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  1. #1
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    Dealing with Other People's Food Predilections

    I'd appreciate everyone's thoughts on how to deal with other adults' hangups about food. I like to cook, and I like to share food others. It is my practice, when I invite people for dinner to ask them whether there are any foods they can't eat or won't eat. It's usually not a problem dealing with people who won't eat red meat, shellfish, gluten, etc. or who have very specific allergies that they identify. But sometimes, I feel like throwing up my hands in defeat. Four cases in point:

    My brother's girlfriend (a lovely person): When I first met her, she told me that she didn't eat anything with sugar in it, but it turns out she used a lot of honey and carried a plastic bag with fig newtons in her purse. Since then, she has started to eat other things with sugar in them. Early on, I asked her if she had any food allergies, and she said no. Then I made nettle soup, and she told me she was allergic to nettles. Last weekend, she revealed that she's allergic to citrus fruit. I've made many things that she has known contain citrus, but she didn't mention anything about her allergy at the time.

    An ex-girlfriend: She didn't like any food with visible bones in it, like lamb chops or a T-bone stake. She also didn't like any whole fish, like trout, that still had its head on it. On top of that, she was in Overeaters Anonymous and wouldn't eat anything with added sugar.

    Another ex-girlfriend: She would announce that she didn't "like" certain kinds of food, for example, rice and chicken. One time, we went out to a cafe, and she told me she wasn't very hungry. I suggested we could share something. I told her I was going to order a bowl of vegetable soup, but she got me to order grape gazpacho (which I didn't expect to like and which we both agreed didn't taste very good) and chicken tikka massala with rice!

    A male friend: He makes a big deal of avoiding foods with carbohydrates or sugar. Fresh fruit, rice, potatoes, wine, beer (other than "lite beer" -- he either won't have any or he'll have a tiny bit and remark how they aren't part of his normal diet. He also refused to eat chicken livers when I made them because he had, in the past, had a problem with cholesterol.

    Any words of wisdom people might have, including how to take all of this in stride, would be most welcome.

  2. #2

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    I am the one with the weird food restrictions but I don't expect people to accommodate me. I just eat prior to the engagement or don't eat, or eat only what I can. I wouldn't make accommodations for others either unless I was having them over to dinner specifically (not like a general party with 10+ people, just them). So many people do only X or Y, its too confusing. So its on them (or me) to figure it out.
    What would Jenny do?

  3. #3

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    I'm vegetarian, but I also don't expect people to coddle to me. It's nice if they try, though.

    As for dealing with picky people, just do your best? I guess? I know that's not very helpful.

  4. #4
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    I feel your pain, Vagabond.

    My sister-in-law is sometimes a vegan, sometimes a vegetarian, sometimes spending her spare time binging on Burger King, sometimes lactose intolerant, sometimes cannot eat sugar...and on and on and on. We never know what the hell she will or won't eat. And it is a huge deal if you serve whatever she is not eating at the moment. You are "disrespecting" her and "mocking" her and "destroying the planet"...

    I have no problem trying to accommodate a guest with a real intolerance, allergy or genuine dietary restriction. But keeping up with all the fad diets and such is just a headache.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    I am the one with the weird food restrictions but I don't expect people to accommodate me. I just eat prior to the engagement or don't eat, or eat only what I can. I wouldn't make accommodations for others either unless I was having them over to dinner specifically (not like a general party with 10+ people, just them). So many people do only X or Y, its too confusing. So its on them (or me) to figure it out.
    Ditto on me being the one with the food requirements - I keep Kosher - and I NEVER expect anyone to accommodate me. I do make accommodations for others. That IMO is what being a host is all about.

    I also have grown 5 kids. And I must, after child number 3 got divorced (I had learned to make latkes without onions, among other things for her spouse) I just gave up. No more pleasing their current "beloved" until 5 years of marriage and two kids in!
    DH - and that's just my opinion

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    Sounds like you're doing the best you can there. You can hardly be blamed if you ask people in advance about allergies and other preferences and they don't tell you about them until the food's on the table.

    My husband and I are vegetarians. It's nice when people accommodate this, but not a big deal. We'll either offer to bring a dish to share or, if we're going to meet people at a restaurant we know won't have many veg options, eat something beforehand.
    "Liking this sport is ridiculous, so you’re a little different for liking it, she explained. But you’re allowed to like what you like." - Robert Samuels

  7. #7

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    My nephew has soy, dairy, and probably nut allergies. He's only one year old and when he was nursing, it meant his mother could not have any of those things either. For the most part, they bring their own food to family gatherings but for holidays like Thanksgiving, I made super sure that I made the turkey allergen free so they could have some. We felt it would be really bad for them to be left out of the family turkey.

    If you are careful about reading labels, it is possible to work around his allergies. But it was eye-opening for me. Soy is in EVERYTHING!

    He is a very good eater in spite of this and there is a chance he will grow out of one or two of the allergies.

  8. #8
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    Another vegetarian here who doesn't expect people to cater to her needs ... but is very happy and grateful when they do. Vancouver is such a veg-friendly city that most people are used to entertaining veggies and it's rare that I'm the only one, so that's good. Restaurants are almost always ok too, with the odd exceptions -- and I will say "Oh, can't we go somewhere else" if the suggestion of a steakhouse comes up for choice of venue for a gathering.

    I will cater to legitimate allergies and "real" eating lifestyles, and since I'm cooking vegetarian so much of that is mostly taken care of anyway. But I have no tolerance for whims and fads.

    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    My sister-in-law is sometimes a vegan, sometimes a vegetarian, sometimes spending her spare time binging on Burger King, sometimes lactose intolerant, sometimes cannot eat sugar...and on and on and on. We never know what the hell she will or won't eat. And it is a huge deal if you serve whatever she is not eating at the moment. You are "disrespecting" her and "mocking" her and "destroying the planet"...
    Oh, I know that person! My cousin has gone from vegan to paleo in as much time as it takes to type that, and in between has gone through every "I can't eat that" you can possibly think of. Every time she goes to her nutritionist there's something new she's "allergic" to, and then two weeks later she's back to eating it without batting an eye. (I'm no fan of the nutritionist in question ... but equally ticked at my cousin for swallowing, so to speak, all the "diagnoses" she gets). She doesn't talk about being disrespected, though -- she gets all passive-aggressive and "I can't eat that. But it's fine." when you know it's anything but "fine" with her. Drives me nuts.

  9. #9

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    I am a vegetarian too (not vegan). As long as there is something vegetarian - it may just be the salad, or just rolls with butter- I am OK. I won't starve. If it's a planned meal at work, I ask ahead- during RSVP- if there will be a vegetarian option. At other places, like Toastmasters speech contests that may be in the evening, may have only meat sandwiches, I eat just the desserts. It's nice when someone orders a few veggie sandwiches too, but I have learned not to have that expectation. Sometimes I just carry a little food with me, just in case they don't have anything vegetarian. IMO it helps when you let the host know what you would not/cannot eat. I am sorry that you had so many disappointing experiences.

    Everyone is not accommodating. So Vagabond, I appreciate what you are doing, but you can't please everyone if they have such varying tastes. You did the best you could in the cases you mentioned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis@BC View Post
    Another vegetarian here who doesn't expect people to cater to her needs ... but is very happy and grateful when they do. Vancouver is such a veg-friendly city that most people are used to entertaining veggies and it's rare that I'm the only one, so that's good. Restaurants are almost always ok too, with the odd exceptions -- and I will say "Oh, can't we go somewhere else" if the suggestion of a steakhouse comes up for choice of venue for a gathering.

    I will cater to legitimate allergies and "real" eating lifestyles, and since I'm cooking vegetarian so much of that is mostly taken care of anyway. But I have no tolerance for whims and fads.



    Oh, I know that person! My cousin has gone from vegan to paleo in as much time as it takes to type that, and in between has gone through every "I can't eat that" you can possibly think of. Every time she goes to her nutritionist there's something new she's "allergic" to, and then two weeks later she's back to eating it without batting an eye. (I'm no fan of the nutritionist in question ... but equally ticked at my cousin for swallowing, so to speak, all the "diagnoses" she gets). She doesn't talk about being disrespected, though -- she gets all passive-aggressive and "I can't eat that. But it's fine." when you know it's anything but "fine" with her. Drives me nuts.
    Last summer, I allegedly tried to "poison" her because she was "eating local" by which she meant only items produced within 40 miles of home (which is not the definition of eating local I have heard) and I served tomatoes from my parents' garden. They live 65 miles from us. Too far for her to eat. I had allegedly "packed them with preservatives" to get them back to my house--because the drive is, after all, a bit over an hour and we all know fresh picked tomatoes only last seven minutes, right? My husband decided then that if she starts the local stuff again we will give her Spam as it is made in her hometown.

    And all of this is accompanied by evangelical zeal to convert us to however she happens to be eating that day.

    Every family gathering is preceded by someone trying to find out what she may or may not be eating to head off any tantrums. Trouble is that it changes almost on a daily basis. So if we plan accordingly on December 20, it might all be different by Christmas Eve.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    My husband decided then that if she starts the local stuff again we will give her Spam as it is made in her hometown.

  12. #12
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    It sounds like the OP's problem isn't so much people with special diets, as people with inconsistent diets. I think it's very easy to know and remember the dietary needs of friends (once they've told me) and then cater my meal-based events accordingly (if I want to make something specific, I invite people who can eat it; if I want to spend time with specific people, I make what they can eat - and try to arrange the guest list so I'm not accommodating 12 completely different dietary needs).

    But.

    People who say their diet (or likes/dislikes) is/are one thing, and then they eat differently or suddenly come up with a reason to not eat what's prepared? You just can't win in those situations. Personally, I'd only go out to restaurants with them and let them choose the cuisine (or better yet - just meet them for coffee). Most of all - don't take any of it personally. I doubt any of those situations had to do with people not wanting to eat YOUR food, but unless the person knows the menu ahead of time they may find themselves staring at something they either suspect or know they won't be able to eat - not for any medical reason, but because there is absolutely no preparation that will make [insert item] taste good to them.
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    OMG, local Spam is the funniest thing I've heard this week.
    The fastest thing out of New Jersey since Tricky Nicky in a Muscovian handbasket

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    Funny story on shifting food needs. My parents run a small guest lodge and they serve all meals there. They had a guest who told them ahead of time that she could not have dairy so they made a special dessert for her since the main dessert that night for everyone else was flan. Well the second she laid eyes on the flan, she grabbed for it and gave herself a huge serving. When my mother warned her that it was positively loaded with dairy, the woman replied "oh, I'm fine if I just have a little."

    She ate two servings that night.

  15. #15
    drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
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    Quote Originally Posted by newbatgirl View Post
    Funny story on shifting food needs. My parents run a small guest lodge and they serve all meals there. They had a guest who told them ahead of time that she could not have dairy so they made a special dessert for her since the main dessert that night for everyone else was flan. Well the second she laid eyes on the flan, she grabbed for it and gave herself a huge serving. When my mother warned her that it was positively loaded with dairy, the woman replied "oh, I'm fine if I just have a little."

    She ate two servings that night.
    That reminds me that, back when airlines served meals included in the price of the ticket, the trick was to always request the vegetarian meal because it was generally higher quality than whatever cardboard dreck everyone else was getting. Didn't matter if you actually were vegetarian, just swear up and down that you CANNOT HAVE MEAT. And then cry a little on the rare occasion you get a sad little salad and everyone else has a somewhat appetizing hot meal
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  16. #16
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    My son is allergic to nuts. I am allergic to kiwi. My cousin says she is allergic to nuts, onions and a couple of other things I am forgetting. Another cousin is lactose intolerant. Mini's school is on the brink of becoming nut free as some kindergarteners have airborne nut allergies.

    I am not a big fan of the Passover because I can't deal with the "kosher for Passover" thing. I know I am a bad Jew but it drives me up the wall.
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    Ok....and I thought I was bad. This reminds me of the time that I was going to go on a liquid fast and I convinced myself that milkshakes were allowed because technically that's a liquid. One of those dieters delusions.
    The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are--Joseph Campbell

  18. #18
    Port de bras!!!
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    Strawberry milkshake It's been like 10 years.
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

    from Speedy Death

  19. #19

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    @ IceAlisa, or strawberry banana. You can't pay me to eat a banana. But puree it in some ice cream and see how fast I can suck that down!!!
    The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are--Joseph Campbell

  20. #20

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    I now ask everyone in advance what foods they dislike and cant eat, AND I send out my menus ahead of time just to be on the safe side. I really do it for myself, because if I'm going to the trouble of cleaning up my house and making a nice dinner instead of the slops we eat most of the time, I want to see people enjoying the food! It's less annoying when I think of it as something I'm doing for myself. If I focused on all the allergies and dislikes themselves it would put me in a cranky mood, but this way it's just part of the planning process.

    I'm a vegetarian too (is there something about skating and vegetarianism?) and wouldnt make an issue of it, except that I realized most hosts and hostesses feel the same way as I do and really want me to be able to eat. So I generally let them know in a low-key way... some people know how to provide for vegetarians and some dont, and it doesnt matter to me. My hubby is a carnivore, so our guests dont have to forgo meat for my sake.

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