Dear Urban Diplomat: Am I obligated to provide a gluten-free option at my kid’s birthday party?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
Last week we sent out e-vites for our son’s 10th birthday. The RSVPs started coming back, and in two cases, parents wrote “gluten-free preferred” in the space for allergies and dietary restrictions. What the heck is that? I’m not asking for preferences—I’m asking if their kid will keel over if he catches a whiff of chocolate icing or offend Allah by consuming non-Halal pepperoni. I’m disinclined to accommodate these requests, but my husband thinks we should, to avoid any social awkwardness. Am I out of line here, or are they?
—Let Them Eat Cake, Streetsville
Glutenphobia has joined lacto-ovo vegetarianism, kangatarianism and Edenism on the long list of abstemious dietary trends that make throwing a party as straightforward as hosting the G20 Summit. The key word is “preferred.” If there were a true celiac in the group—someone for whom the consumption of gluten results in violent diarrhea—the request would have been far more adamant. Still, are you prepared to upset the fragile ecosystem that is your son’s social circle on principle? Ordering a gluten-free pizza won’t kill you. A kid playing Twister with an explosive digestive system, on the other hand, can be a party killer, and fast.
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5 thoughts on “Dear Urban Diplomat: Am I obligated to provide a gluten-free option at my kid’s birthday party?”
I am really puzzled by this new Gluten Free movement, it seems that what has been solely the concern of those suffering Celiac disease is now a trendy diet fad that is being thrust about. Much as true Celiac sufferers are benefiting from this boom in gluten-free options, what most Gluten Free ‘Fadists’ seem to be avoiding is highly refined and processes wheat flour. A few celebrities hop onto the bandwagon, because they can afford the luxury of a private chef, and suddenly all the world wants to follow suit. I can certainly understand a desire to cut out the white ‘candy’ processed flours, grains, sugars, and additives, and it will make you feel better, but to suggest that a mother having a birthday party avoid flour in pizza, cake, and other food offerings, is going a bit far for those who do not have Celiac disease. There is a difference between an allergy or intolerance, and a preference.
It is not like a Vegan who chooses to give up all animal products for their own health. For instance, even though most people tend to have issues with cow’s milk, with lactose intolerance a natural state developing as we age, since non-human milk is not meant for our consumption, and even human milk is meant for newborns, infants, and young children – even as old a 5 or 6 years. Many dairy products and eggs can be very hard on our digestive systems and are known allergens. As a vegan myself, I would never expect someone throwing a party to make a menu suitable for my choices, as much as that would be nice, and as much as I wish more people might embrace a vegan diet, it is not realistic. Wheat has been a dietary staple since the dawn of man, and only since it has been highly refined and genetically altered is it causing problems for many people, particularly on a digestive level.
If you have chosen a dietary course for yourself, such as vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free as a preference, no matter how noble your intent, you cannot expect the world to cater to your whims. You can provide for yourself and your family, but to expect others to do so when it is not medically necessary is absurd. If it is a peanut allergy, or something with the risk of a violent allergic response, then by all means notify the parents throwing the party and find out if you can work with them to make it safe for your child without inconveniencing them. Gluten free preference is not an allergy or even a reasonable request to make, it’s all or nothing — if it is an allergy or Celiac child, a parent would be explicit.
I think as a parent, you need to advocate for your child’s needs and preferences, where possible, but children still need to learn to manage in a world that doesn’t always cater to their wants. They may prefer a chocolate cake to vanilla, but you wouldn’t be that specific when you RSVP to a party, no one ever suffered PTSD as an adult for not having their favorite frosting on someone Else’s birthday cake. Children are growing up with an overblown sense of entitlement, must we contribute to this by teaching them that everything should always be altered to suit their wishes?
They may be eliminating gluten to test their child’s reaction to it – some will eliminate and then re-introduce foods to test for reactions. As a celiac I don’t expect people to make special dishes for me, however, I do often eat before going or bring a dish along. As an adult it is different, for child I would accomodate and/or ask the parents why preferred? Hamburgers and fries (& veggie sticks) would be the idea choice since they can just bring a bun for their child and you do the regular hamburger and fries.
This is probably why they said “preferred” because they weren’t expecting to be catered to. They were making their hosts aware that there will be a child attending with a gluten issue. I think this was a very polite way to avoid any embarrassment or inconvenience at the party when the child didn’t partake in the food or brought their own alternatives. In no way did the parents response suggest any expectation that the food should be gluten free. If the host didn’t want to know she shouldn’t have asked. What would have been rude is if the guest showed up without telling the host who did ask about food issues and then just didn’t eat at all or brought their own food and made the host feel bad because she was never given the opportunity to provide them with anything gluten free.
In my experience, people with actual severe allergies usually bring their own food. Not that they should have to, but if it’s a life and death situation, are you really going to trust your well-being to someone who likely isn’t nearly as knowledgeable about your condition as you are?
But a preference is a choice, and when you make a choice, you accept the consequences. Gluten is harmless to people who don’t suffer from Celiac disease (yes it is. Yes, it is. No, I don’t care that when you started eating fruit instead of cupcakes you lost weight and felt better. That’s how food works. The gluten has nothing to do with it), but if they want to spend their energy trying to avoid it, more power to them. But it’s not your responsibility. You don’t have to spend your energy trying to accommodate them. If their issue isn’t severe enough for them to offer to bring their own food, then while it’s nice of you to offer, it isn’t severe enough for you to have to conform.
Yes, agreed, thank you, can you please go around saying that to everybody?
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