Double Rose Hibiscus Spritzers and Shame-Free Holiday Gatherings
As we head into a month filled with socializing and parties, we’re often faced with conversations about shame relating to dietary choices. As both a host and a guest, there are some things you can do to ensure that dietary shame and restrictions stay out of the equation so you can focus on more delightful things instead! Having beautiful and delicious non-alcoholic drink options is just one thing you can do to make everyone feel more welcome; my seasonal favorite are these rose hip and rose petal spritzers with blooming hibiscus blossoms. Fruity, floral, and fragrant, they are as delicious as they are beautiful. Read on to find the recipe and get some other tips on navigating shame-free holidays.
Holidays and gatherings can be tough for anyone with specific dietary needs or preferences. If you’re not struggling with the temptation of eating something that you know will be hard on your body, you’re getting an earful from your judgemental aunt about what she thinks you should be doing instead.
The thing is, dietary choices are really personal. Some people eat a certain way because they know they’ll feel better if they do. Some do it at the recommendation of their doctor. Others stick to certain guidelines as a way to stand up for their beliefs or be better on the planet. Some eat a certain way because they can’t afford another option. Still others might make their choices based on whatever sounds best to them in the moment. All are valid. Whatever your dietary choices are (and whatever the reasons you make them) are your own, and you do not owe anyone an explanation of why you choose to eat what you do.
I’ve compiled a couple of lists of suggestions to keep shame out of the equation at holiday gatherings. I’ve gotten input from a variety of people, such as others with chronic illnesses, ex problem drinkers, body positive activists, and vegans/vegetarians. If you have any suggestions to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!
As a host, you can make your guests feel more included by:
Asking ahead of time about any preferences, restrictions, or allergies so you can plan alternatives in your menu (this works best with smaller gatherings.)
Communicating clearly what kind of gathering you are hosting, including expectations for alcohol consumption. Most ex problem drinkers need to be told up front exactly what to expect.
Put some thought/research into what restrictions include. It’s easy to overlook that butter is dairy, mayonnaise is eggs, honey isn’t vegan, and oats aren’t always processed far enough away from gluten-containing grains to be gluten free, to give a couple of examples.
Asking your guests to label their dishes with a list of ingredients at potlucks or bring-your-own kinds of gatherings.
Keeping a few alternative options handy, just in case. Some gluten or grain-free crackers, vegan dip, and low-sugar desserts (like ones made with dates) are great to have on hand for unexpected needs!
Don’t worry about designing your whole menu around one guest; just have options. For example, if you’re really excited to make your famous pork roast but one guest is vegetarian, just roast some extra root vegetables for them to enjoy. And don’t deprive everyone else of butter just because one guest (ahem*me*) can’t eat it - just pull some of those potatoes out into a separate bowl before you add all of the creamy goodness. DO be aware, however, of serious allergies. If you’ve got a guest coming with a peanut allergy, for example, it might be best to set out some other pre-dinner nibbles and leave the peanuts tucked securely away.
Not pushing alcohol. Some guests may not want to drink (and again, their reasons may be personal), so putting them in a position where they have to keep saying “no” is uncomfortable. Instead, ask if they’d like a drink, then list your options (including non-alcoholic) and let them choose. (Or just have a self-serve drink station with options clearly labeled.)
Make your non-alcoholic options fun! Experiment with flavored syrups, sparkling water, flavorings, and garnishes. You might consider having a signature non-alcoholic mocktail to accompany the fancy mixed drinks. Do keep in mind that caffeine can also be a problem for some guests, so be sure to have some decaf choices too.
Don’t take it personally if one of your guests doesn’t want to eat your famous dish; there are lots of reasons they may be unable to. It’s not about you.
Don’t ask your guests to validate their choices to you. They probably don’t want to talk about the bowel destruction a piece of cheese causes, or have to explain why going completely vegan doesn’t work for their body in the same way it works for yours. Some may also be eating foods that they know will make them feel poorly later; sometimes, the sacrifice is worth it. Let them make their own decisions.
Remember that often someone’s needs change day-to-day (especially with chronic illnesses); don’t question or judge them for eating foods or amounts you don’t “normally” see them consume.
Make sure your guests know they are free to leave if they need to, no hard feelings. Parties with alcohol can be triggering for ex-drinkers and others, people get overwhelmed or tired, and sometimes another holiday party can just be a little too much. Thank you guests for coming graciously and wish them well as they go!
As a guest, you can make sure your needs are met by:
Checking with your host ahead of time to see if you’ll need to bring something for yourself.
Bringing your own dish that addresses your dietary needs to potlucks or informal gatherings. (For example, I almost always bring a dairy-free dessert since most desserts have dairy in them!)
Pre-label your dish with ingredients and allergens so other guests can know whether they can share it or not.
Consider the lifestyle of your hosts; if you know they are vegetarians, for example, bringing a meat platter might not be appropriate. Show them respect by honoring their choices.
If you aren’t sure if there will be options for you to eat (like, for instance, at a work party or group gathering at a restaurant), have a little snack before you go and tuck something portable and easy-to-eat (not crumbly) into your bag. If worst comes to worst, you can sneak away for a few minutes and eat your own food.
Don’t belittle or shame other guests for their dietary or beverage choices. Similarly, don’t make comments on how much or how little they are eating. There are plenty of better things to talk about!
Don’t feel pressured to eat something that you know will make you not feel well in order to please someone else. What you do or do not put into your body is your decision alone.
Learn a few good “one line wonders” around dietary questions. Practice them ahead of time so you can answer questions succinctly and confidently and then steer the conversation in a different direction. For example, if someone asks “Why aren’t you eating Grandma’s famous cake?” you might say “I’m choosing to eat other things tonight so I feel better tomorrow. Speaking of, what are your plans over the weekend?” Or if someone says “Wow, it’s too bad you can’t eat these cookies. Poor you.” you could say “I could eat those cookies, I’m just choosing not to because I know I will feel better this way.” One last example: “I haven’t seen you drink all night! Want me to grab you one?” a simple “no thanks, I’m happy with my water!” is fine. Having simple answers ready to go is a fantastic tool to keep conversations away from your personal decisions or places of shame.
If you are drinking, be mindful of the pressure this might place on others around you. Make sure you have an agreed-upon DD (or other safe way to get home) and don’t expect others to “babysit” you just because they are sober. You’re not their responsibility! Limit your consumption as needed to be respectful to your hosts and other guests.
Just don’t eat it. If there’s something you’re unable to or don’t want to eat (for whatever reason), just don’t. You don’t need to make a big fuss or complain about the lack of options. Just enjoy the parts you are able to partake in and let others enjoy the rest. You can always pull out your packed snack or leave early to pursue other options if you’re hungry.
Double Rose Hibiscus Spritzers:
These gorgeous drinks are perfect for holiday parties! The secret is candied hibiscus blossoms, which gently bloom as the drinks are enjoyed. The hibiscus blooms have a subtle raspberry and rhubarb-like flavor, which makes them the perfect flavor pairing for wild rose petals and hips. These lightly-sweetened drinks are alcohol-free and free from most major allergens. You can also make them sugar-free by leaving out the hibiscus blossoms as well. They are light, refreshing, and fragrant!
½ c. dried wild rose petals
¼ c. dried rose hips
2 c. boiling water
24 oz sparkling water
Candied hibiscus flowers
Pour the boiling water over the rose petals and rose hips. Let steep for 15 minutes, then strain. Chill the liquid. Meanwhile, make your garnishes by threading cranberries onto the toothpicks and slicing the lime into thin wedges.
Place a hibiscus bloom in the bottom of each glass, then top with about ⅓ c. of the rose tea. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled sparkling water and garnish with one of the skewers filled with cranberries.
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