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Feeding a crowd? Here’s how to create a ‘Venn diagram menu’ and make everyone happy

Every time I make a trip down south to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, what to eat for dinner is a contentious subject. I’m a long-time vegetarian, my sister has been flirting with keto, and my mother is—how do I phrase this politely?—extremely picky. Dad is our resident chef, but negotiating all of our preferences often sends him into a tizzy. Normally, preparing food for a crowd—even if said “crowd” is just four people— presents a Sudoku-esque mind challenge. But not once you’ve mastered the “Venn diagram menu.”

While the dinner-designing strategy, as featured by LifeHacker, was created for satisfying the needs of your children, this problem is ageless. As my family epitomizes, the diversity of eating plans have never been so bountiful. The Venn diagram menu solves this problem by modeling every dinner party after the interlocking circles. It’s a godsend.

The basic idea is this: First, find a base that everyone will eat. (This is the overlapping part of the Venn diagram. Duh.) After that, prep all of the sides, which will be served choose-your-own-adventure-style. The most iconic example is taco night, where the taco shells appear on everyone’s plates. But while Suzie (who’s vegan) might smash her shell into a salad and add avocado, black beans, lettuce and tomatoes, Peter (who loves meat with fervor) may opt for shells filled with ground beef, bacon bits, cheese, and onions.

Really, you’re creating an elevated buffet. You can replicate the same exact idea with pizza night, Mediterranean-style bowls, cookouts, pasta parties, salad extravaganzas, and more. You can be the chef de cuisine extraordinaire—and no one will ever know that your secret is stealing a page from a 10-year-old with an aversion to broccoli.

Check out what a healthy plate looks like on the paleo and keto diets. 

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