There is a certain art to being a good guest, even when you're visiting family (yes, family), and being a guest with food allergies has a certain set of extra special needs. Here are some of my tips on how to be a great allergic guest who gets asked back again and again.
Communicate. Tone is a huge part of good communication so keep in mind that your host or hostess will be juggling lots of duties. Keep your initial communication light, breezy and easy. A gently worded email with a simple list of your dietary requirements or a quick convo by phone is a good place to start. Also, while giving the list of what you can't eat, give a list of what you can. Last weekend, telling my hostess that lean proteins without sauces, steamed or sautéed veggies and fruit or dessert helped her plan the weekend's meals for me and the group.
Educate. Gently educate your host or hostess on what food allergies are, on how to help keep you safe and on the dangers of cross contamination. Also, explain what an allergic reaction looks like (itchy mouth, throat, eyes or skin; hives; swelling, wheezing, even anaphylaxis) and coach them through what to do if you get sick or need help in an emergency.
Do your homework. Before you go, have the name of the local hospital handy. Make sure you bring all of your medications and that they are up to date. Know where the local pharmacy is and bring the name of a local doctor if possible.
Bring a house gift. Most people have enough stuff, in fact they need more not less. I'm a big proponent of filling your host's fridge with food that everyone can eat as your house gift. It's not adding house clutter, as it's all comestible, and you can control some of what you will be nibbling on all weekend. (Check with your host/hostess before doing this though as they may have other plans.) Last weekend when I was a houseguest, I stopped at the local market and shopped for the whole house. I filled the fridge with fruits and veggies (cut up and prepped by me) and brought shelf stable snacks for the pantry.
Do the cooking. Help your host/hostess out by offering to cook; take the pressure off them of having to keep your meal safe by offering to do it yourself.
The Basics. Even when staying with family, I suggest that you: do the dishes, do a load of laundry, keep your room tidy and don't wait to be asked to help. You can offer to run an errand and take out the garbage. Also, do a disappearing act; give your host a break and go into town, take yourself to a movie or a museum, get out of the house and their hair and go explore the area. Being a good guest is being an easy guest.
Say Thank You! This is a crucial, unforgettable step. A well-worded, handwritten thank you note does wonders, and who doesn't love getting real mail that's not a bill!
Published On: June 20, 2008