Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What’s potluck etiquette these days? So many people are on restrictive
diets (no gluten, low salt, no sugar, no meat, lots of meat, etc etc etc)
that I have no idea what to bring. Last night I attended a gathering
where there were six veggie plates with yoghurt dip and piles of
gluten-free crackers on one end of the table, and three different kinds
of meatballs on the other. The closest thing to pass for dessert was a
bowl of tangerines. It’s the holidays, for goodness sakes. What
happened to egg nog, honey cake, even some marzipan and dried
fruit?!?! If the hostess gives me a list of “don’t bring this” or “do bring”
foods, I know what to do, even if I dislike it. Am I violating some
serious code of social conduct for bringing traditional favorite foods? I
don’t mean to be a holiday Grinch, but some of us still like lots of
sugar and fat, at least on the holidays.


Dear Fresser:

Obeying requests is a polite way of responding to an invitation. Some
hostesses go out of their way to plan for the unique choices of their
guests, and some figure that those folks are on their own to bring
something that they can eat. A lot depends on the critical mass of the
gathering. In a small group, it can matter a lot more if everything is
carbs and sugar. In a large gathering there should end up being
something for everyone if people bring what they like and hope others
will also.

Great advice from food specialists is to eat a little before you go to a
party so you are not dependent on the sensitivities of others. That’s
especially true for those on restrictive diets. But for the omnivores,
think about balancing personal pleasure with group health. It’s just
one meal after all. That said, what’s Hanukah without at least one