Recently, there was an article printed in The Daily Mail, UK edition, with a few quotes from Martha and her newest book. She was discussing dinner guests using cell phones and those with allergies or food preferences. I’m posting my letter to her in the assumption that this reporting is correct. If it is not, then I apologize up front and you are welcome to come by and chat, Martha. But if it’s true, what I say below comes from the heart.
I’m sure you have many friends, and I’m sure your dinner parties are elegant, as we’ve seen on TV. But I also know the reputation you’ve gotten over the years and I was always there to try and soften it. “If she were a man,” I would say to those who bashed you, “would they be so hard on her? No.” Well, I think I’m going to have to take it all back based on your newest book and interview.
Now, I do agree with you on your stance about cell phones at dinner parties. Unless one has a babysitter or child at home who may need you, there is no need to carry a cell phone at a party. And if it rings (and it should be on silent with only a vibration) then a quick look to see if it’s the aforementioned babysitter/teen at home and put it on ignore if it’s not. There is no reason ever to text or take a call when you are at someone else’s home, especially if that someone worked hard all day cooking, cleaning, and decorating in order to spend time with you and others in her/his home.
But when it comes to allergies and food preferences, I’m in the other camp. “Oh my God! Don’t ask! My rule is do not ask about dietary restrictions,” she says, clearly averse to making an extra effort for certain guests. This quote from the article reveals how selfish you are being when holding these parties. Are they about spending time with friends or showing off your cooking skills? It should be both! Why can’t you accommodate the very people you are hoping to please in your home?
I have always tried to accommodate people with allergies or strong preference when they are in my home. For instance, I know my niece and husband do not like mushrooms. I am always aware and leave them out of my dishes when I know there is a dinner party and they will be eating the food. I would rather find another way to be creative than have them skip something just because I thought it was an inconvenience. It’s about spending time with people, not just showing off.
At the same time, I do not expect anyone to cater to my needs. I am perfectly happy to bring my own food (I’m sure you would hate that, Martha. I won’t even go there) or just have a salad or the side dish. But I would never, ever, assume that someone I personally invited to my home should go without a meal. “You have to be semi-prepared,” she says of picky eaters. “But don’t fret about it. Everybody can miss a meal.” Seriously? You would be fine with someone coming to your home and eating nothing because you weren’t prepared with even a small bite for them? I certainly don’t want to be catered to, but I would also be pretty darn insulted if they had absolutely nothing, not even lettuce or fruit.
And finally, the big question. Do you do all the cooking for your dinner parties? I think not. What would be so hard about just asking one of the chefs in your restaurant-style kitchen to whip up something for the celiac/diabetic/peanut allergy/etc. eater who was invited to your party? Why not show them what a thoughtful, caring hostess you are and put to bed all that talk about you being a you-know-what?
Merry Christmas, Martha. If you want any help in preparing meals with thought, compassion and creativity, feel free to give me a ring.