Thursday, July 08, 2010

Planning a Party for Diverse Diets

By katherine

This Fourth of July I faced an unusual challenge in planning our celebratory barbecue. The guests included two guests with Celiac disease (one of them being me), one pescetarian (eats fish, no meat), one low-carber, and one Primal kid (me again!).

At first glance, it seems impossible to compose a menu that will please all palates while providing enough diversity for the guests without restricted diets. Nevertheless, I found a way to create a meal that would please everyone, leave no one hungry, and provide variety and abundance for all.

Since I have the most restrictive diet (Celiac and Primal) and since I was the primary cook, I figured I could forgo appetizers. To start I chose to make guacamole with tortilla chips (gluten-free) and to serve a passed appetizer of crab-stuffed mushrooms (meatless). Who doesn’t like guacamole? Really? The tortilla chips also made this dish Celiac friendly, so my boyfriend’s brother - the other Celiac in the group - could enjoy some pre-dinner munchies.

Now as a side note, I will add that the guests were also enjoying beverages. It is a good idea to stock up on a variety of drinks, be they alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Guests without any dietary restrictions can enjoy any sort of adult libations, but it is also possible to find decent gluten-free beers (New Planet, Redbridge, etc.). Wine and spirits can also be good options for your gluten-free guests. Of course, drinks need not be alcoholic, as I enjoyed sparkling and mineral waters all evening. I highly recommend supplying a few bottles of sparkling water at your party because they give your non-alcohol drinkers a sense of festivity without the addition of alcohol. If you choose to have some sparkling water, consider preparing some wedges of lemon or lime in advance to serve with these drinks.

Alright, so on to the main meal. I wanted to grill since it was the Fouth of July! Given my restrictions, I went to the store and saw that the Arctic Charr would be the best choice. It looked fresh and delicious. I bought three filets. My boyfriend grabbed four skewers of prepared vegetable skewers. I picked up a bunch of asparagus. I had also prepared a Greek-ish salad made up of red onion, tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper, kalamata olives, olive oil, red wine vinegar, spices, and feta cheese.

I guess I won’t bore you with recipes for now. However, the raw ingredients were prepared and ended up on the grill and came out beautifully, served with my Greek-ish salad. It was Primal; it was delicious; and, nobody came away hungry.

I guess the whole philosophy behind the meal was not to completely exclude anyone. At the same time, I did not find it necessary to accommodate every person’s diet with every dish. My goal was to provide each person with at least one or several options for each dish (the main dishes were entirely pescetarian, low-carb, gluten-free, but just not all Primal). The only person I kind of excluded was myself, but that’s because I was the host, and I was too busy to eat any appetizers. I think variety was the key with this meal, and, so long as one tries to accommodate one’s guests for the most part (think 80/20 principle), then I think one should have no problems.

I know my guests left very full and happy. Maybe too full and happy, but I know everyone enjoyed the food and never had to restrict his or her consumption. We didn’t even have dessert!

Well, if you want more details, let me know. Otherwise, I hope my advice can help you with the planning of your menus when dealing with very diverse menu requirements.

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