At my house, I keep a list of people I know who have food issues, meaning there are foods that they can't eat for whatever reason. Even though I may have to prepare a separate meal for anyone who is allergic to certain foods, vegetarian, vegan, not eating sugar that week or no longer eating tomatoes because they're red (yes, I actually had someone tell me that!), I'm no stranger to accommodating food issues.

All of my kids at one point or another decided that they were turning vegetarian—though some lasted longer than others. I tried it once too. I lasted exactly six days until I smelled bacon frying and lost my resolve! My stepson, Denis, who was a massive carnivore, even showed up for dinner one evening and simply stated that he no longer ate meat. I was taken aback since he was over just two nights before and downed a Fred Flintstone-size T-bone steak!

"Okay, eat the salad," I said, thinking this vegetarian phase wasn't going to last long. That was four years ago, and he still is going strong with his veggies. So, when he comes over for family dinners, I have to make sure I have plenty of salad and vegetables for him—and also now for my sister-in-law who is a total vegan, along with any other new converts who may come by.

Now, it's no longer preparing meals just for people who don't eat meat. There are many people who have major dietary concerns, and when that happens, it can throw off your whole dinner menu! Some dietary problems can be life-threatening—allergic reactions from shellfish, peanuts, garlic, onions and other foods can even be fatal. That's why I keep records on index cards of all my family and friends I invite over just to make sure I know what's what. When I invite someone over for dinner, I will always ask if they have any allergies to certain foods and write them down. (I also keep notes on who attended and what I served just to make sure that when they come over again I don't serve the same dish.)

I recently ran into major "food issues" when I had people over for dinner three nights in a row. Normally, when I have a dinner party, I keep it to one night a week, but since I only invited one other couple for each of the three nights, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Wrong!

Learn how Cristina accommodated vegan guests with gluten allergies.


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