Dietary Requirements

I’ve got an invitation to a works party at the end of the month – oddly enough very close to the American Thanksgiving – that looks good. The people there will be jolly sorts and not at all stuffy. It’ll be perfect for the old ” exploding turkey ” gag. You can do a power of damage with a 25-pounder Butterball, particularly if you choose the H.E. variety.

I will probably take a pot of chili – though the hostess says she’ll have enough food there. The thing is that it may well be edible, but it won’t be FOOD. It will be party food. And I’m not a Party member…

The note inviting me has a subscript that asks me if I have any dietary requirements. The fact that I’m gonna arrive with a cast-iron kettle of chili and cornbread pretty well answers that. But of course she meant other things:

Do I have religious restrictions that prohibit me from eating things that taste good, based upon commandments from the Middle Ages? Well, yes, I do, and mine go back to the Bronze Age. But the Bronze Age was a very long time ago and a very long way away and I do my own grocery shopping here in Australia at IGA.

I do follow strict religious law whenever there is nothing else on the table or when my well-meaning friends make a fuss of it. I’m particularly annoyed when they mention that I won’t be getting any of the bacon or prawns or stroganoff sauce or whatever but I can make it up on extra bread or lettuce…

I plan to bring along my own Dead Sea Scroll with newly-discovered texts that allow everything except eggplant, kidneys, or liver and specifically command the faithful to serve these in double helpings to the everyone else. I shall be generous to all.

As far as chemical imbalances, colonic triggers, or frank allergy, I’m fine. I do like to specify that the food be dead, or at least moving slower than I am. This is to allow me to catch it more easily. I look somewhat askance at mock foods that pretend to be something other than themselves. They may taste fine, but they would eat as well if they were honest about what they are. Frequently the word -association between the real ingredients and the supposed dish are enough to spoil any pleasure. I defy anyone to enjoy mock-tripe, cooked how you will.

I suppose one day I will finally give in to my baser instincts and take some poor woman up on this dietary  requirements thing. She will be thinking pizza squares and cheese on a stick followed by a sausage sizzle and I will demand ( with a doctor’s certificate ) treble-refined Patagonian fleedleberry purée over non-organic turnips. The only downside to the whole thing is if she manages to cook ’em…

 

 

I Prayed For Guidance

And then that darned ‘ol God told me to do something different from what I wanted to do. Talk about annoyed. I mean, what’s the point of having a God if they’re going to boss you around…

So I switched gods. The second one I chose allowed the thing I wanted to do – indeed made it into a virtue instead of a vice. And then snuck up on me and hit me with dietary laws that meant I couldn’t cook my favourite recipes. Not only that, I had to not eat all day for a month. Not even a chocolate bar.

So I decided to ditch the Almighties and find a guru, sage, or wise man  ( or wise woman ) to tell me that I could do whatever I wanted to do without guilt. Took a bit of shopping but I got the combination I wanted. And then the bill hit me – it turned out the guru’s idea of tithes was my pocket open all the time to pay for his Rolls Royces.

So I’m back on my own again. My People have rejected me and they talked to Everyone Else and they’re not having a bar of me either. I’m either going to have to become an atheist or start my own religion. Neither idea seems really appealing as they would both require a good deal of thinking. And you never can tell where that might lead to – like as not I would be forbidding myself from things. And then where would I be when it came to being happy?

” 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.