” Dinner is Served “

a. ” I don’t eat that “.

Ah. I’m terribly sorry. I did not know. I’m afraid I neglected to prepare an alternative. And have no other food. It would be terribly rude of me to sit here in front of you and eat while you do not. I’ll just clear the plates away and we can go on to a nice discussion about Kierkegaard or BREXIT. May I get you a cracker and a glass of water?

b. ” I don’t want to eat that “.

Ah. Well, you won’t object if I do? Good. could you pass the oyster sauce, there’s a good fellow…

c. ” I’m afraid we can’t eat that “.

Ah. I know the problem. We’re restricted in our tribe as well. May I get you some fruit? Some tea?

d. ” I’m afraid I’m not allowed to eat “.

Ah. Doctors, eh? I can do you an egg…or a sandwich. Or a salad. Or a triple gin?

e. ” I’m afraid I’m allergic to that “.

Ah. Well, we’ll just pop into the pantry and see if there’s a can of something. Don’t touch the plate and I’ll get you a fresh knife and fork. Only be a minute.

Food is a minefield for many these days. It always was, to some extent, as there were people who had it and people who did not. That worked out well for the well-fed until the hungry cut their heads off. Thankfully we have fewer guillotinings these days than before, but more food intolerances.

The religious sometimes fall back on food laws to keep them from sin. The fact that the laws sometimes keep them from being comfortable dinner guests is sad, though equally, they are shielded from some pretty awful recipes. In the end, food laws are a self-punishing thing…unless someone hijacks them to demand money with menaces from restauranteurs and food suppliers – then it is criminal thuggery disguised in piety.

The genuinely allergic and/or intolerant are in a different boat. For some the avoidance of certain foods and the chemicals related to them can be a matter of life and death. Once they discover their vulnerability, they need to be wary biochemists whenever they dine. Their friends should be too.

The finicky and fussy are difficult customers. They can be so far advanced as gourmets, gourmands, or gorblimeys that any meal shared with them is an ordeal. I have sat at table with people who played the restaurant menu, the staff, and the other dinner guests like a harmonica to satisfy their own need for attention. It was painful – but not something that had to be endured twice…

For myself, there have been times when I really wanted to eat something that was forbidden me and times when I really did not want to eat another treif item. I will not tell you how I resolved the dilemma, but I did gain an appreciation of how to be delicate in those circumstances. The fall-back position was always abstinence, even if you had to push things round a plate until it was cleared. Next meal was in 6 hours, if you were lucky, and you could last for that long and do your own cooking.

 

 

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