Dear Julie: “I’m Cooking for the Holidays and Suddenly Everyone Has Food Issues”

DAME’s Friendkeeper helps a holiday host menu-plan for high-maintenance guests and counsels a woman at war with an old friend over how to sell Girl Scout cookies on social media.

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Dear Julie,

Every year, I host my friends for Christmas, and it’s always fun, except that this year, it seems everyone has a food issue. One friend has announced she is gluten-free, another couple is suddenly a vegetarian and his wife a vegan. And they’re all like, ‘Well, don’t worry, we’ll make do with sides.’ Okay, but I wasn’t planning to cook so many sides. I make the same thing every year, I keep it simple. I make Beef Wellington, potatoes au gratin, green beans. Not healthy, I realize, but kale salads and quinoa is for the 364 other days of the year: For Christmas, we go decadent, and I’ve never had any complaints. And, of course, and this figures, all the people who have issues don’t actually cook, so they’re not exactly offering to help out by preparing alternatives. I feel like they’re just creating more work for me. I’m a working mom, I love having everyone over, but I really can’t with this sudden diet change. I’m ready to slap some Boca Burgers on a frying pan, and let everyone else enjoy. I mean, I already bought everything. Am I being unreasonable, or do I really have to change the menu?  


Apparently, Everyone’s Personal Chef


Dear A, EPC,

Would it be okay for me to say here “FUCK EVERYONE!” Or is that not helpful? How about “I HATE PEOPLE.” Sorry. Moving on.

This all seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. The telling and the caring. Because really if a person is just going to eat sides, do they need to alert you of this in advance? I don’t eat meat, but when I go to someone’s house who has made meat I just don’t eat it and do my best not to call attention to it. (see: Julie is a perfect guest)

When I was in college, I decided to become a vegetarian. This was back in the 80s (so you can picture me in my college cafeteria with my hair laquered and my black rubber bracelets and Simple Minds playing in the background). The school cafeteria (by law!) had to provide a vegetarian main dish. The way they did this was to make some favorites like, spaghetti and peanuts, or rice and peanuts or macaroni and cheese and peanuts. Someone in the cafeteria heard that peanuts had protein and by gum we were going to get our protein via peanuts!

So here are your choices. 1) Explain to the people with special needs what the menu is and tell them if they can make do, that’s fine, if not they can bring an additional something—they don’t have to make it, there are 8 billion places that provide all sorts of catering options, and 2) you can just do what you do and let them eat a Boca Burger when they get home. After all, as much as it pains me to say this as the daughter of a woman who my father jokes once prepared a meal and the Australian army showed up and there wasn’t enough to eat, so after that she always had them covered, it really isn’t about the food (though I do believe there should be PLENTY.) It’s about the loving gesture, the nurturing, the being together. And if it doesn’t feel good to you, then next year you can rethink the tradition. Or do spaghetti and peanuts.









Dear Julie-
I hope you can help me. My best friend of over ten years has put me on “ignore”—and when I questioned it, she blew up at me, calling me all kinds of hateful names, and spewing paragraphs full of accusations. This all started over … Girl Scout cookies. It’s a long story, having to do with the etiquette of selling them over social media—I was helping my niece. Anyway, my friend “Dina” publicly reamed me on my Facebook page: “UMMM, that’s NOT how you do it.” I private-messaged her and told her point blank, this is what the troop wants. She went ballistic, and then proceeded to tell me how many different ways I was wrong. I stopped her and told her I felt I was being attacked—she told me she was NOT attacking me. But if someone you care about says they feel attacked, you have to respect their feelings, no? Apparently I’m wrong there too.

We didn’t talk for almost three weeks after that.

I took the high road and got in touch with her. But my big mistake was that we hashed it out over FB messenger.  She didn’t apologize but claimed to miss me so much and all this “BFF” crap. I didn’t see her much over the next few months—she was busy with family and work. But then my birthday came along, and she gave me the blandest of birthday wishes, before going silent. I wrote back: via text, email, FB messenger. When she finally she wrote back, it was nasty, full of allegations against me and my family that she said had been building up. It was … intense. After thinking everything that has happened—and the fact that she said our friendship will “never be what it was,” I decided to unfriend her on Facebook. But, wow, this is all so weird. I don’t really know what just happened. Do I let some time pass and try and talk it through? Or do I leave well enough alone? I am fuming.


What Just Happened?


Dear WJH,

This sounds like it’s gone way, way, way past the point of no return (or as the great Kansas says, the point of KNOW return).

But something can be learned from this experience, so it won’t be a total bust and maybe it will help you with your anger.

The thing that comes to mind is all of the texting, emailing and facebooking. I know we all prefer not to ever speak to anyone live ever again, but it just doesn’t work to hash out problems without voices and faces.

When there is a delicate situation, you need the feedback that is involved with an actual conversation. You send a message and it’s kind of a barrage of the things you are thinking and feeling. In a conversation, you say something, then look at how it’s being received, find out if the person is okay, hear their response and move on to the next thing. There are opportunities to clarify and ask questions. What if the very first line you wrote had the person say, “hmm you’re right.” Then you have five paragraphs pounding the point further, that’s not going to be good.  Or what if the first thing you say makes the person burst into tears. In life you, aren’t going to go, “Oh and you also did this and this and this.” 

As much as I spend my life texting and emailing, I absolutely refuse to address a touchy subject with someone I care about this way. You miss cues, and nuances. Communicating in life is challenging enough, we don’t also need to be worrying about autocorrect.

I would say for various and sundry reasons, this friendship is over and should be given a proper burial, but there’s a lot to keep in mind for the future.






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