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Gather 'Round the Table - Guest Accomodations?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 29, 2010 6:20PM

On Mondays, we invite our readers to gather around our table and discuss a culinary issue of the day. If you have anything you'd like to talk about, send it to

After Thanksgiving, we often reflect on the little joys and sorrows of the season. Since we're usually the hosts and cooks, we think about which dishes went over well, which were bombs, and how we can manage to work more rum into the meal. Lately, we've also had to think about dietary accommodations, and our successes and failures. John's great post last week got us thinking. Attending Thanksgiving with vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diners and people with nut allergies raises the question - how much should a host have to worry?

Having a wide variety of dishes at the table is just good sense, as not everyone will enjoy everything. But should hosts label things? Should we buy some of those fancy marble cheese labels we always see in photoshoots in Food and Wine, except instead of "camembert" and "brie" we would write "contains almonds?" Perhaps a printed recipe guide, which a friend of ours has tried recently - every ingredient in a nice little pamphlet.

Beyond notification is the question of changing the menu. How flexible should a cook be, especially with a traditional meal like Thanksgiving? Apart from the main dish, the holiday can be vegetarian friendly, since most of the sides don't usually contain meat. In addition to warning guests, should a cook include new dishes based on the visitors' needs? Or encourage those with dietary restrictions to bring their own contributions, pot-luck style?

What experiences have you had? For those who have dietary restrictions, how do you handle group meals? For those who cook for them, what tips do you have for our readers? How far do you go to accommodate?