Aren’t you guys the best for energetically helping me select what to serve to our bar mitzvah guests? The pro-Coke and pro-Diet Coke people seem to have a slight edge. Or more accurately, the folks in favor of beverage “choice” are winning. But there was loads of disagreement on how health-fixated the party should be. Everyone united around the theme of going “green” with recycled paper products, etc. Here’s what you wrote:
Sierra: I say, be bold and let your party reflect your values. No diet coke! You’re giving people a gift when you refuse to enable their addictions. Exposing people to different ways of eating, drinking, and living can turn on light bulbs. I’m grateful to people who exposed me to healthy new things. As long as there are lovely, delicious, from-the-heart offerings, nearly everyone will be happy and appreciative.
Lorraine: Oh how funny — I have the opposite reaction to your post. You sound like the choices of conscience are making you feel preachy. Be a gracious hostess mom, stock as a caterer would for the crowd. All that said, I do avoid serving caffeine to young teens, it’s a drug, and with so many kids on stimulant meds… a “recipe for disaster?”
Stephanie: “I say serve what you like. we don’t drink sodas of any kind, or anything with high fructose corn syrup, and people seem to do fine with the beverage choices at our parties. I think folks can live for a few hours without Diet Coke!”
My friend Laura, a Culinary Institute of America graduate employed by New York City now to work with chefs to eliminate all trans fats, wrote this: “These are issues that environment-minded chefs and restaurateurs struggle with all the time. For them, it boils down to what they can and can’t afford. They may want to serve local grass-fed steak only, but if the customer isn’t buying because its taste and texture are unfamiliar, what are they supposed to do–martyr their careers and livelihoods?
“You…can’t “afford” to alienate your guests and (most important) your son on this important day. As hostess, your priority is to make everyone feel welcome and cared for. But you’re not letting go of your principles. The water will be offered alongside the Coke (you’re allowed to mention that it’s local), and people will notice the thoughtful selection of sustainably-produced wine. These choices, because they’re not imposed on guests, will influence them more in the long run. You’re sharing your beliefs in a generous and non-confrontational sort of way; who could possibly be offended? However–I must note–Chez Panisse has fired an opening salvo in the war against imported bottled water. They’re refusing to pour anything but local tap water! Bravo! But they can afford to take a stand, of course. The people who go there WANT politics on a plate, by and large. I’ll bet customers were even complaining about the Pellegrino.”
Writes Barb: “I agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s comment. I think you should offer choices to your guests w/o imposing your choices on them…If they want to drink coke, let them drink coke.”
Reader, friend, and Institute of Integrative Nutrtion grad Myra Klockenbrink responded with this: “With every food dollar we spend, we cast a vote…If you believe soda is pernicous to people’s health (and it is) don’t serve it. If free-range chicken costs too much, think of a way of serving it that reduces the amount…Although it’s a matter of personal style, I would vote in favor of advertising your choices by way of the menu. And then say NOTHING. (The recycled flatware is simply a way of being a responsbile consumer.) Let your choices speak for themselves. Spend your time instead enjoying yourself and making everyone feel welcome.”
Even Loren, our “Naturally Delicious” caterer chimed in when I alerted her to the conversation: “The most important thing to remember about a great party is that it is a celebration shared together with friends and family. The food, wine, beverages, music are bonuses…For these memorable moments, remember who the guest of honor is, and what will make him happy. Afterall, the party is for him. However, as a mom, you are paying the bill and additionally want to set the tone by making decisions about what you want to serve from a green point of view…The free range chicken will be more expensive –but its gonna taste better. There is nothing wrong with offering an alternative selection of beverages plus the standards for the kids–afterall, it is one day, and he is with his friends and wants to be cool. There is something about having a Coke that is cool. My son feels so special when he gets soda at special occasions. We went through this for his party. We served Mexican sodas with lots of sugar and fresh lemonade. I am sure on a regular basis you offer alternative beverages choices at home, so offer a variety of alternative choices for the party that incorporate your values, but also gives your son what he wants.”
Hope this helps you think out your own summer entertaining!