Sunday, July 1, 2012

Let's chat about the NYT, again

Ok friends, here we go again. The NYT is at it, writing about dietary restrictions. At least this time they threw in a two line paragraph about those who NEED to restrict their diets, but "R.S.V.P. P. S. - No Gluten, fat or soy please: The picky eater who came to dinner" in this week's Times has got me again.

Can we talk about the intimacy and social space that eating is and provides? Can we talk about WHY this is a problem (multiple dietary restrictions) rather than pinning it on an us vs. them model? Can we talk about what a "good host" is? Also, why are you feeding people you don't like enough to make happy?!

Am I being too "picky"? What do you think?


  1. I don’t personally hang out with the “infantilized narcissists” the Meatopia guy references. I hang out with people who will go into anaphylactic shock if they eat nuts or feel sick for a month if they eat gluten. We routinely dine together WITH our vegetarian friends, and have lovely meals. I don’t see what’s so heart-breaking about “not everyone can eat everything, but everyone can eat something.” We’re all at the same table.

    I’ve experienced the “you can’t eat this bread that I bought? Oh, just try a little, I’ll be so sad if you don’t” thing and it’s ridiculous. Thinking that another person has to like exactly what we like, otherwise we cannot understand them or be their friend – THAT is narcissism.

    I do think etiquette about how and when to ask about special diets at events such as weddings or business lunches should be discussed. I’m quite uncertain as to what I should do. I usually eat beforehand, and just hope there’s a plain salad and some coffee. I don’t think it’s wrong of me to ask the caterer what the ingredients are, or if there is a gluten-free option. I would never show up *expecting* that a catered meal had a delicious gluten-free, dairy-free option, but I would not turn up my nose if one existed! I am elated and so grateful when my friends ask about special diets on their wedding RSVPs. As Jax Peters Lowell says, “They invited you for your company, not your appetite.” I will eat a plate of plain, salted rice if it means I can be at the table with my friends and colleagues.

    I think it does have to do with relationships. My friends know I’m not lying about my diagnosis. The caterers at a business luncheon do not.

    I was just reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir, The Beautiful Struggle. His father was a Black Panther, and the family was vegetarian. Many feminists are vegetarian or vegan. Many religions impose dietary restrictions. Our food choices do reflect our values and our needs. The obstinate omnivores have their own value system; I wish they could recognize that one is not better than the other.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think people are trying to separate the meaning and powerfulness of food and food choice - or lack their of - in this article and it is really frustrating. Every day (if we are so lucky) we choose what is and is not food, and what is and is not food TO US. These areas of tension are when these choices to not match up. I am not saying we need to celebrate every difference, but it would be interesting to see how this article would look written from the other "side".