Bad Advice from Dear Abby: Invite those with Food Allergies Over Less Often!

My mouth dropped when I read the advice Dear Abby gave to a woman wanting to know the etiquette on inviting a guest over her house for dinner who has food allergies.

Abby’s advice: Invite the person over less often!

This is the actual copy of the question and answer in the Dear Abby column on Friday, July 17, 2009:

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter’s landlady — I’ll call her Martha — has become very close to our family. Martha and her husband are included in most of our family’s social events.

My problem is Martha is allergic to garlic and cannot eat anything cooked with it.

Abby, we are Italian. We grew up eating garlic and cook just about everything with it. My husband and I are locking horns over the fact that I feel it’s an imposition to be expected to accommodate one person by omitting a key ingredient in a dish. When you’re cooking for a lot of people who are accustomed to the way certain foods are prepared, I feel it is inconsiderate for someone to expect me to leave an ingredient out. What do you think? — MAMA “MIA” IN N.Y.

And Abby’s answer…

DEAR MAMA “MIA”: I think you should prepare a garlic-free extra dish for Martha — something not too difficult to make, like a salad — or invite Martha over less often.



Here is the most widely syndicated newspaper columnist in the world, whose column is published in about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, and has a daily readership of more than 110 million people – telling someone to invite a close family friend with food allergies over less often! I actually had to go back and read this over and over again, very slowly, to make sure I didn’t miss something and I read it correctly.

Even Abby’s advice to make something “not too difficult” for the close family friend, “… like a salad” is also an insult! To invite someone as a dinner guest and then offer just a “simple” salad, while everyone else is feasting on a huge Italian meal is just wrong! Shame on you Abby. I think you need to start reading Miss Manners column regularly.

What advice should Abby have given to MAMA “MIA” in N.Y.? Here are a few tidbits I think she should have passed along:

– While making your Italian pasta sauce make a small sauce pan of your delicious sauce san the garlic. You don’t need to make a second garlic-free version of every single dish you are making, but since you invited Martha for dinner, but make sure you offer Martha something more than just a salad. Martha is your guest (and your friend) and will surely appreciate the extra efforts.

– When you invite Martha for dinner, ask her to bring one of her favorite dishes that she can enjoy and everyone else can share with her too. Who knows… maybe everyone will enjoy her garlic-free dishes as well!


And lastly MAMA “MIA”, chances are that you, or someone in your large family, will someday become aware that they also have some type of food allergy or celiac disease. So you may want to start thinking now about how you can make some changes to those accustomed to recipes!  (P.S. And don’t worry gluten-free pasta isn’t all that bad!)

What do you think Abby should have given for advice?


Note: I gave Abby my two-cent worth and you should too! Email her today! Note: In the body of your message refer to the 07/17/09 column and the advice she gave to MAMA “MIA” in NY.

Tags: ,

13 Responses to “Bad Advice from Dear Abby: Invite those with Food Allergies Over Less Often!”

  1. marsha pitter Says:

    Dear Abby.
    Never did read your newspaper dribble…So now I really have gained the necessary
    reason to never even look at your name in my local paper…WOW how kind and
    senstive and caring you really are??? Oh well, Mamma mia on 7/17/2009 and
    probably all concerned parties do realize what a insenstive,noncaring person
    you really are..Oh well, it does take all sorts of folks to make the World go around
    People like you do make it really spin sometimes So hold on everyone until Dear Abby
    SPINS right off the world…

    P.S. Thanks to BE FREE for letting us all know who and what you are REALLY ARE. Marsha

  2. The Food Allergy Coach Says:

    Unreal! I thought we had come so much farther than this… I just sent off my email to her.

  3. Suz Says:

    I think Abby was picking her battles. You can’t fix a self-centered, control freak in one paragraph. If she did any more than a simple salad, she would turn into a hateful, resentful, self-centered, control freak. Inviting Martha over less is probably the best thing for Martha.

  4. Betsy Says:

    Oohhh…Miss Abby sure got a piece of my mind! I never read her column, but couldn’t let her get away with that terrible advice! Thanks for sharing that!

  5. Buford Says:

    Oh, get over yourself. Abby gave her two options: Prepare a garlic-less dish *or* invite her over less. I cook for my Celiac wife every day. I don’t expect people who invite us over to change entire recipes for us. We can bring something for us, or they can prepare a side dish, and we are perfectly happy. In actuality, since severe allergies and immune disorders have such dire consequences, we accept a lot less invitations now. Cross contamination is such a risk, and people who don’t read labels every day miss clues to gluten content like “crisp”.

  6. Kathleen Reale Says:


    I also would never expect a guest to change an entire recipe for me either. But offering a guest a simple salad while everyone else feasted on a big meal is not something I, personally, would do as a hostess. Secondly, Abby’s responses to invite someone over less often only alienates Martha and her husband from functions that they may want to attend and friends they want to see. Food isn’t everything. Friends are.

    Having celiac disease or a food allergy is hard enough in social situations, since most social activities revolve around food. I have learned to fend for myself at these social situations, either by eating ahead of time or bringing a dish I know I can enjoy and can share with others too (I usually bring the recipe as well since others usually love my dish!).

    But if all our friends listened to that piece of Abby’s advice and stopped inviting us to social events, it would be a sad, sad life for us all.

    When you get diagnosed with celiac disease or food allergies you realize how “important” food can be in social situations. But you learn to make do; whether that be not accepting invitations due to the dire consequences of ingesting an allergen or gluten, or going to the event with an already full-belly, a smile on your face and a big hug to the friend that warmly extended the invitation.

    Be Free!

  7. KandT gluten free Says:

    WOW – I am appalled and let Abby know. Horrible advice. Thanks for bringing it to light.

  8. brianb Says:

    I sent off my comments as well. Then I read these comments. I have to agree with Suz. Mama Mia doesn’t sound like anyone I would want to be friends with, let alone have a meal with. I don’t read the column, but do read Be Free for Me regularly.

  9. Maria Says:

    How sad, and insensitive…..
    Is this really the kind of “advice” Miss Abby should be sharing with her readers?

  10. Gwendolyn Says:

    I never cared for reading Dear Abby.

    At least she didn’t say to serve the dish anyway and not mention the garlic and risk the death of her guest.

  11. Ree Says:

    It’s unfortunate lame advice since a quick web search would turn up several alternatives to garlic such as onion, shallots or bay leaf and those suggestions could have been made. I know my young daughter is anaphylactic to garlic. On the other hand, maybe Abby recognized how much of a jerk Mama “Mia” is and knew one little column in no way would change that and dear Martha really was better off with a salad or literally not going at all. :-0

  12. Kickassglutenfreegirl Says:

    I have Celiac and have hosted many events. As a hostess, I always want to make sure people feel included and welcome. I have friends with all different food restrictions (Muslim, Jewish, vegan, pescetarian) and I make a little something so each person can eat something (not just a simple SALAD).

    I’ve also attended several events and either the host/hostess asks about what I can or cannot eat or I ask if I can bring a little something (and then I share it with others).

    Abby’s approach could have been different. I agree that it wasn’t the best advice.

  13. John Says:

    I would say Abby’s advice was a little wopsided here.

Leave a Reply

Be Free For Me Blog is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).