When you invite someone to a party, you want them to come and have a good time. This means, on occasion, you might need to consider their special needs. I also have an 11-year-old daughter who is coeliac, so she must eat gluten-free foods. So obviously, yes, I would cater for different diets.
In today’s society, we’re faced with the challenges for allergies all too often. While you may be focusing on the person celebrating their birthday or other special occasion, if you don’t make guests feel included and valued, it can really put a dampener on things.
I’d ask on RSVP for any dietary requests and then cater for them. I’d do my best to choose foods that support these requests and have them well-labelled. From experience, I’d also keep a small stash separate from the food table, as there have been many functions we’ve been to where people without diet restrictions eat the gluten-free (or alternative-diet requested) food, and there is nothing left for the actual person who requires it. Keeping a stash will ensure they're not left hungry.
When hosting a party, you’ll usually put a fair bit of effort and planning to ensure the day is just right. Making that extra effort to cater for people with allergies will be well worth it and the gratitude will say it all.
That said, I don’t expect people to do this for my daughter. Catering for an allergy can be expensive and more often than not, I’ll feel incredibly guilty if people go out of their way for my daughter. As such, I’ll usually ask the host what party food they’re having and attempt to provide my daughter with a lunchbox of similar snacks.
Some diet restrictions, such as kosher or vegetarian, are easy to accommodate and I’d be more than glad to do so. The cost of the food is comparable and the menu can still be kid-friendly.
But when a child’s diet restrictions are far too complicated or expensive, or can result in a medical emergency, I think it’s up to the child’s parents to provide a safe alternative. Host parents can help by ensuring allergens or avoided foods are as limited as possible.
For my son’s fourth birthday party, I invited his entire class of 25 kids. One of his classmates was allergic to the gamut: wheat, gluten, eggs, peanuts, soy, corn.
I’ve tried my best to accommodate this girl in the past, but even when I bought cupcakes from the (super expensive!) allergy-free bakery—which is as sterile as an operating room, with the chefs in disposable gloves—the girl’s mum was still uncomfortable feeding her daughter them. I then understood that with serious allergies, parents are hyper-vigilant about how their child’s food is prepared. Understandably so.
Still, it was in my blood to be considerate. My strategy? I served non-allergenic appetisers. This way, for the majority of the party, kids or parents weren’t running around with potentially hazardous fingers.
When the pizza and cupcakes (not from the allergy-free bakery, incidentally, since the cost would have been prohibitive) arrived later, the mum and daughter simply sat at another table and ate the meal they’d brought from home. The mum was grateful she got to relax for as long as she did!