Think about the last time you hosted a dinner party or an extended family meal. At what point while you were cooking or setting the table to be perfectly “just so,” did you think, Why the hell did I decide to do this? 

My friend Patti says, “If you don’t hate your guests by the time they arrive, you haven’t worked hard enough.” Dinner Party Hosting Anxiety (DPHA) is a thing, experienced by even the most seasoned host. I blame Martha Stewart.


It’s a two-way street. Being a guest is not without its stress. (Especially if you are gluten-free, vegan, or, like my husband, despise anything that involves mustard or vinegar).

Would you make a (non-refundable) reservation at a restaurant where the chef decides what you will eat — and if you don’t clean your plate, she’s insulted or hurt? As a guest, this is exactly what we’re expected to do.

Message to all hosts: Eliminate everyone’s stress by asking these 3 questions as soon as an invitee says yes, I’ll be there!


  1. Inquire about food allergies or special diets, like gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or nut-free. (I recently learned about the SOS Free Diet. Who knew?). Understanding these can significantly affect your menu, and ensure everyone’s comfort and safety.
  2. Are there any foods you absolutely despise? Don’t be shy about asking; everyone hates something. Anchovies, mushrooms, pickles, and mayonnaise are among the most disliked foods in America.
  3. Which of these dishes would you most like to eat? This list is simply an example; the key is to provide a list of three very different main courses you’ve made before, none that require a lot of last-minute prep.

    • Cornbread Chili Casserole: This is comfort food to feed a crowd. It’s both sweet and savory, with a smidgen of crunchy crust in each bite. A food marriage made in heaven.
    • Pesto Pasta with Green Beans and Potatoes: Give thanks to the Italians, as you and your guests hum with delight after the first bite of this simple, crowd-pleasing meal. Then close your eyes and imagine you’re in Genoa, where the idea of cooking pasta, green beans and potatoes in the same pot originated.
    • Energizing Broccoli Dal: Another One Pot Meal for guests who adore the flavors of Indian spices like turmeric and cumin. It’s one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, perfect for stress-free entertaining. Serve the curry on a bed of coconut rice with greens, and you’ll soon have more stars on Yelp than the most highly-rated Indian restaurant in town.

Note: Question #3 works best if you are having one or two guests. For larger groups, ask if there is anything on this list that jumps out and screams, yes! I want this!, or if there is anything that says, yuck!, no way!

Check out the entire catalog of vegan recipes for ideas.

Read: SH*T Vegans Are Coming To Dinner for a crowd-pleasing lasagna recipe!