a party does not obligate the recipient to bring a present. When someone is invited to a joyous occasion, their only obligation is to RSVP if requested, and to enjoy the occasion. Giving a present is never, ever, ever mandatory. So the lady who brought the vegan/gluten free cake instead of a present did not commit a faux pas. If the OP EXPECTED a present, it was she who committed the faux pas, because presents are never, ever, ever obligatory.

    Second, a polite host wants ALL guests to enjoy the occasion to which they are invited. If the occasion includes food, that means that a courteous host will try to make reasonable accomodation for guests who have special dietary requirements. Now, what constitutes “reasonable accomodation” is open to interpretation. In this particular case, I would think that “reasonable” means the party hostess is not obligated to provide a cake that meets the needs of the vegan/gluten intolerant guest, but could ask the guest for a suggested alternative. FWIW, fresh fruit of some kind comes to mind, which would be a healthful, thoughtful alternative to cake.

    Third, a polite guest never wants to cause problems for the hostess. For this reason, if the guest knows in advance that his/her dietary requirements are likely to cause problems for the hostess, the guess will be prepared to suggest a way to make it as easy as possible for the hostess to accomodate those requirements. This could mean suggesting a readily-obtainable substitute for conventional cake, or telling the hostess that you’ll bring your own item if she permits it. And of course you thank the hostess for her trouble!

    Finally, if a guest finds that the conditions of an event to which the guest is invited are intolerable, then the correct action for the guest to take is to politely refuse the invitation, not to demand that the hostess alter the conditions. In this particular case, when the invited guest found upon inquiry that the hostess couldn’t or wouldn’t accomodate her requests for gluten free/vegan food, the only option left to her was to POLITELY regret that her child would not be able to attend.

  • Maryann February 9, 2011, 2:18 am

    I wonder how long the woman’s son will have friends. I’m afraid I suspect his mother’s list of them is rather short, if she speaks to her own circle that way.

    How sad for that little boy. It would be very difficult to invite this child to anything knowing that this would be the punishment for not capitulating to his mother’s every demand. Deeply unfair to him, but parents can only grit their teeth so many times before his mother begins to get a reputation in the school/neighborhood, and then it’s a matter of time before there is at least a temptation to exclude him.

    I hope no one would act on that temptation, or better yet, that the mother would figure out what she’s doing wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it with someone who feels so incredibly justified.

  • Anonymous February 9, 2011, 9:50 am


    You have the etiquette rules right, but this is a child’s birthday party we’re talking about. The vegan mother denied the OP’s aunt’s son a birthday gift BECAUSE she was feeling vindictive about the aunt not providing a special gluten-free vegan cake for her son, who then had to endure the humiliation of spending the birthday party feeling “different,” both for having had his mother provide “special” food for him, and for not having a gift to give his friend. The OP said that the boys were close, so maybe he really wanted to give the birthday boy a gift. The only problem is, seven-year-olds don’t have the resources to drive themselves to the store and buy a birthday gift, so he couldn’t, and because his mom was in a snit with the party mom, she denied him the option of getting a birthday gift for his friend.

    2. What seven-year-old boy is going to think that fresh fruit is a suitable alternative to cake? Even the most polite child in the world probably won’t *really* be happy eating an apple, or a bunch of grapes, or even a fancy-looking fruit salad in a cocktail glass, while his friends are enjoying birthday cake.

  • Mike in London UK February 9, 2011, 11:50 am

    Gluten free & Celiac Disease.

    For those of you who don’t know, there is a MEDICAL reason for people restricting the gluten in their diet. Celiac is (put very simply) an intollerance to a protein (glueten) found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is also used as a flavouring, stablilising or thickening agent ,so it shows up in a lot of manufacturered products.

    One of my relatives suffers from Celiac and with children they have to be taught that “the nice things that other people eat may be BAD for them”.

    At a party a young child will eat regular cake, then suffer the after effects.

    While the pushy “other mom” may have been pulling the “nothing but nature’s finest” routine, demanding gluten free cake, there are some occasions when its not just “personal choice ” but is “personal need”.

  • DocCAC February 9, 2011, 1:10 pm

    Maybe I missed something, but I don’t see anywhere in the post that indicated the gluten-free part was because of health reasons. The mom may be one of those people who assume, for whatever reason, gluten is bad for everyone, not just those with celiac disease or a lesser form of gluten intolerance. At any rate, her son seemed not to mind the consequences of eating the horrible cake born of animal slavery. I feel for this kid. Whoever wrote that by the time he’s 12 he may not have any friends may be optomistic. What a rude, miserable mother. She could have RSVP’d in the negative when the mother quite rightly would not make an expensive, time consuming cake (after all, it at up all the money for a gift for the birthday boy) for just one kid or fed her kid at home with instuctions not to let him eat anything at the party if indeed health issues were a concern.

    As for Halloween, you can still bob for apples, unless the bees pollinating the apple trees counts toward the animal slavery thing, and have little prizes which are not foody in nature, although God only knows what Mommy Dearest would think appropriate in that area. The best you can probably do is teach the birthday boy to have compassion for his friend because “it ain’t his fault”.

  • --E February 9, 2011, 1:57 pm

    It’s not unreasonable to ask politely if the food for a party will fit within one’s dietary restrictions. If it won’t, the correct response is to say “Would you mind if I brought [food that suits their needs]?” It’s even acceptable to indicate that you’re bringing a limited amount, and cannot share your portion (though certainly nice if you try to bring enough so you can share).

    Among adult friends who know each other well, it’s gracious if the host/hostess provides a sufficient variety so people with special dietary needs can enjoy the food. But it’s not correct for the guests to DEMAND such.

  • whiterose February 9, 2011, 9:06 pm

    As someone who has special dietary needs, I would have been the first one to bring a vegan/gluten free cake. I would share it with others. But I would also bring a regular gift. I may even ask if I can bring the cake if my child had allergies/special needs- and would offer to share it with others. I have done this before.

    The offense is the rudeness on the phone and the substitution of the cake for the present. Not so much the asking about special needs or bringing the other cake.

  • Vicki February 9, 2011, 9:32 pm

    The other thing that was rude about the guest’s mother was that she made it clear that she thought her time was so much more valuable than the OP’s that it would be trivial for the OP to bake a vegan, gluten-free cake from scratch, but was a big deal for her to have done so. Not only is that selfish, but it ignores that experience helps–the superior-acting vegan almost certainly knows more about that kind of baking, and already has the ingredients. So she’s effectively saying “an hour of my time is worth more than five hours of yours.” Not a way to make, or keep, friends.

    I try to accommodate my friends’ food needs, if they’ll tell me what they need and meet me halfway. I may not be able to serve them dinner, or a slice of the birthday cake, only a small snack or a cup of tea. If the person is more interested in my company than in food, we’ll be fine. And if food is the priority, I’m likely to fall back on asking them to cook, or to select a restaurant that fits their needs. (If there aren’t any, a sensible person will recognize that I probably can’t do so either.) I’d also be fine with a variation on “I have this restricted diet, is it okay if I bring a casserole” (depending on the circumstances) or the already-suggested idea of bringing their own cupcake or such if they couldn’t eat most desserts.

  • delislice February 10, 2011, 10:53 am

    In my mind, it would have been fine to politely explain, “My son is on a gluten-free diet, so he won’t be able to enjoy the birthday cake. Would it be all right if I sent him along with a gluten-free cake as well?” … or even “a slice of gluten-free cake for him.”

    It was impolite to insist that the hostess make the birthday cake be a vegan and gluten-free one. It was also impolite to try to persuade the hostess to supply a second, vegan and gluten-free cake.

    My 12-year-old daughter is a vegetarian. When we go to my family’s house for Christmas dinner, we make her a PB&J. If we’re served dinner at friends’ houses, she quietly skips the meat, and if she’s still hungry later, we feed her something at home.

  • Auryn Grigori February 10, 2011, 11:53 am

    Recently I was holding a birthday party for my boyfriend in which I did all the cooking. I invited a nice couple (one of them was vegan, the other vegetarian). I got a vegan carrot cake from Whole Foods, and looked for ways to accommodate the couple including researching what foods were vegan and what were not. I arranged it so that the vegan foods were obvious and I pointed out the foods that would accommodate vegan needs.

    The reason why I made a sincere effort to do this was because in all my years of having known them, they were polite and nice about it, never making it an “I’m better than you” deal. They understood that not everyone is a vegan/vegetarian, and they would have never, ever pulled the “what nature intended” malarkey. This is why I like them, and remained friends with them (This is not to say that I would have put animal products in their food if they were not nice. They just would not have been invited to the party).

    You catch more flies with honey (or agave syrup) than you do with vinegar.

  • Auryn Grigori February 10, 2011, 11:54 am

    Also, just to mention, I got the couple a vegan cake because it was the birthday of one of them as well.

  • AmandaElizabeth February 11, 2011, 2:07 am

    My husband and daughter are celiacs. When she was little i would offer to make another cake and ensure that there were enough gluten free snacks for all the children. I became quite adroit at birthday cakes, and by the time she was about 8 other parents were asking me to make the birthday cake. I even thought about becoming a full time children’s party caterer but decided that our town was not big enough to support us full time. The cake I thought was the worst – Barbie’s swimming pool party – was the most requested one of all.

  • MegSong24 February 11, 2011, 11:38 am

    It seems to me, no allergy was mentioned. Most of my friends by age seven could handle saying “I’m allergic to ____, but thank you.” or some varient thereof. One wasn’t nearly so polite (Why didn’t you make what I can eat? -pout sulk-) but it was cause they came over in an emergancy and so all we had was milk and juice. They had the juice but it wasn’t ‘my favorite kind so….”

  • chelonianmobile February 14, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I had dietary issues in my youth, but my parents would never have dreamed of demanding that other parents provide special food just for me. (In my case, of course, it was Asperger’s-related, not an allergy or personal philosophy – I’m hypersensitive to taste and texture and there’s a fairly limited range of foods I can eat without gagging, but it wouldn’t actually put me in the hospital or cause me any spiritual grief to eat things not on the list.)

  • chechina February 14, 2011, 6:15 pm

    Wow. So I guess I was the only one who read this story and thought it was funny… Every parent has a perfect right to raise their child on the food they themselves eat, and if what you eat is not provided, it’s perfectly alright to call ahead and offer to make something and explain what your restrictions are. The host should try to accomodate and if they can’t, the host should encourage the guest bring their own food.

    Also, there is no universal right way to eat, and being overly concerned with your child getting teased will only create a child who feels justified in teasing others. (I’m reminded of The Simpsons episode where Marge says sadly, “Kids can be so cruel” and Bart overhears and says, “We can? Thanks, mom!”)

    But! To call and demand a special birthday cake at someone else’s birthday party! Hilarious!

  • madame-mim February 15, 2011, 6:50 pm

    Is there really any difference, parenting-wise, in someone desiring that their kid adhere to a vegan diet for nutritional reasons, or drink a huge glass of milk each day for nutritional reasons? It’s your kid.

  • anon February 19, 2011, 2:24 am

    I am so confused. The comments are talking about a wedding cake… .the OP is about a young boys birthday party. I’d kinda like to read the wedding cake story….lol

  • Anonymous April 24, 2011, 5:54 am

    Here’s what I would have done, if I were the party mom:

    1. I’d graciously accept the gluten-free cake from the rude mother, and ignore her boorish comments. I would then keep the gluten-free cake hidden away in the fridge.

    2. In order to spare the feelings of the boy who showed up with no gift, I would have snuck him some construction paper and markers (or whatever), so that he could make his friend a homemade card, or something of that nature, while the other kids are involved in the “free play” that kids’ birthday parties usually begin and end with, as guests arrive and leave. Better yet, I’d pull something out of the “gift cupboard” (I plan on having one when if and when I have kids, because it saves a lot of hassle), that the friend could pass off as a gift from him. We’d make it our little secret, and no one would be the wiser.

    3. When it comes time for cake, I’d bring out the party cake (with the gluten-free cake hidden in the kitchen), light the candles, sing Happy Birthday, etc., then take the cake back to the kitchen for slicing/plating (or have my hypothetical future husband or whoever do that), under the pretext of doing it to prevent the kids from fighting over who gets the frosting flower/balloons/corner piece/whatever. Regular cake gets sliced, gluten-free cake gets sliced, all the kids get regular cake, except for the boy with the crazy mother, who gets a piece of gluten-free cake–except, it’s not glaringly obvious, because he’s still having cake with his friends.

    Anyway, I know that all of this seems like a lot of work, but if it’d spare the feelings of a little boy who’s done nothing wrong, I’d do it.

  • Anonymous April 24, 2011, 7:54 am

    P.S., I was another one of those kids who was forced to drink milk on a (practically) daily basis growing up, and to this day, milk makes my stomach turn.

  • Em July 11, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Poor lady! That kid’s mom is nuts. You NEVER make demands of your host/hostess!

  • Katje June 4, 2012, 8:32 pm

    I understand that some people have dietary restrictions due to medical, religious or cultural beliefs. But to force it on others is just rude. The Vegan Mom was being not only rude but self-centered about the whole ordeal.

  • UKHelen August 31, 2012, 9:14 am

    @Bint I had no idea till now that you’d commented on my comment, and I’m gobsmacked at what you wrote. But then you don’t know all the circumstances.

    My mother wanted to make my wedding cake. She was recovering from a serious illness and it was about the only thing she could do at home, towards the wedding. But she didn’t know how to ice it. Her SIL, my aunt, was retired and – yes – had done cake icing as a hobby and produced fabulous work.

    Why did I think anyone would want to participate in my wedding preparations? Because, perhaps naively, I believed all the books and magazines I read which said, ‘Why not involve your friends and relatives and let them really feel a part of your wedding?’. I thought it was the correct thing to do. I wasn’t thinking about money. I wanted a good job done on the cake, I didn’t know anyone else who could do it and I thought she’d like to do it. Sounds like I was wrong and everything is pounds, shillings and pence where weddings are concerned. Pardon my naivety!

    Bridezilla? Moi? LOL! DH and I compromised so much, with everybody. We had no expectations and we paid for virtually everything ourselves. I wasn’t expecting any particular present from my aunt (friends turned out to be far more generous than any of our relations, bizarrely). But when your aunt/mother of a bridesmaid, who’s insisted she has the right to tell you how to do your wedding (to the extent of making me throw away expensive headdresses because she didn’t like just one colour in them) – when someone that involved and entitled gives you a wedding present which must’ve cost £10 max, well I think I was justified in being surprised. Note that the aunt didn’t tell me, before or after the wedding, that she considered icing the cake to be a present. I simply had no idea about that. And before you leap in and say, “You should be grateful to get any present at all,” all I’m saying is I was surprised.

    I’ve done things for other people’s weddings. I worked on flowers for one wedding: no fee, no fining in the present department. For the same aunt, I spent a lot of money and countless hours, helping in the preparations for her offspring’s wedding. But I still gave my cousin a really good present – why wouldn’t I? The present was about setting up a new home, not about what I felt I was ‘owed’.

    I would agree with your comments if the cake decorator was a young woman (e.g. a sister or a friend) who was starting out in work or bringing up a family, and so had little time or money. In contrast, the aunt was retired and comfortably off; she complained about not having enough to occupy her time. But I didn’t say that in the original comment, so you wouldn’t have known.

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