Host Says Guests Are Lucky To Be Invited & When A Bad Influence Walks Through The Door

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

DEAR CAT: I’m having a dinner party and I just learned via an email that my coworker’s girlfriend is a vegetarian. This throws off my entire menu and I feel if you are hosting something, you should not have to accommodate special requests because people should feel lucky to be invited and they should appreciate your efforts. There will be bread and side dishes, isn’t that enough? I would not go to a vegetarian’s house and demand they cook meat for me! What is your call on this? — LAMB STEWED

DEAR LAMB: You think guests should feel lucky to be at your table? I hope your cooking skills are as impressive as your ego. Flip it around and imagine a dinner where you can’t eat what is served and perfectly good food sits untouched on the plate. What a waste! Of course bread and side dishes are technically enough food but a bowl of pasta takes no effort for a gourmet such as yourself. If a guest had a severe allergy to an ingredient, would you consider that an imposition? Remember, these are invited guests…Cat’s Call: Not party crashers and beggars.

DEAR CAT: Our backyard faces another house and there is a child there who we can’t stand and we really don’t want our child playing with her. She is a bad influence – she hits, bites, yells, has temper tantrums, gives you dirty looks, or she growls if you say anything negative to her. We don’t let our child over there to play because we don’t trust the mom. This child will walk right into our house and demand that our child play with her. When we say no and explain why, she stands with her arms crossed, stamps her foot and gives us a dirty look. Or she will ask “why?” over and over. We’ve explained to this child not to walk into our house but it does no good. Our daughter is starting to pick up her bad habits and we have a heck of a time ‘getting her back.’ We look forward to school starting because our child will not be around her very much. We can’t move because of money. We can’t talk to the mom because she will make your life hell. I don’t know what to do. We have one car and I use it to go to work. There is no transportation for my family to go anywhere so they are basically stuck at home. My boyfriend does take her to the library, park, or bike rides, but there’s only so long you can stay out. We explained to our child that we don’t want her going over there but there are no other children her age in the area. Is there any advice you can give us? – FRUSTRATED MOM

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Every time parents say they “explained” something like this to their young child, I picture my mother rolling her eyes and I’m reminded of the most famous mother explanation in the world: “because I said so.” It is your job to protect your daughter, end of story. If she has to spend lots of time at home, so be it. Give her assignments and projects such as reading and writing and art and puzzles and simple math and coloring (depending upon her age) and little chores she can accomplish every day. Your boyfriend should be your partner in this! When you get home from work, give her gold stars for jobs well done. Or give her pennies to collect and save. If your daughter has to spend a summer learning and mostly at-home, is that really the worst thing in the world? And in terms of that child walking into your house….Cat’s Call: Have you ever tried locking the door?

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: or click here!.

  1. Dear Lamb Stewed, I am so glad you will never invite me to your dinner parties. I have been a vegetarian for pretty much my entire life. I have food allergies. I do not make a big deal about it and always offer to bring something to share that I can eat, matching my dish to fit the theme of the host. It is, however, a nice gesture when the host takes into consideration how severe my fish allergy is, for example. I ask my guests EVERYTIME if there is anything I need to know before preparing the menu when I host a party. I want my guests to be happy at my party.

    This is a gathering of friends, why would I want any one of them to feel uncomfortable or fall ill? You really have it all wrong.

    — mirlee, Pittsburgh    09/06/2011    Reply

  2. It is not that hard to protect your child from ONE other kid. I agree with Cat, you are a mother so put your foot down! I also agree with don’t bother to explain this to your daughter. Say no and that is it. I am very confused when you say “our child” and you call him your boyfriend. I am no big traditionalist but get married for goodness sakes and give your daughter a solid family foundation. That will make her less vulnerable to bad elements down the road.

    — Kendell south side    09/06/2011    Reply

  3. If people would actually just TRY to be considerate and thoughtful in their lives, could you imagine what a nicer world this would be? If you discover that someone you have invited to dinner is vegetarian, it is not that difficult to find a way that an item can be made to allow this person to fully enjoy the evening’s meal. Are you absolutely required to do this? No, but as a good and caring friend, wouldn’t it make your vegetarian friend feel welcome in your home if you took her lifestyle or dietary needs into consideration when planning a meal for him/her to enjoy?

    — Deanna, Johnstown    09/06/2011    Reply

  4. OK, maybe I’m an old grouch, but I do get tired of soooo many people having “special” requirements these days. My call would be – put the meal out, and let those with particular tastes pick around what they don’t/won’t eat. So, she misses out on the meatloaf – I’m sure she can fill up on mashes potatoes, green beans, and rolls. Just like I do when someone serves me a meal with brocholli or spinach – I pick around what I don’t care for. Is that so difficult?

    Another instance (although some may not see the connection) – when did the proliferation of those electric scooters cause it to be manatory transportation for everyone from gout sufferers to arthritics? Are these conditions so much more painful than they’ve been in the past, that they have to plunk their (normally) big behinds into a scooter to get around? That also is a “special” requirement that didn’t used to exist – until we made it so….

    I know I’ll get return fire on this and I don’t care – we’re turning this country into a nation of wussies – God help us all…..

    P.S. Cat – you seem to usually take the “live and let live” approach – and that’s fine, but how about Kendall above calling out Frustrated for having a kid out of wedlock? WTF? What does that have to do with the situation at hand? Stay on subject, Kendall…..

    — Ben - VA    09/06/2011    Reply

    1. Ben, you have Republican written all over you.

      — Brian, Pittsburgh    09/06/2011    Reply

    2. Yes, Ben, you are right: you are indeed an old grouch.

      — Nancy in Pittsburgh    09/08/2011    Reply

  5. Excuse me, Ben, but until you’ve suffered from a stroke, causing weakness in your left side, causing your right arthritic side to take most of your weight, which has ballooned thanks to weight-gaining medicine, then you can tell my mother to stop getting in a scooter to be able to go on a simple shopping, which she used to enjoy.

    And what the hell has this got to do with today’s column?

    My call on both:
    1st: make some pasta and shut the hell up.
    2nd: lock the door and tell both children NO.

    — Beth - Pittsburgh    09/06/2011    Reply

    1. To Ben: I like what Beth said. The need for an electric wheelchair is just that – a need. My mother had to have kidney dialysis three times a week for the last three years of her life, and after a session, there was no way she could get around on her own. She was so weak she could barely sit up some days. Hence her electric wheelchair. But that aside, what the heck does it have to do with someone’s dietary restrictions or preferences? Nothing, I say.

      To Stewed: My husband and I have friends over every week; I cook the main dish, and everyone else brings something to add to the meal. I always make sure there’s something available for my vegetarian friends to eat, even if it involves making two versions of the same dish. Get over it, Stewed. Regardless of the reason for their food preferences, being a good hostess means making sure that everyone you invite into your home is able to enjoy themselves.

      — Elizabeth - Pittsburgh    09/08/2011    Reply

  6. Regarding the frustrated mom … remember that “YOU” are the one who is in charge, not the children. No kid in the neighborhood would have ever have walked into my house, but if they had? I certainly would not have stood there very long to even have allowed the child to throw a hissy fit by stamping her feet and crossing her arms. I would have immediately guided her to and out the front door as I admonished her about not entering other peoples homes. Never would I have “asked” her to leave. You don’t “ask” children, you direct them. I would have then escorted her across the lawn and into her own yard and made it crystal clear that she was not to return. I’d do this in a stern “motherly” manner and would not have answered any questions along the way. Just because a child asks a question, especially when being sternly disciplined in this manner, does not mean you answer it. YOU lead the conversation only where you need it, and want it to go. If done in the proper manner, that child will not return to your yard. As for your daughter, there was a line I’d use with my daughter when she was younger when she didn’t do something she was told to, I’d tell her that “I wasn’t asking” and then follow through with ensuring she did what she was told. If you give your power and authority away to a child, then you’re teaching them that they can take it from you. Once it’s gone, you rarely get it back and you have only yourself to blame when they don’t listen in the future. Don’t be afraid to be mom who rules her home. You’re a mom, not a best friend … yet. That comes years later when they’re off to college after all that hard work has been done and they’ve learned to respect you because of it.

    — Louisa Pittsburgh    09/06/2011    Reply

  7. I think the only thing that needs to be done to accommodate a vegetarian for a single dinner is to make sure that there is only one meat item, and that the other items served do not contain meat. So, for example, serving beef stew with noodles would not be good as they could only eat the noodles, but serving steak with sides of broccoli, mashed potatoes, and salad should be fine. If it is someone staying over, then it is appropriate to consider their dietary restrictions. As far as food allegies, if someone has a lot of allergies and severe allergic reactions, I ask them to bring their own food rather than taking a chance. Most people with food allergies are actually glad to do this as they don’t have to worry about accidentally eating something they are allergic to. Finally, when some of our relatives stay over, with a long list of things that they don’t like to eat, they are welcome to bring and prepare whatever food they want to have. I only cook one meal – it’s not a restaurant.

    — PB from NY    09/06/2011    Reply

  8. Lamb Stewed: get off your high horse and show some common courtesy and decency. She’s not asking you to redo the entire dinner, but you sure seem like you’ve spent millions of dollars on this once in a lifetime extravaganza. Get over yourself, and maybe you’ll make some new friends.

    Frustrated Mom: get off your lazy butt and take charge! Are two little witches running your entire life? Put locks on the doors to keep the little devil child out, and your formerly angelic cherub in. Next time the neighbor’s kid comes over call the cops or Children and Youth Services and file a complaint about it; how is she going to make your life hell that won’t also get her into trouble? Sounds like you are afraid of your own shadow, and let people walk all over you. If the boyfriend doesn’t live with you, move in with him. If he isn’t your child’s father, where is he? Can you stay with him? I know you said you can’t move due to money, but I’m sure you can work something out somewhere to get your child into a better situation.

    — wertzro in pittsburgh    09/07/2011    Reply

  9. Frustrated, have you ever thought of inviting the little girl over to play and tell her the ground rules. Tell her that you enjoy her company and that you want your child to have someone to play with, but if she misbehaves, she will have to leave. Give her consequences for her actions and rewards for good behavior. Give the girls something constructive to do and join them – help them bake cupcakes, or make a lunch and have a tea party. It seems to me that this little girl is starved for attention and she only gets it when she is being bad – which is actually sad. It may take some time, but I think that she will learn and your child will be happy to have a playmate. I know it’s not your job to parent her, but it seems that all three of you would be happier if this little girl could learn to be nice. Good luck!

    — Jen, Pittsburgh    09/07/2011    Reply

    1. Very idealistic but not likely to work out this way when just the opposite behavior is being reinforced at home. I’d suggest finding some different playmates elsewhere, even if they are not conveniently located next door, and preferably some with parents that you actually like.

      — PB from NY    09/07/2011    Reply

    2. A novel idea Jen….the only problem with it is that Frustrated doesn’t appear to possess the parenting skills or assertiveness required to pull something like this off. Her best option is to put locks on the doors and put up a fence in the backyard.

      — Matt, Pittsburgh    09/08/2011    Reply

  10. Vegetarians just want to be special, they are usually people without any other “hobbies” to speak of or identify themselves with. Don’t give in and treat them special, they are just picky. It’s a choice. I’m sure if they ever got stranded somewhere and were hungry enough the idea of being a vegetarian would go right out the window. Remember if we are not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?

    — CJ    09/08/2011    Reply

    1. Hi CJ, I’m a Vegetarian.

      I am also a computer professional by day.

      I am also an opera singer by night (this takes up 3-4 of my evenings and one morning per week between lessons and rehearsals.)

      I also take glass blowing classes at a local studio.

      I also am cited in 2 different major role playing books as a playtester (gaming is a serious hobby for me).

      I am also frequently found at the local Craft Beer gatherings.

      I am also a member of a local Maker’s organization.

      I also knit and crochet.

      … and these are just a tiny few of my many, many, many hobbies.

      In addition to my many hobbies, I frequently travel (Czech Republic last year, Germany this year, in addition to travelling all over the United States), and I have a lot of friends.

      I also host parties. And at my parties, we often serve meat for the people who are not vegetarian. Even though the meat-eaters can eat our vegetarian food, it is considered a courtesy. We also keep on hand gluten-free beer and vegan cheese, and chocolate-free desserts for my chocolate-allergic friend. These are all very easy things to do, and give our guests a tremendous comfort to know that we take their needs into consideration. Perhaps this is why I have a lot of friends.

      I should mention again that I’ve been a vegetarian since 1995. Your stereotypes about me need not apply.

      — Gwen, Pittsburgh    09/08/2011    Reply

  11. dear Stewed,

    We host people all the time – I hate it when the person has a food restriction and doesn’t tell me in advance. The guest thinks they are being nice and figures that they “will just eat around” the menu. But from my standpoint, I hate to make food – and watch it not get eaten.

    It is easy to somehow make each food inadvertently inedible in a different way. I think the guy was right to give a “heads up” – so that you don’t serve a fish/meat appetizer, followed by a salad with meat in it (ie spinach salad with bacon dressing), meat, and a starch that is cooked with the meat. Do you really want a guest at your table who is only eating a roll?

    honestly – you sound like you are feeling put upon – why are even doing this party?

    so, my call:
    if you only want to please yourself – then don’t invite guests.

    — host    09/08/2011    Reply

    1. host- My thoughts exactly. Letting someone know you’re vegetarian is not the same as demanding a menu be changed completely. Many people, especially in some parts of the country, think nothing of having almost every dish include something meat-based. Giving a heads-up allows the host to make simple changes (vegetable broth in a rice dish instead of chicken broth) and to let the guest know at the beginning of the meal what they can eat. This permits the guest to avoid both the annoyance of sitting there picking at bread while everyone else has full plates and the seeming rudeness of questioning the preparation of every dish that comes to the table. What a shame Stewed decided to take offense at what was probably meant to be helpful.

      — Maria    09/15/2011    Reply

      1. This actually happened to me as a host.

        A guest asked if they could bring +1, and I said sure.

        The +1 arrived and it turns out that she was vegetarian and allergic to walnuts and strawberries – and had just figured that she would just “eat around” because she didn’t want to impose (especially as a +1)

        I had prepared a cold fruit soup that included pureed strawberries.
        chicken with potatoes and carrots roasted in the pan, spinach salad with orange and walnuts, fruit salad with strawberries – and dessert had nuts in it! Honestly, the guest could only have the bread (I brought out some spreads for her).

        She was very good natured about it – and incredibly nice.
        We have since invited her to our home many times – she is great.
        … but now I know what to make!

        — host    09/16/2011    Reply

  12. I see both sides of a few aspects of the issue regarding “Stewed”, although I am mostly inclined to agree with PB from NY when she said, “ I only cook one meal – it’s not a restaurant.” When my husband and I host a dinner, we have a variety of foods from which to choose. We have gone to dinners wherein if the host or hostess has a special need, then they cook the dinner to their specification, nothing else, and every guest is stuck with it – we’ve eaten plenty of just veggies and rolls! I disagree with the equating of being a vegetarian with having food allergies. The first is a choice, the latter is not, unless becoming a vegetarian has been dictated by having an allergy to meat.

    — Diane, Plum    09/19/2011    Reply

  13. I’m no vegetarian, but what’s the big deal? Cook one thing with meat, and make the others vegetarian. Anyone with basic cooking skills should have no problem with that. Nobody wants to be friends with someone that doesn’t respect their lifestyle. Your friend respects you enough to mention it ahead of time, so you should respect your friend’s restrictions.

    — Joseph    09/24/2011    Reply


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