Monday, March 04, 2013

Dietary restrictions

I need some advice.

I have a few dietary restrictions.  The first is a complete intolerance to beef.  Everyone has one or more things that they cannot tolerate after their gallbladder is taken out.  For my friend P, it's lettuces and anything with a bunch of fat in it.  For my stepdad, it's spicy food.  Everyone has something.  Mine is beef.  It makes me feel incredibly bloated to the point of pain and I break out in some super sexy meat sweats.

The second restriction is that I gave up cheese for Lent.  I gained back a LOT of weight on the IUD because I was starving all the time thanks to the hormones, so I ate handfuls of almonds so I wouldn't be hangry (hungry + angry) all the time.  The IUD is goooonnnne, thank goodness (it also made my hair fall out and gave me acne.  Yeah.), but cheese was comprising most of my diet and I know it's mostly fat so I gave up my 3 highest calorie indulgences for Lent - cheese, wine, and bourbon.

The thing is, eating at other people's houses has become an obstacle.  Before Lent, most of the parties I was going to were cookouts so I could always bring something of my own to grill so I could avoid beef.  The times I went to parties where I couldn't bring my own food, I'd always ask if there would be beef.  There never was, but I always felt SUPER awkward asking.

Now I go to small group (Bible study) every Monday night, and the host almost always cooks a main dish and asks us to bring salad, bread, and dessert.  These are some of my very closest, sweetest friends, and they've been totally accommodating to my beef issue and haven't made anything with beef for a whole year.  Before I had my gallbladder taken out, I couldn't tolerate cheese, but I could just take Lactaid pills and be fine, but she always tried to make something without cheese for me.  I've brought the main dish a few times but I'm nowhere near the cook the hostess is so I usually just meekly bring a Kroger dessert or something.

Today she said she was making stuffed pepper soup.  They know I gave up cheese for Lent and were accommodating the last two weeks, but that sounds like something that could potentially be cheesy so I texted her and asked.

From a host's perspective, for heaven's sake, I'm a Mississippian now.  I will accommodate my guests in any way.  When I was part of several mommy groups when Ace was a baby, I'd always have something gluten-free for the kids with that dietary restriction, even though their moms would generally bring their own snacks.  My mom has wheat, peanut, and orange allergies and if she's coming over I always make sure to have something she can eat and it doesn't put me out at all.  If I invited someone over and they informed me of a dietary restriction, I'd make absolutely sure to cook something they could eat and would not mind at all.

But from a guest's perspective, I FEEL SO RUDE ASKING.  I feel like I'm making my small group hostess go out of her way for me and I feel bad about it.  I feel like my entire small group is having to accommodate me, actually, because if they want something cheesy, they won't get it because of me.  I would not mind AT ALL making the main dish while I'm being persnickety about cheese, or just stopping somewhere and picking up something that just I can eat, but I feel rude by just asking if there's going to be beef or cheese in something that my gracious hostess is cooking for me.

So what do y'all think?  Am I being rude by asking?  Would you feel rude asking?  Would you feel put out by a guest's dietary restrictions?  Am I TOTALLY overthinking this like I do everything?  Thanks for your opinions.


Tom Head said...

For me, one of the worst things about having any limitation—whether it's a dietary restriction or a physical handicap—is that it forces me to ask questions that it feels rude to ask.

Objectively, it's not rude to ask. I'd give as much notice as reasonably possible, but beyond that, there's not much you can do about a dietary limitation.

One thing that strikes me about your dietary restrictions is that they're relatively tame. You don't keep kosher, you're not vegan—you just don't eat beef or cheese, and that's pretty easy to accommodate.

Another thing that strikes me about your dietary restrictions is that you're doing what I do, which is imposing a standard on yourself that you would never impose on others. You wouldn't ask whether it is in fact rude to be a vegan, for example, or whether it is in fact rude to keep kosher—even though those are both much harder dietary restrictions to accommodate.

So I would say, to answer your questions: (1) no, (2) no, (3) no, and (4) not necessarily, but you're being much stricter with yourself than I suspect you would be with others, which is a sign of a conscientious mind.

Regan Parks said...

Since jparks was diagnosed with Celiac's we've had to deal with a similar situation. We usually ask what's being served and based on the answer either bring something we can share with everyone as an appetizer that jparks can have as his meal (pork meatballs are my go to thing in that case) or I feed him before we go and bring some small snacks for him to eat if he gets hungry.

There have been a few cases where the host makes something gluten free for him and he's sick later so we know there was either cross contamination or the host doesn't really understand what gluten free is. We don't drill the person when they present the gluten free item to him because I think that would be rude (did you wash your hands after you touched bread and then touched this? Did you wash the pan out before you cooked his food? etc) If he feels like the item might not really be gluten free he politely declines (Thank you so much but I didn't realize you would have something I could eat so I ate on the way here.) or takes it and passes it off to me.

(sorry, longest comment ever)

The only time I've ever felt put out by someone's dietary needs are by one babysitter that we use. She's a gluten free vegan and the two together trip me up. I usually try to have something for her, but if I really can't swing it that day, then I let her know so she can bring her own meal. I feel like as a host, if I can't meet one person's needs than it's better to let them know, ask them to help me, and not leave them starving come meal time. They can either send me recipes or bring their own food. I'm good either way.

TL;DR Yes, you're over thinking. It'll be okay, pack a snack.

Bill said...

You don't eat no meat?

That's ok... I make lamb!

Bill said...

If you don't know what will be served, eat before you go. You can then pick what you can eat and be sociable. You could also ask to bring something potluck, which opens the door to your own palate. And it makes it sound like it's their idea!

watercolordaisy said...

I think the key is in how you bring it up.
"Hey. This is kind of awkward but I just wanted you to be aware I have a dietary issue with beef and need to avoid eating it. If you are planning to serve it no big deal I'll just stick to the sides I just wanted you to be aware and not think I'm rude if I don't eat something."

watercolordaisy said...

(On my phone so it's being a twit)

As opposed to "hey are you having beef cause I can't eat beef and if you are can I bring my own food?" Because bringing your own food is kinda rude when it isn't a potluck cookout unless you have severe food allergies.

Bethany said...

I have similar situations because I have the Lap-Band, and I can't always eat what "normal" people can. I just usually go without the main part of the meal so I don't point out that I'm eating differently, or (for something like sandwiches) I just eat what I can. With a soup, the cheese would be going in last - could you just ask for you to get some before it's added?