KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY FOOD: Why Do People Try to Make Me Eat What They Eat?

I'll eat my food, and you eat yours.
Publish date:
June 20, 2013

Weddings are usually a mixed bag for me.

I love getting dressed up and drinking wine and dancing. I love that wedding outings for me typically involve staying in a hotel, motel or inn (a place that someone else will clean). And I love the promise of an after-reception jaunt to the local bar or diner where booze and romance fueled guffaws are certain to occur.

What I almost always DREAD about weddings is the food. Or more precisely, talking about ME and the food.

You see, I'm what some people have called "The Least Fun Person To Eat Out With Ever." (A label that I ABHOR, a good restaurant is my Crystal Cathedral).

I have Celiac (gluten intolerance i.e., gluten makes me painfully sick) and I am a vegetarian, and for some people this just makes their brains explode. I don't know if it's the high emotions or the high quantities of champagne consumed, but weddings are where I usually encounter the most intense interrogations. Without fail, focus will shift for a moment to "Why isn't Louise eating ___?".

I'm lucky if I'm amongst mostly polite acquaintances or strangers, the questions are usually limited to "What happens to you if you eat gluten?" (Answer: Stomach cramps, diarrhea, sometimes vomiting, and visions of Ronald McDonald as St. Michael the Archangel), or "Will I lose weight if I stop eating gluten?"

If I'm amongst friends or family, especially those I haven't seen in a long while, the conversation often turns a little more…aggressive.

"You're STILL doing that?" is a favorite of mine as well as, "So you won't even eat the cake? Can't you just cheat a little?" There's the good old, "Is this a weight loss thing? Is that why you don't eat anything? Because you don't need to lose weight." And of course, if I'm lucky, there's the person who takes offense, "God, you're such a hippie! Cows are good! Bread is good! EAT IT!"

A friend of mine, an avowed vegetarian basically since birth, had an uncle plop a piece of steak on his plate at a wedding and say, "Just try it. You'll like it."

I. Just. Don't. Under. Stand.

Plain and simple, why do people care so much about what other people eat?

Yes, I understand, there's responsibility. Responsibility in that there are a myriad of ecological problems (that I won't go into here) that our society's eating practices contribute to. And yes, I understand privilege. We are privileged to live in a country where we have the luxury of picking and choosing what we eat. Consideration and gratitude, really, for what we get to eat as a larger food-consuming entity, IS important.

But for crap's sake, I will never understand why my or anybody else's eating practices, are automatically open for debate just because they are different than "the norm."

And don't get me wrong, I welcome curiosity. After all, I love talking about food! If you want to ask genuine questions about recipes, where I shop, what I cook, what restaurants I like, etc. then I'm all over it! Yes let's discuss! And you too, friend, tell me about your food practices! Hooray for food!

But nothing will clench me up faster than a whiff of a Food Missionary. The Food Missionary sees how you eat, decides that it is not in The Plan, or at least the plan that they follow, and then makes it their mission to convert you.

Because they are right and you are deluded.

What if I tried to make you eat like me? What if I took the delicious, golden brown, crusty dinner roll (egads I miss dinner rolls) out of your hand, looked at you accusingly and said, "You're STILL eating gluten?" What if I tossed your filet mignon into the ice sculpture, plopped down my tofu burger and told you to, "EAT IT"?

Right, you'd kick me in my gluten-free teeth, and rightly so.

The way a person eats can be very personal. Like religion, politics or weight, I argue that food choices, unless invited, should be left off the dining table. Food is tied so closely to pleasure, and the quickest way to remove all pleasure from food is by scrutinizing the eater.

And don't get me wrong, it goes both ways. While I hate being chided for my veg, gluten-free ways, nothing gets my quinoa in a bunch faster than one of my veg, gluten-free comrades gets up in somebody's face about how bad for them/the environment what they're eating is.

"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!" I want to scream, and often do, "YOU'RE RUINING IT FOR ALL OF US!"

And by all of us, I do mean all food-eating peoples great and small.

The last thing we need is this crazy business of "these eaters" vs. "those eaters." I have absolutely no problem with what you're eating (okay, unless it's foie gras, sorry), so please have absolutely no problem with what I'm eating.

I'll eat my food, and you eat yours. Can't we just leave it at that?

Have you ever been attacked by a Food Missionary? What did you do or say? Do you have any particular eating choices/needs that have come under scrutiny? How do you deal? And seriously, anybody want to share any delicious gluten free recipes?