To live and diet in LA: my dinner party nightmare
The email was meant as a joke. When I sent out a message to our eight dinner party guests asking them to "detail any dietary issues or preferences", it was intended to send up all the pompous little RSVP cards I've received over the years.
I had never replied (there was never a box for "I'll eat anything") and I wasn't anticipating a response this time. But this wasn't home, this was Los Angeles.
Within minutes, the replies started coming in. The Hollywood agent was on the Caveman Diet ("any protein-based meal will suit him", his PA added magnanimously), his wife -- like pretty much everyone's wife -- was lactose intolerant. The political journalist -- a reedy older gentleman -- had a variety of allergies.
One of my husband's colleagues explained that she was 'easy' -- then turned up with her own Thermos of kombucha tea, the heady super-brew of fermented tea leaves, bacteria and yeast favoured by celebrities out here.
There have been many alienating moments since I moved to LA a year ago, and several more since my husband and I began dividing our time between La La Land and Manhattan six months ago, but this one more than any other seemed to confirm that I would never fit in on either coast.
Back at home, anyone claiming to be on a soyless, wheatless or macrobiotic regime generally kept it quiet for fear of being laughed out of the room.
Not so in LA or Manhattan, where breaking bread together is becoming a logistical impossibility.
Here, people define themselves by what they eat ("I'm gluten-free", "I'm sugar-free") in the way that a religious zealot or former drug addict might. If you're foolish enough to throw a dinner party, the responsibility is on you to make sure that everyone's happy. "Which is why nobody cooks here," a friend explained after the event. They don't? "God no. You'd be cooking a dozen different meals, wouldn't you?" Yes, I nodded, enraged. You would.