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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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  • Virg February 7, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Well, Kelly, I don’t think Twinkies would be a technical violation of a vegan diet because they’re made of foam rubber. At least that’s what they taste like, anyway.

    Back to the point, though, it’s too bad that this kid’s mother was such a stinker about the diet. She even did the right thing eventually, sending him with his own cake. Why she couldn’t have just done that to begin with is an exercise for another time. Her hypocrisy is just icing on the cake (heh).


  • LeeLee88 February 7, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I like how the woman actually tried to “punish” the birthday boy for his mother’s inability to provide a super-special by saying that she couldn’t bring a present because of allll the money and tiiiime that she had to spend making said cake. Obviously, her time is far more valuable than the hostess’s time. Plus, how embarrassing could that have been for the vegan/gluten-free kid? He shows up with a cake that no one wants to eat and he doesn’t have a present for the birthday boy. It just makes him stick out even more, and leaves him in a position of never being invited to any of those children’s birthday parties. I’m looking at this from a kid’s point of view. That poor kid!

  • LBC February 7, 2011, 1:01 pm

    You know, had the child had a legitimate gluten problem (which he apparently did not), and had the mother had any manners at all, I would at least have asked for advice on acceptable alternative treats. I have my own issues with the concept of vegan diets but I would never, ever, undermine somebody else’s food choices, and I would never assume that somebody with a food allergy was a hypochondriac, picky eater, etc.

    I think it could also be pointed out that vegan cake recipes, while they may be dairy-free, are frequently very high in sugar (to make up for the lack of animal fat) or may contain dairy alternatives made from soy, which could present their own set of problems for some children. You can’t make it fit everyone.

  • K February 7, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Ridiculous, as well as most of the comments. Hellllloooooooo? You do not make demands of your host. EVAR! You smile and you say, “thank you,” and if something is served that you can’t ingest, you smile and you make a polite refrain and in NO WAY do you make your host feel uncomfortable.
    And if you simply cannot help but be a clod, send your regards and do not go.

    You, under no circumstances, impress everyone with how holy you are by bringing your own food (there is no yeast in cake, genius). You do not bring separate food for yourself either. What if everyone wanted to try it? You don’t have enough for everyone.
    You either go and smile or you stay home. No one wants to hear about your poor health, poor genetics, or poor religious choices.

  • DGS February 7, 2011, 1:20 pm

    While dietary restrictions, whether by choice, religious belief or due to allergies, are understandable, the onus of making sure that they are observed is on the person observing them, not the person throwing a party (although it would be extra gracious and kind to provide a gluten-free or kosher or vegetarian or whatever option on the part of the hostess). The mother should have inquired about allergens politely, stayed at the party to monitor her child (a young child cannot be trusted to monitor his/her food intake), and she should have brought a vegan or gluten-free or dairy-free or whatever option for her son. Being kosher and diabetic myself, I don’t burden others with my dietary choices, although I am always very grateful and touched when people accomodate them.

  • SJ February 7, 2011, 1:35 pm

    I know a girl who is vegetarian who chooses always to bring her own food choices and never to ask if the food provided is vegetarian or not.

    She is certainly within her right to ask, but I appreciate that she doesn’t demand that others make accommodations for her dietary choices. (She is vegetarian because of principles, not for health reasons.)

  • Eisa February 7, 2011, 1:46 pm

    Wow. That is so very, very rude. If the child had a gluten problem, it would be one thing to ask, or ask if you could bring your own gluten-free treat for your child to have [or ask if the host/ess will have anything gluten-free]. Heck, even the way it was, she could have asked about other vegan, gluten-free options she could have brought-not a cake, but maybe some cupcakes or something like that.

    The way she did it, I feel for her poor kid! What a lousy way to be introduced to the birthday party…hello, my mother is crazy and made this disgusting cake no one wants. Oh, and I don’t have a present for you because of her, sorry. Yikes.

  • Lark February 7, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I have a lot of friends who have dietary restrictions – due to allergies or personal choice – and they all know that when they go to someone’s home for a gathering that they will either have to bring something they can eat or be ready to pick and choose through what is provided. This mother should be teaching her child how to do that instead of insisting that everyone else meet HER dietary restrictions.

  • Gemma February 7, 2011, 1:50 pm

    My son is unable to drink cow’s milk (he drinks goat’s milk instead). I would never expect anyone to go to the trouble of providing him with goat’s milk. Whenever we visit someone, I always pack along a thermos of his milk. The only special consideration I ask is that no one give him cow’s milk, as it makes him ill.

    When you are a guest in someone else’s home, you don’t expect them to change everything to suit you. If you want everything your way, then stay at home. I know some vegetarian/vegan people who don’t expect the world to change for their needs/choices. Unfortunately, I also know some who take a “holier than thou” approach to their lifestyle choices.

    If I went to a vegan’s house, I wouldn’t insist they serve me steak. That would be rude.

  • Khalida February 7, 2011, 1:58 pm

    wow… just wow

    As a vegan, I am completely APPALLED at that mother’s behavior!
    When I attend events, I ask if there will be any vegan friendly items, and if not, I say that I will bring something for myself so that the host(ess) is not put out, and I don’t have to go home hungry. More often than not, the host(ess) is willing to supply something vegan, but I never mind bringing something to eliminate any stress on them.

    Being vegan is a personal choice, and I would never push my beliefs on other people in such a manner.

  • Anonymous February 7, 2011, 1:59 pm

    LBC, I’m not sure why you say that vegan cakes tend to be high in sugar? Whenever I’m baking vegan, I just use butter-flavored Crisco instead of butter, use flaxseed/water instead of eggs, and water or coconut milk instead of regular milk–no additional sugar over what’s normal.

  • acr February 7, 2011, 2:00 pm

    “I think it is entirely appropriate that a parent might request the host to try to make sure the child does not eat a taboo food. As a hostess I would be happy to do so. ”

    I think that’s pretty ridiculous, especially in a party setting with multiple kids and other chaos around. Yes, the hostess shouldn’t plunk a big slice of the evil (but probably yummy!) cake in front of the child, but she can’t be expected to ride herd on this one child all day to make sure he doesn’t consume anything forbidden.

  • Chelsey February 7, 2011, 2:01 pm

    “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.”

    Technically, the woman is forcing her own dietary choices on her son. But whatever.

    The OP’s aunt was certainly not forcing anyone to eat the cake. The women could have easily said, “Please do not give my son any cake” or just not let him go to the party. My question is: did her son wind up eating the birthday party cake or none at all?

  • Chelsey February 7, 2011, 2:11 pm

    @A Cook: “Gluten free diets (unlike veganism) are not personal beliefs–they are medical restrictions.”

    I don’t know where you came up with that, but’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

    My aunt and uncle have been on a gluten free diet for a few years. They don’t have to be, they choose to be. For the same reason this mother said her son was on one. Some people are on it for medical reasons, but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE is.

    To everyone else: The OP was very plain about the fact that the boy was on this diet because his mother wanted him to be, NOT because of a medical issue. Try actually reading the post.

  • Khalida February 7, 2011, 2:12 pm


    no, vegan diets are not “TERRIBLE” for children
    and this is why people like myself are called “vegan nazis”

    a vegan diet is safe and healthy for EVERYONE
    the stories you read/hear about are of parents who don’t follow basic nutrition themselves
    Adults can get away with nutrient deficiencies a lot longer than children can, because we are not growing/developing physically… men can go longer because they don’t have the monthly cycle that women do
    Yes, maintaining a vegan diet is more complex than eating the standard diet of north americans, but you do not need to consult a “licensed nutritionist”
    When I went to my doctor at 15, having been a vegan for a year, she couldn’t believe how healthy I was; when I told her I was vegan, she told me it was an unhealthy diet, that it is impossible to get the correct amount of certain nutrients… that is when I presented her with 25+ pages of nutritional equivalencies for all of the required vitamins, minerals, etc. that could be found in a plant-based diet

    Nothing was missing from that list.

    I am now 20, and am planning on having children. I have the lists as to what children need for amounts of various nutrients and such. I have never spoken to a nutritionist. I don’t plan on it. If my child had a condition that made doing a vegan diet ridiculously difficult (nut/legume allergy, soy allergy, various vegetable intolerances), I still would not need to go. There are countless books BY nutritionists that spell it out for you on how to raise healthy vegan/vegetarian children

    Yes that mother’s actions were horrible, and her etiquette was severely lacking.
    Raising her child on a vegan/raw-food/natural/organic diet is NOT a bad thing

    For those of you that loudly discredit veganism:
    Please stop treating a healthy diet with such hostility. There are many reasons people go vegan. None of them are valid for an attack.
    My belief is that it is a MAJOR etiquette faux pas to criticize someone’s beliefs if they are not open to having a frank discussion about them.

  • Elicat February 7, 2011, 2:21 pm

    @Calliope: I’ve met many vegetarians who are pleasant and who don’t try to impose their personal beliefs on anyone. It’s those who treat you as if you are doing something wrong and try to convert you (similar to the radical religious nuts) who provoke me that earn the “it must be nice to choose what you can eat” response. As a celiac, if I ate wheat, rye, or barley every day, I *will* get sick to the point that I’d have to miss work, and I’d be putting myself at risk for diabetes, cancer, other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, etc. So yes, whether or not I eat gluten is a choice, but it’s not like eating meat (in moderation) or vegetables gives you the same risk of diabetes or cancer, or activates severe flu-like symptoms (tiredness, headaches, intestinal troubles, and on and on).

  • Cordelia February 7, 2011, 2:22 pm

    There are many people who are sensitive to or intolerant of gluten, and must follow gluten-free diets. However, there’s a health fad where people who are *not* gluten-sensitive have elected to eliminate it from their diets, as if it were some kind of poisonous additive. Gluten is a part of several human dietary staples, including wheat and rye. It’s a protein frequently used in vegetarian and vegan cooking. There is absolutely no scientific basis for the idea that gluten is somehow harmful to the general population.

    This may be an interesting assumption, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this woman’s kid probably has no gluten sensitivity, because of the very sanctimonious way she asked if the cake would be gluten-free, as if everyone should be abstaining from gluten. When they have to make a request from someone else who’s cooking, most people I know with some kind of sensitivity lead with the facts, not with demands: “I have gluten intolerance. Can I ask if you have planned for any food items that I should avoid?” And most cooks I know will be happy to find something, or let the guest bring something, that won’t make their guest sick.

    It’s when the “intolerance” is really a preference, or a superstitious health fad, or the request is really a demand, that it becomes a nuisance. Giving the mother the benefit of the doubt and saying her kid really is gluten sensitive, having him bring his own cake should have been the solution she had in mind. He could still drink the juice and have fun with his friend. Demanding that the entire party menu center around this one friend’s dietary needs (or merely his mother’s wishes, as the case may be) is too much.

  • Goldie February 7, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Not to play the devil’s advocate here, but one thing I found out from raising two kids is that there are all kinds of parents out there, and some of them have parenting styles and lifestyles that are wildly different from what we’re normally used to. Many of these parents will in fact look down on you f0r not living the way they do. And their kids and your kids will play together and have parties and sleepovers together, especially when you have a social child who always wants to invite everyone in his class, his karate group, his summer-camp group etc. Over the years I learned to just shrug, accommodate them as best I can, and move on. I also explained to my kids pretty early on that, in their friends’ families, things are done differently and we should respect that. If it helps any, to them, we’re weird too 😉 While I was reading the OP’s letter, I kept thinking that, in the OP’s aunt’s situation, I would’ve offered the other mother to bring a gluten-free cake in lieu of a birthday gift and get the whole issue over with. Then I read that the mother ended up doing exactly that, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, the mother is a selfish boor with zero tact – but dealing with people like her is something to be expected when you plan your children’s events. I learned to see them as rain or snow in winter – they’re inevitable – you just learn to work your way around them.

  • Jillybean February 7, 2011, 2:41 pm

    @ Chocobo – well said. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Cordelia February 7, 2011, 2:51 pm

    Also, as an addendum to my earlier post, I want to make it clear that I’m not including veganism or vegetarianism as mere preferences.

    I was just thinking about my own preference, that is, I really hate mushrooms. I hate them and refuse them at every opportunity. I have on occasion claimed I was allergic in order to avoid them. Nowadays I realize this is rude and presumptuous, so I pick them out, or eat around them. In rare cases I have even choked a few down for the sake of politeness (sparing the feelings of a French host mother). I do not ask people to leave them out of every dish, but if this is going to be something like an annual “Mushroom Daze,” and mushrooms simply must be in everything, I will either bring something of my own (a Smurf-themed cake!), or make other plans.

  • Zhoen February 7, 2011, 2:51 pm

    Typo Tat, Hal,
    Please see: Godwin’s Law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law
    Re: use of the word Nazi in a discussion.

    Poor kid, though. On the other hand, I was made to drink milk at every meal as a kid, by my mother. No one ever figured out why I had so many stomach aches. Until I refused to ever drink milk as an adult. Problem solved.

    Good for LWs aunt for politely holding the line.

  • Kerry February 7, 2011, 2:52 pm

    Sheesh! That was nervy! I have celiac disease so I’m stuck with a gluten-free diet but first, I don’t make everyone around me stick to it too (my wedding cake certainly wasn’t gluten free!), or provide for me for that matter! If I’m going somewhere where it may be difficult for me to find something to eat, I bring my own food. My friends and family understand and don’t make an issue of it. If that woman and her child have dietary restrictions, she should have just let the birthday boy’s mother know (politely) that she needed to provide a snack and maybe a cupcake for her child. In a world full of allergies, food intolerances and natural diets, most parents are more than understanding!

  • Kat February 7, 2011, 2:53 pm

    To all those responding to Hal – While I’m aware that gluten intolerance is a medical concern for many people, the OP’s description of the rude mother makes it sound as if the gluten-free diet is a choice their family is making. Now, I wasn’t there. I don’t know. But all that malarkey about what nature intended sounds to me as if she’s making a lifestyle choice.

    If I had been in the aunt’s place, I would have offered a gluten free snack that wasn’t a cake (maybe this did happen, I couldn’t really tell from the story) such as fresh fruit or…granola? I don’t know what’s gluten free. Regardless, since she could only supply one cake, the aunt was absolutely correct that it should be of the birthday boy’s choice. For the sake of argument, let’s say the gluten-free boy was dealing with a medical issue. Well, no one was going to force feed him cake, were they? He’s in for a tough life if his mother raises him to expect that every dessert that passes under his nose will be gluten-free!

    The rude mother did not generate any sympathy for her cause by accusing those who partake of an omnivorous diet as going against what nature intended and of being party to animal enslavement. What a melodramatic, smug comment.

  • Jason Davis February 7, 2011, 3:12 pm

    How on earth is gluten something nature didn’t intend?

    Plus, y’know.. unbelievable sense of entitlement there. How about he just doesn’t eat the cake? One of my kids’ friends brings a donut to birthday parties, because she’s allergic to peanuts to the point of not being able to eat a store-bought cake. Not a big deal for her or for the other kids around her.

  • Barbara February 7, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I’ve hosted several parties where half the attendees are vegetarian. Knowing this full well in advance, I make sure the bulk of the menu is vegetarian. Usually there will be one or two meat dishes, and the rest will be vegetarian sides, dishes which together create a whole meal.
    But I consider “separate cake” above and beyond the call of duty, and most galling is to “easily make one from scratch.” If someone did not want, for whatever reason, to eat my lovely dairy/gluten filled cake, and I were informed enough in advance, I would provide some cookies or maybe get a cupcake from a bakery. But I would not bake.
    Most of the ingredients that go into these things are expensive and I would never again use. Gluten free AND vegen? Faux eggs, faux milks, faux dairies of any kind, shortening, coconut products, all the different kinds of flours, xanthan gum…these things would languish in my tiny, kitchen, taking up real-estate. And while baking is not an exact science, it is a temperamental one. Chances of the first five vegen cakes coming out as cake-like would be slim. I will adjust my menus to someone’s dietary choices within reason, but I cannot make you a vegen cake. Who has time to put into that alongside preparations for the rest of the party? I can cut fruit up and put it in a cute little chocolate cup, but it’s not going to be vegen chocolate.

  • Rebecca February 7, 2011, 3:17 pm

    If the kid had special dietary requirements, then the mother should have said something like, “Thank you so much for the invitation. Unfortunately, he cannot eat X or Y so I will send him along with a cake he will be able to eat. If you don’t mind, serving that up for him instead of the cake the other children will be eating. So sorry if this is an inconvenience, but he does get really sick if he eats regular cake. If it’s any problem at all, let me know.”

  • Iris February 7, 2011, 3:20 pm

    @A Cook – my husband and daughter both have coeliacs disease and are gluten free by necessity. BUT I don’t know about other areas but here at the moment there are a number of people who are gluten free by choice, as it is the latest health conspiracy theory around here. These are the same people who will tell you that modern medicine causes all illnesses because there are so many more sick and allergic people around than there used to be (well, yes, because they used to DIE). It is really irritating when you have to deal with actual gluten free diets because restauranteurs are starting to assume that when you ask for gluten free options you are following a lifestyle choice rather than medical necessity.

    On the OP, fwiw I always call and ask what is being served and see what I can do to supplement the existing menu for my daughter at birthday parties. She is old enough now that she will politely ask if she can see the packet the lollies came in and then check out the ingredients for herself if she is in doubt. If she can’t eat anything she doesn’t fuss, but just eats when she comes home.

  • UK Helen February 7, 2011, 3:36 pm

    yertle turtle, I hope that one day I will be numbered among the ‘polite, be-spined people’ you speak of. LOL! What an awesome phrase. I shall keep it in mind in any future awkward situations.
    I was going to suggest that the mother could’ve sent her boy with a cupcake she approved of – but I see other people say that’s the thing to do, too.
    As for the mother deciding to give a cake instead of a present, I had someone who did this to me at my wedding! My mother baked my traditional wedding cake, and I asked a close relative to decorate it for me, as she was really talented. I bought the decorations I wanted, and she iced it. I was surprised to get only a very cheap wedding present from her, but I didn’t say anything (except, “Thank you,” of course!). Much later my mother told me the cake-decorator said to her that icing the cake was her present to me… Ouch! I’d had no idea she would fine me one wedding present: I’d just thought it was a lovely thing for people to be involved in the wedding (‘cos goodness knows, everybody had their own opinion about how we should do it).

  • Shock and Awe February 7, 2011, 3:46 pm

    And this is why people (parents) need to clarify if something is an allergy or a preference. If something is an allergy, I will try to avoid that particular ingredient. I have a child with a severe food allergy and cross contamination can be deadly. If a parent informed me their child had a problem with any ingredient I would try my hardest to provide something they could have. However, if the mother is like the mother in the OP and it’s just a preference, the onus would be on them to provide something.
    Whenever my child has been invited to a party I have asked if his allergen will be there. If they say yes, I usually explain he has an epipen for his allergy. Usually the parent will immediately scratch that item off the menu. I don’t ask them to, but they do it anyways. I’ve had a parent say the same thing to me and I’ve done the same, removed the item.
    Now I HAVE had a parent demand I provide their child’s favorite food at a party. I simply respond “I’m sorry but the menu is already made and I’ve already bought ingredients.”.

  • LovleAnjel February 7, 2011, 3:51 pm

    That woman was unreasonable. You don’t demand the host make/purchase a completely different full-sized cake, throw a fit and send your kid without a present as “punishment”. You explain the restriction, and offer to bring some treats he can eat instead.

    The reason for not eating a food doesn’t matter. If you want your preferences respected, you have to respect your host first.

    1) If a guest has a dietary issue, it is a good idea to alert your host so they know why you’re avoiding their food,

    2) You should bring something for yourself and not expect the host to go out of their way for your diet,

    3) A nice host will make an attempt to satisfy your dietary restrictions,

    4) Expect the attempt to go badly and bring your own stuff just in case.

    I don’t have religious, social or physical dietary restrictions, but I have many veggie, allergic and kosher friends. If it’s a smaller party, they inform the hostess (or remind her, in my case), who may attempt to make something they can eat. Doesn’t always work – I made stuffed mushrooms for a veggie friend only to find out later that she HATED mushrooms. So, they bring something they like to share with everyone at the party. I have a friend who keeps kosher and has children with multiple food allergies (real allergies – the kind that kill), and for parties she makes up treats for them to eat, with extras for sharing. Of course they also bring a birthday present!

  • livvy February 7, 2011, 4:17 pm

    Lifestyle choice, or medical need, a person who needs strict control over what goes in their body must be the one to be responsible – by bringing their own food or abstaining.

    What I find amazing in some of the comments is that some people think it was the host’s job to monitor what the guests eat. I disagree – the host is not a babysitter. If the issue was a dietary choice, the seven year old ought to be old enough to take responsibility for his own choices of food, and face the consequences of those choices he chose do the wrong thing (in his parents’ eyes). It’s not the host’s job to report back to the mother what he ate or didn’t eat. If the issue was medical, and the mother was so concerned, she could have refused the invitation on her son’s behalf, or sent him with foods specifically prepared for him.

    The same goes for adults. We all have bad luck / difficulties / situations that we need / must / ought to avoid, but the responsibility for caring for ourselves is our own.

  • Leslie February 7, 2011, 4:22 pm

    Oh good grief. A few of my sons’ friends have various food issues and every single of one of them shows up at parties with their own treats, it’s amazing to me. In this case though, the moms know their kids have the dietary issue (I’m talking an allergy or intolerance, not a moral issue) and they just plan ahead for their kids so they can partake in the fun. There are two local bakeries (in a not terribly big or hip city, mind you) that make gluten-free and vegan baked goods, and I’ve had children show up with cupcakes in their own little individual boxes. The kids are fine with it, they just go with the flow. THAT is how you deal with your child’s dietary issues, my friends.

  • Joe J February 7, 2011, 4:35 pm

    It’s a shame the mother has the poor manners to not only expect, but DEMAND the hostess spend more time and money than she already had by making specially prepared food just for her child. Had she responded to the news that the cake was non-vegan with an “I hope this isn’t putting you out, but would you mind if I had my son bring over some vegan things he can eat, and share?”, the aunt probably would have happily acquiesced, even in light of the previous snotty, self-righteous declaration of the mother’s lifestyle. But she didn’t, and she’s going to find that that harder you try to get people to bend to your lifestyle, the more inflexible people will get, and her child is unfortunately going to feel some of the effects of that. There was a really good quote from an episode of “The Simpsons” about this type of thing: “I learned long ago… to tolerate others rather than forcing my beliefs on them. You know you can influence people without badgering them always.”

    @LBC – Tell me about it. I had a friend who was trying a vegan lifestyle and her birthday came around. I made her a lemon-rosemary vegan cake, but it was nearly all sugar, and not only that, to keep the cake moist the recipe required enough vegetable oil to almost fill a small deep-fryer.

  • --Lia February 7, 2011, 4:49 pm

    After I get done laughing, I’m reminded that there are lessons in these stories. In this case, it’s: Never offer reasons, explanations, or excuses for what you have a perfect right to. Never answer a manipulative question that begins with why especially if the answer involves some variation on because. To do so only gives offenders the incorrect notion that they’re in a position to negotiate.

    Look at the above:
    “since it was her son’s first party,”
    “bakery doesn’t offer the option,”
    “no extra money.”

    No wonder the offender thought it was O.K. to behave as she did. The aunt makes it sound like she’d be glad to oblige if only she weren’t catering to whims of a 7 year old, had enough money for a 2nd bakery cake, or knew how to bake. I wouldn’t even use the word sorry. From the offender’s point of view, bringing a vegan cake in lieu of a gift kind of makes sense.

    Instead, from the moment the offender asked about the menu, the aunt should have said in a clear definite tone what would be served. When the offender came up with the business about what nature intended, the answer should have been something non-committal followed by a reiteration of the original menu.

    “My, isn’t it interesting how different families serve different things. We’ll be having a white birthday cake, chocolate frosting, soda, and juice. I do hope little Faunteroy will be able to come. Cody does enjoy his company so much, but I understand if he won’t be able to make it.”

    Then when the offender goes into more spew about vegan, gluten free, and forced dietary choices, the aunt just repeats the same thing WORD FOR WORD. Try this at Halloween. It works.

    As for not bringing a gift– I’m with the offender on that one. When it’s her turn to entertain, the aunt’s son should not bring a gift either. (But with no explanation.) The whole gift exchange thing at children’s birthdays has gotten out of hand. If guests bring them, they should be thanked, but if they don’t, it should be considered no big deal.

  • Ali February 7, 2011, 4:50 pm

    My mom has wheat intolerance and lactose intolerance., it’s a real thing and if the kid had an allergy, his mom should have provided a cake of her own for free. Just a note: HOWEVER there are some crackpot “dietitians” out there that have convinced parents that a gluten free diet is a cure all. It’s not. The big flaw in our diets today is our belief that particular food is evil (Carbs, Fat, Gluten). Honestly it’s more about how much you eat and eating a variety (to get vitamins and nutrients) than anything else.

    I like the summary of the Herbivore’s Dilemma: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

    Also – if you’re vegan, bring your own falafel/whatever. If the party is thrown for you, then you can ask to be accommodated.

  • Bee February 7, 2011, 4:54 pm

    I self-identify as vegan (I actually eat fish a couple times year) and I just want to say, that we are not all this rude!! This woman’s behavior made me cringe, as, unfortunately, I have met a few preachy, self-righteous vegans like this and it makes me embarrassed for them. Yes, she did the proper thing by bringing another cake for her son, but she could have done it without all the preaching and rudeness.

    I’m wondering if her son is allergic to gluten and dairy, or this is an ethical choice? For myself, it’s the latter, and I always relent in the case of classmates/friends birthday parties and let my kid just eat the cake/snacks served. Or else, like I said before, QUIETLY and discreetly bring a separate little cake for your kid. Don’t make a big (rude) production of it.
    Also, what the previous poster said is true – vegan and gluten-free is not necessarily healthier – often, extra oil is used to replace the egg, or silken tofu. And yeah, white sugar can be vegan. Not exactly all-natural.

  • Enna February 7, 2011, 5:10 pm

    It wasn’t done tactfully which gives vegans/vegitarians a bad name. Have to say I disagree with LBC over the child not having a glutan problem as he could have – it’s not uncommon and it isn’t specified. If it was known before hand that this boy had dietry requirements and if the mother was more resonable and gave the aunty enough notice or offered to make some snacks instead then it could have worked out for better. My Mum has caterd for various dietry requirements at parties but she can do so because she has the time to plan things in advance and as she doesn’t work it is a lot easier for her to manage.

  • Kitty Lizard February 7, 2011, 5:30 pm

    Whoa. Dontcha just love kids’ birthday parties? I remember a whackaloon like this in my daughter’s first grade class. She was an all-natural food freak. The sorry thing was, that the little girl was an absolute sweetheart and my daughter’s best friend. The family lived on a macrobiotic diet, and the kid, who had no allergy or food problems at all, loved coming to our house, and exclaim – REAL FOOD – whenever she walked in the door. The poor kid looked like the proverbial starving Armenian.
    My daughter got invited to her birthday party. The cake was a macrobiotic brick with a few strawberries on top. It looked inedible. I asked my daughter what it tasted like, after I picked her up, and she said it tasted like cardboard. Of all the kids invited, only my daughter and one other little girl showed up. It was sad.

  • Sharon February 7, 2011, 6:01 pm

    One thing that made me happy from this situation is the fact that in spite of having a mom who is socially challenged and rude, he is able to make friends. I hope he continues to be able to be that kind of person.

    His mom needs and attitude adjustment. Therapy?

  • Shannon February 7, 2011, 6:25 pm

    With the exception of religious and health reasons, I don’t think it’s right to put your children on a diet that sets them significantly apart from their peers. It opens them up to teasing and ridicule, self-consciousness in social situations (ie going to a friend’s house and not being able to eat anything they serve for dinner) AND labeling any food as evil or forbidden very likely opens the door to disordered in the future.

    Plus, I firmly believe that everyone’s body is different and there is no one right way to eat. A big part of my decision to become a vegetarian was that meat was never a big deal to me and it was easy to give it up. On the other hand, I have known people who have become sick and malnourished when they tried vegetarianism. I would NEVER subject my children to that just because it’s my personal preference–it’s arrogant to think that their bodies and needs are exactly the same as mine. I feel really sorry for the kid in this situation.

  • Row February 7, 2011, 6:54 pm

    “[..] her child ‘was fed only what nature intended, and no products derived from animal slavery.'”

    That sounds less like a gluten allergy and more like a self-righteous vegan. My mother knew a woman and her husband and they were exactly like this. Food Nazis, as some of the previous comments said. The one good thing about them when it came to what they ate, however, was that they were worried about their daughter being sullied by carnivores. So whenever she came over to our house she’d usually have a few things to snack on.

    However, I really have no mercy for anyone who feels the need to inflict their dietary/personal beliefs on their children. Being such a zealot about food is no different than indoctrinating your children into a cult. Not saying veganism is a cult, but when you reach the level of “passion” about it that this lady was at it’s about the same as a cult. If the child had a gluten allergy and I was his mother I probably would’ve said something along the lines of “I’ll be bringing a small cake/bunch of cupcakes that are vegan and gluten free for Timmy. He has Celiac disease, so could you please watch what else he has at the party so he won’t get sick? Thanks!” Not…well, what the woman in question said.

    I’m honestly fine with what people eat. It’s none of my business. It’s the people who get up in your face and tell you what you should and should not eat that annoy me. If you’re the type to cry over people pushing their diets on you, don’t do the same.

  • LilyG February 7, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Let me just say this: Skittles are vegan.

  • Andrea February 7, 2011, 8:37 pm

    Wow that poor child, it wouldn’t be easy being hedged around by so many (potentially unneccessary) dietary restrictions. I have friends who are vegetarian but who let their 2 children eat meat if they want. Their reasoning is they don’t want to deprive their kids of something they might enjoy until they’re old enough to make their own decisions about it. They’re very cool parents.

  • jen February 7, 2011, 9:16 pm

    Hmm, the point I took from this story was that we shouldn’t try to impose our diet restrictions on our hosts. I’m not sure it was a “bash and criticize the vegan lifestyle” story. I find it ironic that one poster condemns the woman in this story but feels free to snark on another parent’s choice of what she feeds kids at her party. As we’ve seen in the story, judging parents on what they feed their children can go both ways.

    Look, I love eating meat, dairy, and gluten. It’s basically my favorite food. I think I’m a pretty healthy eater, too. I sometimes feel a bit judgy when I see mothers feed their child a lot of junk food, but I keep it to myself. Why? Because I don’t want people hassling me on what I eat.

  • Katy February 7, 2011, 9:23 pm

    Reading this post while I am due to have twins in a month makes me cringe for my future. Instead of just passing out simple invitations to my children’s b-day parties, do I have to also include a menu card that each of the invitees can check off and return specifying their allergies, veganism, vegetarianism, religious diets?

  • Donna February 7, 2011, 9:25 pm

    @ A Cook: “The funny thing is when people think that gluten free diets are inherently healthier. They’re not.”

    I think this was the case here. If an acquaintance makes a point to avoid gluten, I am always interested to know if, like me, they have coelic disease. One or two did not have any such intolerance or allergy. Rather, they had a vague idea that, since gluten-free options are categorized under health and nutrition, gluten must be unhealthy in general. In other words, they were jumping on the bandwagon.

    The mother did not request and complain about the lack of gluten-free options in terms of her son’s health. As with the lack of vegan options, she spoke only in terms of her own personal preferences, so the reason she avoided gluten was likely the same.

  • Donna February 7, 2011, 9:28 pm

    *Coeliac disease. Pardon the typo!

  • Amy February 7, 2011, 9:54 pm

    Poor kid… I am glad his mom left and he got to just have fun. I hope he did, anyway.

    The faux pas here is in the guest demanding special consideration and effort, not the initial question regarding the menu. I really don’t feel that someone inquiring about the menu at an event is rude, and I have been on both ends of the equation. If you have a food allergy and are coming to a party I am throwing PLEASE ask me about the food! I don’t care if it is a medical need, a religious restriction, or a personal preference, you can always ask. I would hate for you to come, hoping I am psychic, and be hungry for lack of something you can eat. If I can’t accommodate your food needs, I will let you know, and you can either not attend, bring something to share, or eat before you arrive. This is what I do, when an event is not going to be friendly to my (admittedly bizarre) dietary needs. Ask, then be gracious, regardless of the answer; demanding extra effort ont he part of the host or hostess is the wrong answer.

    Also, I noticed the mom accused the Aunt of forcing her dietary choices on others… is it just me or is that a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

  • Rug Pilot February 7, 2011, 9:58 pm

    As someone who has dietary issues of my own I am very cognocent of those of my friends. I look out for vegetarian foods so I can recommend a restaurant to vegetarians, etc. On the other hand I have a friend who believes that all food preferences are “in your head”, even after she saw me dealing with a vioent series of Crohns’ attacks one evening and sending one of her closest friends to the hospital after secretly feeding her chocolate. It’s my mouth. It’s nobody’s business what I put in it or not, or why.

  • TheOtherAmber February 7, 2011, 10:06 pm

    I have dietary restrictions from both allergies (several) and food choices (I don’t eat pork). I never impose my eating requirements on any host. Just because I can’t eat those things doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to serve them. I always bring something I can eat just in case.