It’s spring and there’s a warm breeze in the air. Birds are returning, buds are opening, the sun is warm and plentiful. Everything’s wonderful–until you get your first summer barbecue invitation! What to do?
It’s lovely to be cooked for by other people. But this can also be tricky when you’re on a diet as restrictive as the autoimmune protocol. Fear not, you can eat at a friend or relative’s house without hurting your digestive system, and without hurting your graceful host’s feelings.
In my experience, there are three good ways to be a guest at a food party on AIP. It’s up to you to decide which of these tactics you’re most comfortable with. This can and often should be a conversation that you have with the host, to see what he or she would like to do. You can also mix and match these approaches for the same party based on your comfort level around different parts of the meal.
Tactic One: Bring Food (to Share)
For the Host Who Already Has Plenty To Do
This is the safest option if you are very worried about eating something you shouldn’t. However, it does involve you cooking, which maybe you wanted to avoid. To be a courteous guest, it’s best if you cook and bring enough food to share with other people.
If you are considering this route, ask your host if she minds if you bring your own food. If you bring your own food unannounced, your host may be offended. She may also feel bad because she want to accommodate you. I once brought food to a family dinner, only to have my hurt grandmother say to me, “I wish I had known more about your diet, I would have fed you!” Your friend or relative is hosting a dinner party because she likes feeding people, so check first if she minds you feeding yourself.
If you really don’t feel comfortable having your host cook for you, but she is insisting, tell her gently that you will bring food for yourself by saying, “It’s so nice that you have offered to cook for me, thank you. The diet I’m on is quite strict and complex, though, so I’d feel most comfortable if I cooked something for myself and brought it. If it’s all right by you I will bring enough to share!”
Tactic Two: Give Your Host a Recipe
For the Eager-but-Tentative Host
If your host really wants to cook for you, and you have confidence in his ability to avoid contaminating your food, ask if you can send him some recipes. In my experience, most food-party hosts are excited to try something new or challenging (like accommodating you!), but don’t always know where to start. They can also feel overwhelmed with the number of restrictions that AIP involves. Providing them with recipes that are AIP-compliant is a great way to sidestep this issue.
Once you’ve gotten your host in on this plan, pick some recipes to send him. I suggest picking several recipes for each type of thing he wants to make, so that he’ll have some options. For example, if you host has said he wants to make steak, send him two or three steak recipes with different marinades, so he can pick which to use. It’s still his party, so he’ll most likely enjoy having a choice here.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing recipes for your host:
- Avoid recipes with “weird,” very expensive, or hard-to-find ingredients. Sure, you might have coconut aminos, smoked salt, and palm shortening in your pantry, but your host might not.
- Pick at least one recipe that is fairly simply. Your host might be cooking for you in addition to the other things he’s making, so give him the option of choosing an easy recipe.
- If it’s a large party, try to pick recipes that scale well, so your host has the option of making it for everybody.
Once you’ve sent the recipes to your host, he needs to stick to them. If you think he needs it, you can always give him a gentle reminder by saying, “I really appreciate you cooking for me, thank you. If you want to change anything about these recipes when you make them, would you mind asking me first? I’d really hate to have you put so much effort into something and then not be able to eat it!”
Tactic Three: Give Your Host a List of Allergens
For the Hands-On Host
This is the option that involves the most trust in your host. Some hosts are very trustworthy, and prefer to find or make up their own recipes to feed their guests. I must confess that I am this sort of host! I love when I can surprise a food-restricted guest by making them something they can eat that surprises and delights them. It’s a great feeling.
If your host is this sort of hands-on host, then the best course of action is to provide her with a very, very detailed list of your restrictions. The Paleo Mom has some wonderful charts on this page that I have used for this exact situation. To make it painfully obvious, I would download the “Yes” foods and “No” foods charts on that page and attach the images directly to an email to your host.
If your host is the type of person who wants to learn about your diet (and a hands-on host like this often is), I recommend sending her a link to a page with more information about the autoimmune protocol. Some good choices are this page from AIP Lifestyle, and the same page from The Paleo Mom that had the charts.
As above, it’s now on your host to stick to the charts! If you think she needs it, or if it would make you feel more comfortably, you can always give her a gentle reminder about this by saying, “I really appreciate you cooking for me, thank you. When you decide what you’ll be making, would you mind letting me know what it is? I’d really hate to have you put so much effort into something and then not be able to eat it!”
I have used all of these approaches with various types of hosts. Sometimes, you can mix and match these to great effect. I find that AIP dessert recipes often involve outlandish ingredients, so I will often offer to make and bring dessert, and then suggest some entrée recipes for my host to cook for me.
Again, it’s entirely up to you which of these you choose. Decide based on your level of comfort. If your host ends up making food for you that you can’t eat, you will both feel bad! It can feel challenging to assert your food needs with a host, but I assure you that it is always better to do this ahead of time, with clear communication, before the party.