Every year my husband and I host a holiday get-together for several of our friends and neighbors. We provide the main dish, a couple of sides and drinks. We ask friends to fill in with other salads, sides and desserts.
This year, with little notice, my friend "Barb" reached out to me via text, saying, "This year, I will need you to prepare my food differently" — due to her recent diagnosis of celiac disease.
She explained to me that "even a crumb of cross contamination" will result in her not feeling well. She instructed me to check all of my spices and ingredients, and to thoroughly clean all of my cooking and serving utensils before preparing food for her.
She even provided me a list of online resources I could use to learn more.
Amy, I was shocked speechless — and my husband was livid.
I responded that I would check ingredients and try my best to accommodate. My husband said that if the disease was so dire, she would need to pack her own plate of food.
He said I should not reach out to our other guests and provide any instruction on Barb's behalf.
I was considering moving mountains for Barb when the final straw came: She asked us to thoroughly clean our grill grates, should there be any gluten left on them from when we last grilled.
Is our friend being ridiculous here, or are we being insensitive to her disease?
How far does a host couple need to go out of their way to accommodate a guest in this situation?
— Gluten-free Hosts
You should not attempt to gauge whether "Barb's" disease is as serious as she indicates. You should simply assume that it is. I agree, however, that she is not communicating about her needs in a way designed to inspire such a Herculean effort on your part. In fact, her requirements seem quite overwhelming and are coming off as demands. She is also attempting to shift responsibility for her health from herself onto you. Don't take it on.
Instead of you communicating her needs to your other guests who are bringing food, you should suggest that she contact them. With such specific requirements, she should not trust anyone else to communicate her exact requirements.
You should assume that your best efforts might not be enough to completely decontaminate your kitchen to Barb's standards, and you should tell her so: "Hi, 'Barb,' I worry that I can't guarantee that all of the food and the kitchen area will be decontaminated the way you might need. It would definitely be safest for you to bring your own food this year. If you feel you also need to bring your own plates, silverware, etc., I assure you we won't be offended. And don't forget to bring a dish to share with the rest of the group. Looking forward!"
I have four grandchildren and am planning on sending a nice check to each of them this year.
Three of my grandchildren are single; the fourth is married.
If I send the married one a check in his name only, will his wife's feelings be hurt; or if I use both names, will he feel he is only getting half of what his siblings are getting?
This is a small dilemma, I know, but it is bothering me.
— Wondering Grand
You should never assume that your married grandson will feel he received less than his siblings. He might in fact feel that way, but you should not assume it or worry about it. People lucky enough to have partners benefit from their partnership in many ways. Hang the money — his feet are warm at night!
Even if you sent a check in his name only, presumably, he would (or should) find a way to share his bounty with his partner. If you sent the check with a note addressed to both he and his wife, this might help to bridge your anxiety about her feelings.
I thought you gave an excellent answer to "Upset Ex," whose ex-husband was hounding her for money. My first thought was, "Amy, tell her 'No! No! No!"
As I have "coached" my children and now grandchildren, "NO is an answer, too. Just not the one you want."
And the other: "What is the worst that someone can say when you ask for something? No."
— L, in Beaverton, CO
"No is an answer, too." Great response.
— Write to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.