Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

I have a gluten and a meat intolerance.  For years, at family gatherings I have just eaten what was available, but lately I have found that there is scant food that I can eat there. I have offered to bring food that I can eat, but as it is always buffet style, the other guests have eaten it all before I can get to it.

My family has been aware of my dietary restrictions for many years, but they refuse to respect my needs and I’m not comfortable accepting invitations to any of the family dinners anymore. What are my options?

Looking for Solutions,


Dear Looking: In my family we have several food allergies and preferences, so I know that sometimes it takes a little more effort to be sure that no one leaves the table hungry. I, myself, have been faced with a meal consisting solely of shrimp and grits, when I know those pretty little pink creatures will literally take my breath away if consumed.

A friend just sent me this quote: “Don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength.”  I am going to ask you to gather up such polite strength before the very next family meal. Although you say you have tried it before, call the host or hostess. This time say, “I really enjoy our family times together, but the meals have become very difficult for me because I am intolerant of both gluten and meat. I would like us to come up with a plan for this next one. May I bring a dish (or two) that I can eat to share and reserve a portion of it before it is put on the buffet?”

In the same conversation, tell her you know that these allergies can be very confusing and ask if it would help if you gave her some suggestions of foods you can eat. Offer to send her some simple recipes. Most of all, convey your sadness at not being able to enjoy being at the table with your family.

You are not alone in seeking a solution to this dilemma. I have been at tables where those with food allergies have literally brought their entire meal. However, being able to share is a lovely thing and any hostess worth her salt, or pepper, will work with you to make you part of such an experience.

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at