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Accommodating Picky Eaters

I have a great diverse group of friends and we enjoy trying out new restaurants and hosting dinner parties. I hate to use the word, but we’re kind of ‘foodies’. One of my friends is a vegetarian. Most restaurants in our area also serve at least one vegetarian dish, and she is not a picky eater, so we rarely have to make special arrangements for her to join in group outings.

The problem is another friend who has the dietary habits of an american toddler. Nothing green, only chicken, no eggs, will send a dish back if a pickle is touching it…the list goes on and on (none of this is due to religious concerns or allergies). If it is just the two of us dinning out, I’m aware of most of her likes/dislikes now, but it leaves a limited number of places we can eat. I feel bad leaving her out of group outings, but often we are trying new restaurants that have nothing she will eat. I even feel bad even discussing group outings/dinner parties in front of her because I know she wont eat the food, though she is always invited.

I am planning on hosting another dinner party, but the menu is going to be “German style” for Oktoberfest. Sausages, sauerkraut, spetzle, and German beers. Unless I create another entree, she’ll only be eating the cheese & crackers I set out as hors d’ouevres. How far is a host supposed to go to accommodate guests when hosting an adults only dinner party? All advice is welcome. 0910-15

I host specific food dinners/parties such as an annual chili, cornbread and desserts harvest shindig in October.   I do not accommodate picky eaters.  It is what it is.


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  • Lkb April 19, 2018, 4:10 am

    How ’bout the OP makes it a potluck so the picky eater can bring what she likes? Less pressure for the host too, who can still state an Oktoberfest theme.

    • BellyJean April 19, 2018, 9:56 am

      I like it! 🙂

    • Dee April 19, 2018, 10:52 am

      Making it a potluck changes it entirely. Not that potlucks are a bad thing, but OP wants to host a meal. She should be encouraged to do so, as it’s a great entertaining custom that seems rarely done anymore. If anyone has the desire to host a dinner they should be supported, not discouraged.

      • Jazzgirl205 April 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

        I’m not one to jump on the potluck bandwagon. A meal works like a symphony. The food has to compliment each other and work together for a gastronomic whole. Not only is the entire taste compromised but the host is inhibited from setting a pretty table. The serving pieces for a potluck are chosen more for their portability than their ascetic appeal. Therefore, by trying to accommodate this one picky guest, the whole evening suffers for everyone else.

    • Lisastitch April 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

      But making it a potluck totally changes the dinner. And a dinner like this–“German style” for Oktoberfest–means that people can’t just bring anything, they would need to bring something that fits the theme, which means researching recipes. Maybe, since it’s a foodie group, they would enjoy that, but if I’m doing a dinner party like this, I have an idea in mind, and I want to do it.
      I also do feel that she is “choosing” to be a picky eater. DD is a picky eater, but over the years, with encouragement, she has pushed herself to try new things so she is much less picky than she used to be. She might have sausage (as long as it’s not hot) and spaetle, but not the sauerkraut–but she would be eating!

    • Anonymous April 20, 2018, 6:19 am

      Having Picky Friend bring something that she’ll eat, doesn’t necessarily make the event a potluck, though. Are we talking about having Picky Friend bring a communal dish, or something just for herself, like when I’ve gone to barbecues with my own veggie burger or veggie dog. Or, if Picky Friend does bring a communal dish, could it be something that fits the Oktoberfest theme (like, say, mashed potatoes), and that could be discreetly incorporated in with the rest of the party food, like, say Picky Friend brought it in a disposable foil pan or a Tupperware container, and then OP decanted it into her own serving dish? No one else would even have to know that Picky Friend brought mashed potatoes (or whatever), unless OP has a special recipe that people would miss, or something. OP, would that work for you as a compromise?

    • Barbara Foster April 20, 2018, 9:26 am

      No, the OP doesn’t *want* a potluck. She wants to host an actual planned meal. That’s her right, and I applaud her for it. Picky eaters can’t demand that we turn the whole world into a cafeteria.

      Picky eaters should learn their own coping skills. Once PE knows what the OP’s menu is, she should either drop out politely, or (assuming they’re really good friends), ask if she could bring something that she would be able to eat, knowing that that will be an imposition on the OP. If she regrets missing the good times, perhaps she can work on overcoming her food phobias. It *is* possible (says the person who lived several years as a child on nothing but peanut butter and fish).

    • Angela April 20, 2018, 10:26 am

      Potlucks are fine, but I often don’t want to impose a burden on the guests and also I like to control the quality of the food I’m serving…a lot of time people are very busy, they feel that they are expected to bring something and it’s supermarket potato salad or the like.
      I agree with Admin. Tell the person what you’re serving and if he or she doesn’t like it, the burden is on that person to eat before arriving.

    • Goldie April 20, 2018, 12:14 pm

      Yeah, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m a 100% on board with the idea of forcing every guest to cook something (and having it follow a theme that they might not be familiar with) only because one of the guests will only eat chicken nuggets.

  • tessa April 19, 2018, 5:31 am

    Maybe she can bring a dish that fits her criteria.

  • Saucygirl April 19, 2018, 6:27 am

    Is this party just for this group, or a much bigger crowd? Are you grilling the sausage? If it’s just for this group and you’re grilling, tell her she can bring her own chicken and you’ll toss on grill when cooking.

    If it’s a larger group or you aren’t grilling during party, then crackers and cheese it is! She’s an adult, who knows how she eats. She can figure it out.

    • ladyv21454 April 19, 2018, 3:41 pm

      Considering how picky she is, she’d probably complain about her chicken being cooked on the same grill as the sausage.

  • Marozia April 19, 2018, 7:02 am

    Tell “picky eater” it is what it is. By all means, provide her with a menu.

  • shoegal April 19, 2018, 7:18 am

    Gee whiz, she’s an adult. There are some dinners, parties that I attend and I’m at a loss because there is really nothing that I want to eat. I’m not an overly picky eater but sometimes I’m not eager to eat anything there. I don’t complain to the host, I don’t order pizza or pout – I deal with it. I’ll eat just the cheese and crackers if need be. I will make concessions for my brother in law and make sure if I’m having a dinner that there is something there that he can eat because he doesn’t eat meat but in every given situation he doesn’t make a big deal out of it and makes do.

    • Kate 2 April 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

      Yep! I have a certain medical dietary restriction that 99% of the time doesn’t come up. When it does, like at my vegetarian cousin’s house, I go in knowing I will need to eat before or after, which I do, and while there I eat what I can.

      People with dietary restrictions need to care for themselves. It is nice when hosts take our needs into account, but there are so many and so varied now that it is practically impossible to do so and still host at all, much less without breaking the bank.

  • Bunny April 19, 2018, 7:36 am

    I’m definitely on the “if it’s not an allergy and not easy to accommodate then you’re largely on your own”. Coeliac friend coming to a dinner party? Yeah I can work with that – gluten-free main and at least one side and dessert that everyone will eat the same, then rolls and an extra side or extra dessert choice available for others. Vegetarian, yup, totally doable by having eg steaks for others, tofu/quorn for them and then all sides shared and a veggetarian-appropriate dessert. Muslim friend coming? Fine, stick to chicken, careful prep to be Halal, everyone can share.

    But tell me you can’t eat eggs, dairy, wheat, beef, pork, fish, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, rice or onions simply because you’d rather not, then I’m probably going to have a pretty hard time accommodating you without either feeding everyone else plain lettuce or making two versions of each dish.

    One or two ingredients it’s perfectly possible to avoid/substitute and manage just fine, but a whole litany of dietary *preferences* (as opposed to requirements, which for me means allergies or strict religious reasons) is asking a bit much of a host. Restaurants may be able to accommodate or simply have enough on offer to find something suitable, but it’s onerous on a private host.

    I’d say go with the potluck idea previously suggested while telling people your planned theme and let this friend sort herself out. As for eating out – keep inviting her to the group stuff and let her decide if she might find something on the menu, and when it’s the two of you then stick to the tried and tested places you know she’s ok with.

    • Bunny April 19, 2018, 7:40 am

      Clarification: when I listed all those foods, I meant someone telling me they won’t eat *any* of those (as examples) not just one or two!

    • Kate 2 April 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

      Ah, but what if all three are coming to the same meal? : )

    • Kirsten April 19, 2018, 1:55 pm

      I hate tofu and finds quorn gives me stomach pains. Why not do a vegetarian meal for everyone? There are loads of vegetarian recipes which are so tasty people don’t miss the meat. A curry of veg and pulses, served with rice and flatbreads, or a lasagne served with veg and garlic bread or a pilaf or veggie chilli…

      • staceyizme April 23, 2018, 12:20 pm

        Vegetarian meals can be as delicious as any other variety. But- the whole “do vegetarian for all because it’s simpler/ tastes as good” may not suit the cooking talents or tastes of either the hosts or other guests. A mixed meal where everyone’s tastes are reasonably accounted for and where forgiveness is given anyone needing to bring their own food in order to fit in is probably just as reasonable a solution and might be preferred by some hosts and guests.

    • Daria April 21, 2018, 4:10 pm

      I object to the “simply because you’d rather not” snark. I’m a picky eater who literally gags at a variety of tastes and textures, despite a lifetime of trying to swallow them. Believe me, many of us with limited food options would give anything to be able to eat whatever is put in front of us; it’s a major social handicap. But for us it’s not obstinance, timidity or being a ‘snowflake,’ it’s a physical impossibility to swallow certain foods.

      That said, I have made a point never to ask for accommodation or draw attention to my issues, other than within my nuclear family. I would happily socialize and just eat the cheese and crackers. It’s not as though I can’t readily access food before or after the party.

      • staceyizme April 23, 2018, 12:23 pm

        Anybody who would criticize you for not eating certain foods is being rude. You aren’t obligated to eat things that don’t work for you. Within small groups who socialize frequently together, some accommodation is usually made in the form of substantial sides or additions to the meal that will work. (And you’re correct, in my estimation, “doesn’t work for me”/ “can’t eat that” is a very hard thing to objectively evaluate, and for that reason it’s best not to comment on the foods others do or don’t consume.

  • Melissa April 19, 2018, 7:46 am

    I wouldn’t make the entire event potluck, if that’s not the event you want to plan, OP. However, I might tell Picky Eater (I’m not making fun of her, just needed something to call her!) to bring a dish she could eat if she’d like to participate. I know a lot of people who have alternative diets enjoy the social aspect, and aren’t as worried about the food when they know there won’t be much, if anything, they can or will eat. So it may be worth asking your friend how she feels about that, so you can invite her to outings or parties, or not invite her, without guilt.

  • DGS April 19, 2018, 7:51 am

    Maybe, she can bring a dish of her own, so that she has something to eat? Your job as the hostess is to explain to her what is going to be served. Her job is to either eat beforehand and come to hang out with friends or bring a dish of her own or make do with cheese and crackers. Or, she could also decide to sit this one out. She is an adult and fully capable of making choices that suit her (limited) palate or deciding if she wants to expand her palate.

  • Carrie April 19, 2018, 7:52 am

    Invite her to the party, and tell her exactly what will be served. That way she will either have the option to decline or eat before the event.

    I would not make a special dish for her.

  • Outdoor Girl April 19, 2018, 8:06 am

    You give the picky eaters the menu. If you are ok with them bringing their own food, say that. If you aren’t, they’ll have to make the decision as to whether or not to attend. They can eat before hand and eat the few things they are willing to eat or they can stay home.

    I have one guest at an upcoming event who is very limited in what she can eat, for medical reasons. It’s darn near impossible for me to figure out what she is able to eat. So I gave her the menu and let her know to bring whatever else she needs. I have some other guests that are easy to accommodate and have made arrangements to do so.

  • A different Tracy April 19, 2018, 8:08 am

    For both the party and the group restaurant outings, if I enjoyed her company, I’d invite her (and in the case of your party, let her know what’s on the menu) and let her decide whether or not to attend.

  • SS April 19, 2018, 8:13 am

    You let the invitee know the menu and they can make their own decision whether they choose to participate or not. They are adults. They are not being forced to attend so you don’t need to create something just to make sure that they don’t starve. If this was a mandatory attendance event, then you need to make sure there is something for each person to eat.

  • Vdrog April 19, 2018, 8:25 am

    Invite her, tell what is on the menu and warn her that there will not be any menu accommodations. If she still comes to the dinner, the problem is hers.

  • ladyv21454 April 19, 2018, 8:42 am

    The solution is easy: Invite Picky Eater to the dinner party. Specify to PE in advance what you will be serving. Express disappointment that PE will not be attending. Enjoy dinner party.

    The vegetarians and food-allergic people I know will normally ask if a host/hostess is okay with the person bringing their own food to the party so that the host/hostess is not inconvenienced. Or they just eat before they come to the party, and enjoy the company. They don’t expect the person having the dinner party to cater to THEIR food restrictions.

  • TracyX April 19, 2018, 8:44 am

    Just tell her what the menu will be. She can decide to come and nibble on what she will eat or not come at all.

  • Soop April 19, 2018, 8:48 am

    In my house, we often have parties etc. that revolve around food. If I’m going to invite someone, as host, I want to make the effort to make sure they can enjoy some of the food. Whether it’s allergies, dislikes or life choices, I definitely try and have at least a part of the menu they will eat. Why invite them if you don’t want them to enjoy themselves?

  • camllan April 19, 2018, 8:54 am

    Making it a potluck completely changes the nature of the event.

    What I would do is present the picky eater with the menu and politely tell her, “I’m having a big party to celebrate Oktoberfest. It’s going to be all German food and beverages. [Insert list of food and drink.] You are welcome to come–I love your company. But I wanted you to be aware that there might not be anything that will meet your needs, so if you come, you might want to eat ahead of time.”

    If it were just the picky friend coming over for dinner, I’d cater to her wants. But for an event that is for a specific reason–Oktoberfest–I would not go to great lengths to have special food for her. She can always decline the invitation if she wants.

    The other option is to simply not invite her. If she finds out about the party and complains to the OP that she wasn’t invited, the response can simply be, “I knew you couldn’t eat any of the food I was serving, except crackers and cheese. It didn’t feel right, inviting someone to dinner and serving them only crackers and cheese, so I left you off the guest list. What? No, it was a German dinner to celebrate Oktoberfest. There was no way to include the food that you eat.”

    Such a blunt conversation might hurt her feelings a bit, but it might also give her a wake-up call that her food restrictions are causing her to miss out on things she’d like to be included in.

    Note: If the friend were allergic/intolerant of the foods I was serving, my answer would be different.

    • Wilson April 20, 2018, 9:05 am

      I wouldn’t say “I knew you *couldn’t* eat any of the food….” because she CAN eat them, she just won’t. I would say ” I knew you wouldn’t”. Otherwise it helps reinforce her sense of entitlement to having people make her special meals because if you actually can’t eat the food and your host won’t accommodate, then your host is a jerk. If you won’t eat the food and expect your hosts to accommodate you all the time, you’re probably a jerk. She could be offered the opportunity to bring her own food apart from whatever is on the menu that she will eat.

      • Celestia April 23, 2018, 10:06 am

        What sense of entitlement? The OP never once mentions ANY kind of whining or pressure on the part of the picky eater, just that she sometimes doesn’t go out with them.

    • Daria April 21, 2018, 4:15 pm

      Why? Most people don’t choose food aversions. Most of us with them would love to be able to eat anything. This punitive attitude always surprises and dismays me. Would you rather I take a bite of your rosemary-infused chicken breast and vomit on your table? (that came close to happening once when I was led to believe the chicken was plain, and it wasn’t. I made it to the bathroom.)

      people bend over backward to accommodate religious food choices which after all are totally voluntary and arbitrary — the eater isn’t going to get sick from eating certain items, they simply choose not to. Why does invoking a mythological deity make it OK to say yay or nay to certain foods, where a simple physical need is disdained?

      • PJ April 23, 2018, 10:44 am

        Because it is a decent thing to do for a friend. To just respect the practices of someone’s deeply-held beliefs, whether based on a god — like Kosher, Halal or some forms of veg, or not– like other forms of veg/veganism.

        Why do you find it necessary to ridicule beliefs that are different from your own to make your point? I was in agreement with you… until the faith-shaming.

        • Daria April 24, 2018, 7:01 pm

          Because after a lifetime of preference-shaming because I don’t have an invisible “god” to blame my aversions/preferences on, I’m tired of more credence being given to that excuse than to the very real physcial/mental issues of food preference/aversion by an actual mortal person. That’s why. I’m not faith shaming but saying that my preferences here on Planet Earth are just as valid as those of some supposed being elsewhere.

  • LadyXaviara April 19, 2018, 8:57 am

    I have a friend who is notoriously picky. I always say “this is what we are serving. You’re welcome to bring a dish you will eat”

    She is also always welcome at our dinners out, we tell her the restaurant we are going to and she can come, as long as she doesn’t complain about the food!

    • Jazzgirl205 April 19, 2018, 8:11 pm

      In college, there was a member of our circle who would only order a hot dog. It didn’t matter if it was an ethnic restaurant, fast food, fancy expensive, whatever. It was a plain, unadorned hot dog from the child’s menu.

  • Lauren April 19, 2018, 8:58 am

    I think all you can really do is be honest in your invitation (e.g. this is a German Oktoberfest party, here is the general menu) and let her accept or decline based on the info given. Think of it as, I’m having this party, this is what it will be like, are you in or not? You’re not asking for her opinion or suggestions for changes.

    This person accepting an invite to an Oktoberfest party and then showing up expecting anything but German food would be like a sports-hater going to a Super Bowl party and expecting a movie to be playing instead of a football game. I don’t like football, so I don’t go to Super Bowl parties. Or I go, and accept the fact that I will have to focus on other aspects of the party besides the game, like the commercials or the food. This person should be adult enough to either not come to the party based on the description in your invite or go, but find other ways to enjoy the party besides food.

  • Aleko April 19, 2018, 9:11 am

    I would invite her, but spell out the menu clearly at the time of inviting. Then, if she’s keen enough on the party to come knowing she’ll be making do with cheese and crackers, fine. If not, it’s her choice to stay home.

  • ALM April 19, 2018, 9:21 am

    The price of being a picky eater is that sometimes there isn’t going to be anything you want to eat.

    If you were hosting her for a one on one meal or a party in her honor, then accommodation would make sense. If you are hosting a themed food event or group outing to an establishment where she just can’t find anything she likes, it’s not your job to cater to her long list of preferences. Part of being an adult is learning to socially eat something you might not particularly like once in a while, or accept that you don’t have to go.

    It is good of you to continue to invite her (and leave it up to her to decide) and also a kindness to not harp on events she is not attending in her presence, but your obligation ends there.

  • Lisa April 19, 2018, 9:22 am

    I would serve the food that you intend to serve. When you invite her, let her know what will be served and tell her she’s welcome to bring something that’s more to her liking.

  • Shannon April 19, 2018, 9:23 am

    I have dietary restrictions. I’m allergic to artificial sweeteners, I avoid processed foods and most kinds of alcohol because of migraines, and I can’t have anything too crunchy or chewy as it will aggravate a facial pain condition. It’s not fun, it makes life harder, and I hate it when people act like I’m just being difficult, attention-seeking, or picky.

    That said, it’s on me to make sure there are things I can eat. I’m always touched when friends try to accommodate my needs, but I don’t expect it. I ask hosts ahead of time if they’ve decided on a menu, and will bring a dish to share. I also bring a beverage (usually sparkling lemonade) because many people only have diet soda in their homes.

    OP should talk to the friend, and say, “This is the menu I’ve put together, I hope there are things you can have.” If it’s workable to add a simple dish the friend can enjoy, that’s great. If not, the friend is an adult and can figure it out for herself.

    • nothanks132 April 19, 2018, 12:54 pm

      I’m not trying to attack you here, but to be honest the reason you get this response is people use your reasons (and other reasons) to be picky and controlling, the conditions they cite are often “conditions of convenience”. Of this isn’t to say real allergies don’t exist, I would never dream of inviting my friends/family with celiac’s disease the “bread buffet” restaurant.

      But with many, one day the food bugs them and then the next week they are chowing down on it. My SMIL is notorious for this. So many people become rather jaded to hearing someone has an allergy. And they use the excuse of “allergies” to control the choice of where to eat.

      I think the way you bring dishes you can safely consume is a fairly good solution.

      • Shannon April 23, 2018, 8:27 am

        nothanks132, wow. So any time someone has a dietary restriction, they’re likely faking? “Many” of them?

        No. Not by a long shot.

        What usually happens is that you get SO TIRED of people like you fussing and rolling their eyes and acting like you’re a big faker, that you just say “heck with it” and force yourself to eat something that doesn’t work for you.

        So if I’m “chowing down” on chips, it’s because I’m hungry, options are limited, I’m sick to death of people who attack me while saying they’re “not trying to attack,” and I’d rather risk the nerve pain than deal with the criticism a minute longer.

        I wish I could eat whatever and be fine. It is stressful to have dietary restrictions. I hate it. I don’t want the hassle, I don’t want the attention, and I definitely don’t want the doubting and the rudeness.

        Try a little compassion and decency. Your personal convenience is not the top priority here.

        • Zhaleh April 23, 2018, 10:52 am

          I feel your pain. I’m allergic to some things and just don’t like others.
          I’m honest about which is which, if someone asks.
          But it’s not a big deal, I don’t see why I can’t eat some of what’s on offer and not other stuff and be done with it. Why do we even have to have a conversation about what’s on my plate.

          And it’s just so insulting that someone should thing that my saying “I’m allergic to eggplant” is a plea for attention. What kind so attention? What is going to happen? I’m going to pass the plate of eggplant along and everyone will continue the dinner. And I’m only saying if someone is commenting on it.
          And isn’t it more likely that the person asking for attention is the one saying, can you beleive she came to my house, sat at the table and didn’t eat the eggplant? My god, she’s such a baby!”

          Just because you have a person in your life that makes a big deal about food, don’t put that on someone else who doesn’t make a big deal but doesn’t eat a certain thing. That person that makes a big deal about food and “wants attention” will be doing that with medical issues, shopping, politics, cell phone companies etc. A person doesn’t become attention seeking due to an allergy. A person either is attention seeking or not.
          Honestly I won’t abide someone treating me like an infant and an attention seeker because I pass the eggplant, and their mother in law did the same thing put for everybody’s attention when she did so and followed it up with her medical history.
          If you can’t accept no thank you, it’s you, not is.

    • NostalgicGal April 19, 2018, 9:04 pm

      My sympathies, I have a long list too for medical reasons. I’m used to bringing my own (asking first) or eating before or after the event. I can’t and don’t expect anyone to try to accommodate me. Whether it be friend/club host or a restaurant. I agree with the OP contacting the PE and saying “I’m holding a themed meal/party, this is the menu.” and if the person wants to still attend, allowing them to bring something they can eat.

  • Margo April 19, 2018, 9:29 am

    Host the party you want to host.
    Invite the picky friend.
    let her know what the theme is.

    She can decide whether to come or not.
    If you like you could say, when you invite her, that you understand that she may not like the food but that would be welcome to come and mingle.Or that while you know she may not like the food, you are willing to [whatever you are willing to do – whether this is to make her a PB&J sandwich, let her bring something herself etc]

    Don’t feel bad about eating out elsewhere. It would be a kindness to try to have the occasional even t that she will enjoy, whether that is by letting her pick the restaurant for a group outing from time to time, or hosting (or suggesting she hosts) a pot luck or BBQ where she would like the food.

  • Anonymous April 19, 2018, 9:32 am

    I’m a vegan myself, and I think Vegetarian Friend is being reasonable (I was a vegetarian for nine and a half years before I went vegan in early 2011), and Picky Friend is not. I chose to be a vegetarian, and now I’m choosing to be a vegan (albeit for more profound reasons than Picky Friend’s exacting taste preferences), and so, I have to live with that choice. This means that I go to a lot of events for the company, and the activity, and not the food……and I stay home from a lot of events where the company and the activity revolves around the food. But, I think potluck is a good approach if you have friends with conflicting diets, for whatever reason. If you take it a step further and ask them to clearly label their dishes as vegetarian, vegan, [whatever problematic ingredient]-free, then nobody will accidentally eat anything they’re not supposed to have, and everyone will be happy. However, the only problem with potluck is, you can’t be too picky in dictating the theme, because people are going to be shopping and cooking for this party, and everyone has different amounts of time, money, and cooking ability.

    As for me, I’d rather have an Oktoberfest (or whatever) party with a few random items (like, say, big bags of chips and 2L’s of pop), than have one or more of my friends skip the party because they didn’t feel like they could contribute something “good enough.” In fact, I used to have a group of friends who’d always celebrate birthdays with a picnic in the local botanic gardens. We’d all bring a potluck item, and also bring guitars, Frisbees, et cetera. We’d eat, the birthday person would open gifts from the rest of us, and then we’d just hang, play Frisbee, sing songs, et cetera. The only problem was, we never managed to co-ordinate the potluck part, so we’d ALWAYS end up all bringing cupcakes. After a while, it became a running joke. As far as the food went, these weren’t “good” parties (and they usually resulted in some pretty epic sugar highs, because there was almost nothing to eat but cupcakes), but what mattered more to us was the time we spent together.

    • Bea April 19, 2018, 5:09 pm

      We host a 4th of July BBQ and one year my mom decided her response to anyone who asked what they should bring was “some potato chips.”
      There was a tower of chips for weeks…my gosh the chips.

    • ALM April 20, 2018, 8:54 am

      “and now I’m choosing to be a vegan (albeit for more profound reasons than Picky Friend’s exacting taste preferences), ”

      That’s a very interesting assumption considering none of us know Picky Friend, much less their reasons. You made a choice of what to eat. Your reasons are also personal preferences, and no more profound than anyone else’s.

    • Daria April 21, 2018, 4:19 pm

      Maybe picky eater has a “profound” reason for her likes and dislikes.

  • dippy April 19, 2018, 9:34 am

    I love sausages, kraut and beer! What time should I be there and what can I bring?

    • at work April 19, 2018, 12:02 pm

      I’ll pick you up on my way

  • NicoleDSK April 19, 2018, 9:55 am

    CHeese and crackers can be enough if you put out some nice cheeses. There are nice German ones and if you want to branch out you can add Austrian or Swiss which vaguely fall under the Germanic Culture umbrella. With a good German bread? Honestly if there were that and a salad I would be happy with it as the vegetarian option.

  • Lyn April 19, 2018, 9:58 am

    If you find a recipe for a dish you think she’d like (and eat) and feel like making it, do it. If not, when you invite her, tell her what you’re serving and tell her she can bring something if she feels she needs to. Done.

  • Celestia April 19, 2018, 10:04 am

    You don’t mention your picky friend being rude about the food you do serve, or about not going with you to restaurants. So I think you’re fine. If you felt like making something that you think she’d eat, it would be an above and beyond nice thing to do. Otherwise, leave it up to her whether she would like to eat cheese and crackers and come for the company or not.

  • PJ April 19, 2018, 10:06 am

    I don’t think you’re obligated to make a special dish for this friend, and they are fine to decline your invitation if they think they will not enjoy the hospitality you have to offer. I also have a friend who doesn’t like many foods at all. She eats beforehand and just snacks at dinners like this. Nobody notices or really cares as she doesn’t make a big deal out of it, and she considers it just a part of managing her own needs. I’d say she’s found a very gracious way through this situation.

    For a friend, I’d suggest making an extra effort. Ask her if anything within your theme sounds good to her, leave a bit with no sauce for her (lots of picky eaters like spaetzle because the flavor is so very mild– maybe there’s some potential hope there?), or see if there’s some other easy workaround. Not that it is required by etiquette, but that it is just a kind thing to do for someone you call a friend.

    But I’d also say that stating someone has “the dietary habits of an American toddler” is not something you’d do to someone you call a friend, so we may just not see eye to eye on any of this.

    • Anonymous April 19, 2018, 8:01 pm

      >>But I’d also say that stating someone has “the dietary habits of an American toddler” is not something you’d do to someone you call a friend, so we may just not see eye to eye on any of this.<<

      Meh. I think that's a grey area. You might say it if your friend will admit it him-or-herself (like I say that I write like a five-year-old, because my handwriting is a bit messy). You might say something like that behind your friend's back, without naming them, or to someone they'll never meet, so it won't get back to them (like I've said that one of my good friends from university has the metabolism of a hummingbird, but I'd never say that TO her). I don't think that kind of talk counts as mean/rude/gossipy/whatever, if you know it's not going to hurt or embarrass them. Also, if the OP were to list all of her friend's food likes, dislikes, and hang-ups, it probably would have made the post a lot longer than it had to be, so, "basically the eating habits of an American toddler" gives most people a general idea of how Picky Friend eats, because the majority of us are from North America, and those who aren't, can easily Google it.

    • iwadasn April 21, 2018, 12:36 pm

      That line rubbed me the wrong way, too. Either accommodate her preferences at the event or don’t, but posting here just to mock her seems like OP has deeper issues than her friend.

    • OP April 24, 2018, 1:00 pm

      One of the first times I went out with this friend for a meal, she recommended the place. When we got there she explained she likes to come here because they have one item she loves (captain crunch crusted chicken tenders and fries, I remember because I’d never tried a chicken tender made with captain crunch). She made the joke that she has the dietary habits of a toddler. I added American to it because I know the contributors on this site are from all over the globe and food norms vary widely. Any time we ventured out to a new spot, as long as there were chicken tenders on the menu or something else easily modifiable she would join. Only once did she say anything about feeling left out of group activities after several of us had gone out to eat 3 or 4 times in quick succession to places with specific and limited menus (think Korean bbq, dim sum, Peruvian ceviches, papusaria). Turned out the person organizing was trying to ‘make a point’ about her eating habits and was specifically picking places to exclude her. It’s hard to convey all this information into a post and not write a mini book.

      • PJ April 24, 2018, 1:59 pm

        Thank you, OP, for putting that quote into context. I understand better now. 🙂

  • technobabble April 19, 2018, 10:08 am

    I agree with admin. If your friend is aware of the menu ahead of time, it’s up to her to decide whether she is going to attend or not. I don’t even make my kid a separate meal when she doesn’t like what I’m serving. I certainly wouldn’t do it for a full-grown adult.

  • Zhaleh April 19, 2018, 10:10 am

    If you’re serving a theme dinner party, do the guests know ahead of time?

    In my circle the menu is usually known. So if the menu is known, serve it as is. She knows what to eat or what not to eat. Or she just won’t attend. Al long as you don’t watch what she’s eating, everything will be fine.

    When eating out, go ahead and talk about it and invite her if you like. She’ll order what’s she orders. I’m not sure why you feel you have to handle this for her.

    I’m a super picky eater and have had many online discussions about it. I don’t know why it offends people, I don’t know why they need to be so interested in what I order or don’t.
    I’m perfectly capable of eating a meal at any restaurant or home. I wish very much we could stop talking about it.

    If you have some other friend that is a picky eater and whines about it. Please don’t make it my problem or treat me like that friend. It’s her wining not her eating that is the issue and that’s not me no matter how much she offends you. (General you).

    I’m not a huge fan of the German sausage, or any sauce for that matter. I few of the less fatty ones taste pretty good, but they always leave me with a stomach ache for some reason. Ditto hot dogs for some reason. But I’ll eat sourkraut, schnitzel and beer. Would that be ok? Or as a guest am I obligated to eat everything?

    We’ve had this discussion before, but I guess with me, if you’re more concerned about what’s on my plate than my company, than we just can’t eat together.

    I’m so glad my friends don’t mind. Everyone’s mad for sushi, which I don’t care for but I have yet to find a sushi place where I can’t just order edamame and mango salad.

  • Valerie April 19, 2018, 10:10 am

    There is a limit to accommodation. Allergies are their own beast; I would never invite someone to my home and surround them with food that could potentially make them ill or kill them. But what your friend has are preferences, and it is not your job to manage them. It’s different when dining out just the 2 of you since her likes and dislikes should matter as much as yours do (though i’m sure your list is much shorter). I consider myself a “foodie” too but I still have a few things that I dont think I’ll ever learn to love, so I would be put out if my friend wanted to have dinner with my but would only consider going to the raw onion and hard-boiled egg restaurant. If you are tired of the same old restaurants then you always have the option of finding another activity to do with her that doesn’t involve food. As for group dinners and dinner parties, you extend the invite while making the destination or “theme” of the evening very clear, then leave it in her hands whether she wants to partake or not. And don’t fall for her trying to guilt you or anyone else to change plans in order to accommodate her. This is what we’re doing, we’d love to have you join us but understand if you can’t. We understand that you have issues with food, but with all due respect those are your issues to manage, it’s not our job to accommodate you at every turn.

  • Zhaleh April 19, 2018, 10:11 am

    Correction: Any sausage, not any sauce.

  • viviennebzb April 19, 2018, 10:13 am

    Don’t we invite people to events because we think they would enjoy participating? This event doesn’t sound like this particular friend’s cup of tea, at least from the food aspect. I see three ways to handle it: 1)Invite her, serve your chosen menu, and let her deal. 2) Invite her, and make something different just for her, or let her bring something for herself to eat. 3)Don’t invite her this time.

  • Kelly Taylor April 19, 2018, 10:16 am

    My MIL had very specific, difficult dietary restrictions. She had no problem bringing a little portable cooler with various things that she could eat, so she could participate in family gatherings.

    It might be time for a talk with your friend about how she would prefer to handle this. “Zanzie, I know you don’t care for ___, ___ or ___. If we’re going to a place/hosting a party that involves a food you hate, would you prefer to be invited, and bring your own food/meal/snacks, or that we not include you at an event where you won’t be able to find something you can eat?”

  • Purpose April 19, 2018, 10:26 am

    Your American toddler friend sounds dreadful. Good luck with your foodie issues. ?

    • Anonymous April 20, 2018, 10:21 am

      I don’t know; maybe Picky Friend is a good friend in other ways, and picky eating is her only flaw/hang-up/whatever you want to call it. Maybe OP and Picky Friend have other, non-food-related activities that they enjoy doing together that her other friends aren’t into. Maybe OP and Picky Friend like to go hiking or take a yoga class together, while her other friends aren’t that active. Maybe they both love independent films, while her other friends are more into mainstream rom-coms. Maybe they sing in a choir, or play in an orchestra, or act in a theatre group, or take a dance class together, while her other friends are too self-conscious. Maybe Picky Friend is the kind of friend who’ll babysit someone’s kids overnight or lend them her car in an emergency, or help them move. What I’m trying to say is, the OP didn’t tell us anything about Picky Friend, besides her eating habits, so we can’t assume that she’s dreadful in general. There has to be some reason why they’re friends.

  • Beez April 19, 2018, 10:51 am

    If the food restrictions are because of a health problem I try to provide at least one option that person can eat. If it is purely because they choose to eat that way I just make sure they are informed of what will be served allowing them to make an informed choice, allowing of course for them to bring something if they would like.

  • Dee April 19, 2018, 10:56 am

    OP, you’re not excluding your toddler friend. She is excluding herself. Keep issuing invitations and such and don’t expect her to attend or like the offerings. She may never change and she certainly won’t if everyone enables her spoiled behaviour. And your party sounds lovely – don’t change a thing for anyone with bad behaviour. I’m not crazy about German food but I’d love to attend a party like that, for the opportunity to sample things I don’t usually get to and for the atmosphere, and mostly for the friends. Your friend could choose to do the same, nobody’s stopping her.

    • PJ April 20, 2018, 10:32 am

      This friend is spoiled and enabled because they don’t like a lot of foods?

      There’s no mention of scrunching up her nose and making “icky” faces at other peoples’ food, no mention of complaining about the awful food choices her friends are making, no mention of pouting because she can’t find anything she’ll eat, etc. We just know a couple of examples of what she likes, and that she’ll find something (cheese and crackers) to eat at a party that doesn’t have food for her tastes.

      The OP didn’t present anything that sounds spoiled– sending back a plate because it contains food she doesn’t like is reasonable if she was clear upfront about it (pickles are very strong and the flavor persists even after removing them); can’t tell whether she was upfront from the OP.

      I find it interesting that you think this is something that a person can change. While I like most foods, no amount of someone telling me I have an attitude problem or that I’ve been coddled will make me ‘decide’ to like a food. It isn’t a stubborn mindset.

      It makes food-centric entertaining difficult, for sure, but the name calling and obsessing about this friend’s eating habits say more about the OP than the friend. Plenty of posters here see some very easy accommodations, like showing the menu beforehand or letting her bring her own food. It doesn’t have to be made into something awful.

      • Dee April 23, 2018, 12:20 pm

        This person requires her friends to do a lot of accommodating of her picky eating preferences – that’s spoiled behaviour, right there. OP listed numerous examples where this behaviour has become quite prominent in picky eater’s life, affecting everyone around her. It’s one thing to be a picky eater, that’s a choice everyone is free to make, but there’s no reason why anyone else has to know about it. Don’t like the pickle touching your food? Then don’t eat that part of the food. Don’t like certain restaurants that everyone else wants to go to? Then either decline to go or order the simplest salad on the menu and pretend you’re not all that hungry. That’s how mature adults behave.

        OP is right that her friend is like a spoiled toddler. The question is, would picky friend continue to hang around the others if they stopped bending over backwards for her? Because if she wouldn’t, then she isn’t much of a friend. As it is now, the others are enabling her and it’s unclear if there is a true give-and-take relationship, or if the enabling is continuing the relationship that would otherwise have ended naturally.

        • OP April 24, 2018, 1:18 pm

          My friend is not a spoiled toddler. I used American toddler as a simplistic descriptor of typical food choices (chicken tenders, Mac and cheese, plain pasta, fries, steamed veggies with no herbs or spices) but that only applies to her palate, not her behavior. When making plans together we look at the menu and pick a place we’d both enjoy. When it’s groups with new restaurants, she’ll check out the menu and maybe join us after dinner for drinks if there isn’t anything she’d enjoy. I’m only so aware of her food preferences because we’ve been friends for 10 years and have probably shared 100+ meals together.

  • eddie April 19, 2018, 11:03 am

    Invite her and let her know what is on the menu. She can ask to bring a dish, or pre-eat so she can just nibble at the party. As a person with dietary restrictions, I never expect to be accommodated. If I’m going to a barbecue, I will bring a dish that I know I can eat and/or nibble on sides. If I’m going to a steak and lobster place, I will pre-eat and order a salad or a side.

    The less people pay attention to what I’m eating, the happier I am. I am uncomfortable when people point out “you’re not eating anything” or ask “is there anything you can eat” or direct me that “you can eat this and this and this”. I really don’t want to draw attention to what I am / am not eating. Serve what you plan to serve, and grown people will take care of their own needs.

  • Barbara Foster April 19, 2018, 11:08 am

    If she’s a really good friend, I’d lay it out. “I have a menu that you probably wont eat. Do you want to come anyway? You could bring a dish of your own if you want.”

    To be fair, picky eaters aren’t usually so just to get attention. They really do find it hard to eat stuff other than their “same old,” due to taste or sensory issues. (Reference: Myself as a child.) However, that doesn’t mean they can’t exercise their taste buds. Trying new foods (sometimes when it’s eat what’s in front of you or go hungry) is often a good way to learn to be more adventurous. I still find myself thinking about a new food, “Eww, I’ll HATE that!” but discover when I try it, that it’s actually pretty good.

    It’s a trust thing. Picky eaters really don’t trust that food won’t make them sick or disgust them, but exploring food teaches them to be more open.

  • Skaramouche April 19, 2018, 11:12 am

    My opinion is not going to be a popular one but I think it’s really not your problem. In my humble opinion, the reason for dietary restrictions does not matter, the onus is on the person with the restriction(s) to be flexible and understanding. Of course, someone who doesn’t make a fuss or demands and participates in whatever way possible is much more likely to incite friends to go out of their way to be accommodating. Your friend does not sound like that sort of person. Does she go to all the chosen restaurants with a smile and for the sake of the company even though she knows that she can’t eat anything? Or does she graciously decline without pouting and without making you feel bad? Either of these would make you *want* to have something available for her. I’m not sure how bad her restrictions are. Would chicken sausages do the trick? However, if she makes her dietary restrictions your problem every single time and makes you feel guilty if there’s nothing for her to eat, I’d say it’s fine to let her fend for herself. Why should you go out of your way to accommodate her when she makes no efforts on your behalf even though she’s the one with the special requirements? This is a themed dinner and she can either a) not attend or b) attend but only eat cheese and crackers or c) ask you in advance whether she can bring something for herself.

    • Kate 2 April 19, 2018, 3:53 pm

      That’s my opinion too. I have a medical dietary restriction and I would never dream of telling my friends or asking them to change their menus for me. We are adults, we can eat before the party or after the party, but asking others to accommodate us is rude.

      Think of all the restrictions there are! Even excluding picky eaters and people on diets:

      Nut Allergy
      Shellfish Allergy
      Other Allergies

      And if you have two or more people with dietary restrictions at the same party you are really in trouble, especially if they have opposite restrictions.

      Expecting the host/ess to handle all these different possible restrictions, some of which may involve sourcing hard to find foods or ingredients (thinking especially halal and gluten-free, even in my big city these can be hard to find ingredients for) or unfamiliar cooking/baking processes, is too much.

      Rather, we should eat before or after, go to the dinner or party, eat what we can and enjoy the company of our friends. It makes everyone’s lives much simpler and more enjoyable.

  • Val April 19, 2018, 11:18 am

    If it were a small dinner party, such as inviting 3-4 friends over for a meal, I’d I accommodate their preferences to the extent I am able. However, if I were hosting a themed party–such as “German style”–or hosting a far larger event, I would not, simply due to time and budgetary constraints. I would give the choosy eater friend a heads up about the menu and let them know it’s fine if they want to bring along a substitute meal for themselves.

    Note: I used to be a much pickier eater. I did not expect others to accommodate my peculiarities. I still operate on the assumption that adults are able to decide how to navigate such situations, especially when the planned menu is known in advance. My old coping strategy was to eat a small meal ahead of time, then snack on whatever foods I did like at the event.

    I admire those who are braver than myself in the culinary world. Keep being adventuresome, foodies!

  • Semperviren April 19, 2018, 11:22 am

    I’ll try to make general accommodations (avoid picking a spicy menu when my friend who doesn’t like spicy is coming, make sure there’s something appropriate for my vegan in-laws) but if someone’s requirements are THAT restrictive they’re on their own. I’ll invite them but I’m not jumping through a million hoops, they’re welcome to bring their own.

  • Rebecca April 19, 2018, 11:26 am

    I’m an extremely picky eater due to sensory issues and past trauma…not by choice.
    When it’s family, they’re usually aware and provide at least one dish for me to eat.
    When it’s friends, I check beforehand and ask if I can bring my own dish, which is usually fine with them.

  • staceyizme April 19, 2018, 11:47 am

    As long as you know that there is something reasonably substantial that she can eat, you don’t need to offer an alternative entree per se. One of the burdens of hosting longtime friends is providing reasonably for their comfort even if it’s inconvenient. That said, you seem more traumatized by the prospect of adjusting to her tastes on an ongoing basis than is really warranted. There’s something not quite nice about being overly focused on what someone else eats. It’s just as rude in its own way as being an overly picky eater.

    • Semperviren April 19, 2018, 3:52 pm

      “There’s something not quite nice about being overly focused on what someone else eats.” – Totally agree with this.

    • Anonymous April 19, 2018, 9:12 pm

      Actually, I’d say that being a picky eater isn’t rude in itself, as long as you don’t force other people to accommodate your pickiness. So, if Picky Friend threw a fit and demanded that the OP serve, say, PBJ’s with the crusts cut off, at an Oktoberfest party, then that would be rude. However, if Picky Friend simply chose not to go to the Oktoberfest party, but suggested getting together some other way, some other time (potluck, mutually-agreeable restaurant, non-food activity), then I think that’d be okay. I think it’d also be okay if Friend went to the Oktoberfest party and cheerfully participated in the activities, and socialized with the other guests, even if she didn’t eat much, or anything at all…….which is what I do at most large social gatherings that revolve around food, as a vegan.

  • Queen of the Weezils April 19, 2018, 12:02 pm

    It’s hard to select restaurants when you are an adventurous eater and your companion is a picky one. I say invite the picky eater friend and provide a link to the menu. If the picky eater says “ick”, then they can decline. If they complain, you say “maybe next time”.

    When I host, I try to keep guest preferences in mind but there reaches a point where it is just too difficult to handle everyone’s. It’s easy to eliminate nuts from a menu, not so easy to eliminate garlic and onions (the staples of my cooking). So I tell people what I am making, and those who can’t find anything there they like can either decline or bring something to share.

    • Queen of the Weezils April 19, 2018, 12:04 pm

      I meant to add that you need to stop making this your problem. It isn’t. Her picky eating – whether it is medical, religious, ethical, or just disgust – is her problem and she needs to learn how to manage in a world where pickles exist and sometimes touch other food.

  • Queen of the Weezils April 19, 2018, 12:07 pm

    To accommodate picky eater guests at that particular party….. Well, the only thing I could think of and still stay in theme is getting a package of chicken sausage to cook separate from the saurkraut. But that might be too much, depending on your set up and timetable. I’m a little surprised she won’t eat spaetzle, since that is just a sort of buttered noodle. You can lay out the menu for her and say that if she wants to provide something in theme that she can eat, she is welcome to bring it. Otherwise…. her problem.

    • psammead April 23, 2018, 7:42 pm

      And what about dessert? There are as many different kinds of German pastries and desserts as there are French ones; surely there’s got to be something she would eat.

  • SamiHami April 19, 2018, 12:07 pm

    I don’t agree with changing the style of the dinner party to accommodate a picky eater. I think OP should have the dinner party she wants with people that are more likely to enjoy the food, and invite the picky eater whenever she plans on having a potluck or other style of party. I wouldn’t talk about it in front of Picky, but I wouldn’t hide or be secretive about it, either. If Picky said something about not being invited, OP can kindly—and truthfully—say something like, “Oh, I would have loved to have invited you, but I’ve noticed that you have some pretty serious restrictions regarding food. The meal I planned didn’t have any foods that you eat, so you wouldn’t enjoy yourself and I wouldn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.” And then perhaps plan a get together with Picky that would be more in line with her preferences.

    I mean, if I chose to have a meal where the centerpiece was ham, I would not invite my Jewish friends, because I know they wouldn’t enjoy it. Nor would I invite my Hindi friend over for a steak dinner. I would invite the people most likely to enjoy whatever I am serving, and if I wanted to have a themed meal, such as the OP’s German style meal, then it wouldn’t make sense to invite someone that she knows wouldn’t like it, no matter how much she likes that person. That just wouldn’t be an event appropriate for that person.

  • Marie April 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

    In the Netherlands we have a saying: “eten wat de pot schaft”, which translates to: eating what the pot eats. Or in a normal sentence: you eat whatever is being provided. If you host a meal where it is clear upfront what will be served, it is her own choice if she wants to join or not.
    If I host a party that’s for a special event, I will make sure to take self imposed diets into account. If it’s just a get together, I don’t (but then everyone will know the menu beforehand so they can choose).

    Exceptions are of course diets for medical reasons.