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Oct 19, 2010 08:11 PM

Returning the dietary choice favor

Because of health reasons, I need to eat a carnivorous diet. Animal fats, meats and eggs are the bulk of what I eat and my well-being has improved tremendously on this regime. I've learned the hard way that grains, soy, starches and beans do not like me one bit.

Due to volunteer work I do with young people I am thrown in with vegetarians and vegans. The more lenient of my vegetarian acquaintances understand how I eat and will do nice things like make a kick-ass spinach frittata, something all involved can enjoy. I don't specifically ask this, it's just done as a thoughtful gesture and I always let them know it's appreciated.

I respect others' dietary choices. Unfortunately I've found that mine is totally disrespected. My group is big on potlucks, and unfortunately the menu always skews heavily in favor of dishes filled with grains, soy, starcges and beans. Non-starchy vegetable offerings are close to nonexistent (unless I bring one), so this dilemma comes up:

Someone asks me if I've tried the vegan red velvet cake or the sprouted-grain pizza with soy cheese. I say no, unfortunately I'm unable to eat it due to health reasons, but I'm sure it's very good and I wish I could.

"But it IS healthy!" comes the response.

"No, not for me, I'm sorry."

"It's vegan! It's got whole grains/sprouts/soy milk, it's really healthy!"

"For you, maybe. For me, no. Don't take it personally, I got dealt this hand, sorry."

But, of course, it's inevitably taken personally--even though many of these people KNOW how I eat, have been TOLD I get sick; some have even seen how I react for themselves. I have NEVER had one vegan say before these things "hey, Mandy, tell me what you can eat, I'll see what I can rustle up." I am expected to eat what's available. I've tried to turn it, saying that it would be like me offering bacon cheeseburgers and omelets to them knowing full well they can't eat it and getting pissed off that they didn't. Doesn't work.

(FYI--these things are combined with business meetings so I can't get out of them)

Is it wrong for me to ask for a salad or even a veggie tray if they want me to eat with them so badly? Or is it offensive?

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  1. I try to respect everyones' dietary choices, but find that many vegetarians and vegans want to "teach" all others the virtues of their choices, and take direct offense, if one makes other choices, whatever the reasons.

    We attempt to accommodate them, but do not pay much attention, and break off conversations, when they try to proselytize on how much better they are, than we are. It's like dining with a bunch of Amway salespeople.

    While we are omnivores, you would be welcome at our table.


    14 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Couldn't agree more, Mr. Hunt.

      Live and let live. More importantly, eat and let eat.

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Bill, you seem to know an awful lot of vegetarians to be able to make these generalizations.

        1. re: im_nomad

          I'm not 100% sure what Bill does for a living. But based on his posts I know he organizes A LOT of dinners. As a result I would assume he deals with a lot of varied dietary restrictions. Also based on his posts, he goes out of his way to make sure those needs/restrictions are properly attended to.

          1. re: donovt

            Yes, but being a p.i.t.a. is not the exclusive territory of vegetarians / vegans, and there are plenty of perfectly lovely, non-preaching veg's out there as well. I don't understand the stereotype.

            1. re: im_nomad

              Agree completely about p.I.t.a. statement. I know only a few vegetarians and they happen to be wonderful, non-preachy people. Bill obviously has experiences with many more than I do and feels that "many", not all, tend to want to teach.

              I was simply replying to your statement that he must know a lot of vegetarians by saying yes, he probably does. Not saying his feelings were right or wrong, just that they are probably based off of many experiences.

              1. re: donovt

                There were several (back in the Boulder days), who did wish to "convert" everyone they met. One went around with a briefcase of charts and studies, and would make rather rude comments and noises, when others were eating their choice of meals. We try to avoid such folk. We try to respect all, but do not wish for our choices to be met with documents in an attempt to change our lifestyle. Imagine an Amway salesperson, but where food is concerned.

                So long as one keeps it as a personal choice, they are most welcome. I do not enjoy a guest, who tries to change me. The vast majority never do, and so are graciously accepted around our table.

                My mother instructed me to never talk religion, politics or sexual preferences around the table. I would add dietary choices. We'll honor all, but are not interested in "joining."


              2. re: im_nomad

                I certainly hope that my initial post did not come off as painting any of our guest as PITA. They are not, and never have been. They have either made choices, or have been dealt a hand, where there are dietary restrictions. We try to honor all, to the best of our abilities. My wife has some dietary restrictions, so we understand, or at least try to. Now, sometimes things do not go perfectly. We recently hosted a table of 10, and one lady had requested the "vegetarian" meal, and we offered the caterer her restrictions/details. The service was very slow for her meal, and the table just stayed in conversation, not touching anything, until her dish was finally served. Fortunately, it was within her guidelines and she stated that she enjoyed it. The rest of us were none the worse for the wear, and my wife and I were happy that it worked out well, with just a service glitch. Heck, we've had more service glitches with meals off the set menu, and no changes! Stuff happens, and one learns to live with it.


                1. re: im_nomad

                  I agree that the stereotype is just that- a stereotype. I just went to my first Buddhist retreat (I'm not a Buddhist by the way but wow was that place relaxing!). Obviously the fare was all vegetarian. Not once was I preached to, condescending or otherwise about how I need to alter my omnivorous ways... perhaps it was because I was dining amongst Buddhist monks:} At the same time, I was careful to be respectful and not shove in their faces how I love grilled burgers.

              3. re: im_nomad

                I seem to. In my wife's Senior Management Team, there were about six, either team members, or spouses.

                Also, for about 20 years, we lived near Boulder, CO, and knew even more back then.

                Now, many of these folk had individual definitions of their dietary choices, so we did have to ask for clarifications. We try hard to not make generalizations, but to be specific to each guest. Usually, things seem to work well.


              4. re: Bill Hunt

                For every sanctimonious vegetarian, there's an equally obnoxious carnivore asking a non-meat eater "well, DO YOU WEAR LEATHER?"

                No one group of eaters has a lock on the jackass quotient.

                1. re: LeoLioness

                  As an omnivore who encounters omnivores, carnivores and vegans frequently, in terms of frequency of occurrence:

                  3rd most frequent (actually quite rare) - vegans going on about the moral superiority of their dietary regime

                  2nd most frequent - carnivores & omnivores mocking the dietary regime of vegans

                  Most frequent - carnivores & omnivores complaining about vegans going on about ...

                  It reminds me of the 70s, when the number of women who complained about sexism was far eclipsed by the number of men mocking the women or complaining about the women's complaints.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    I would never do that. One's dietary are their personal decision. They are none of my business, until it comes time to order the meals for the table. Then, all that I care about is their personal satisfaction with that meal. I do not care if they wear hemp sandals, unless there is a dress code.

                    Though I might discuss the flavors, or the textures of my meal (in only the appropriate settings), I would never try to convince others of the merits of my food. I would instead do a review, at a site such as CH.

                    Same goes for my wines. If a person declines, I ask if there might be another, that they'd prefer. If not, then I will ask for help in the beverage of choice. None of that "oh, just one little taste... "

                    Now, I have met some proselytizing vegetarians and vegans, but I have fortunately not met such a carnivore. I also hope that I do not. I am sure, however, that they exist and maybe in greater number - just a guess and not a scientific study.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      You would probably encounter more "proselytizing carnivores" if you lived in an area where "political incorrectness" is considered a badge of honor, instead of what it usually is, which is plain old rudeness.

                      1. re: dump123456789

                        Well, as the realtors are fond of saying, "location, location, location... "


                2. Perhaps part of the problem with the offerings is that it is a potluck. The starchy items are usually the least expensive to make and often hold up better than leafy items.

                  The only thing you can do is make your contributed dish one you can eat and eat before the meeting so you don't starve!

                  The considerate people who notice and understand your situation will get it, the others won't.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: meatn3

                    I agree. I think it's rude to make requests at a potluck and you just have to suck it up and bring something you really like for yourself if you don't think others will bring anything for you. We have potlucks seemingly weekly at work and it seems like only half have any non-starchy offerings. They're just the easiest and cheapest foods to make and store for large groups of people. Things like large veggie plates usually have to be refrigerated, and there isn't always room to hold something of that size if it's not going to be served immediately.

                    1. re: queencru

                      Most of the potlucks at my workpace seem to fall into three categories: potatoes, pasta salad and meatballs ;) Oh, and dessert.

                      Although usually someone will bring a fruit or vegetable tray because they either don't want to, or can't cook, and you can always buy these ready made at the grocery store.

                      I have been to potlucks where the only thing I could eat was potato chips and dessert (because people wanted me to bring dessert), and i'm not a huge dessert nut like alot of people I work with. I'm ok with that.

                      1. re: im_nomad

                        Now, I am with you on the desserts. We don't do that many potlucks, but the few that we attend, seem to be very, very dessert-heavy. Hey, no problem. It means that I don't have to buy new trousers THAT often.

                        We do a lot of wine-oriented dinners, and often actually have trouble getting people to commit to dessert. Usually, the host/hostess will do the main course AND the dessert, plus appropriate wines to accompany each, plus a welcome wine.

                        Left to their own devices, without a list of courses to select to bring, I see so many more desserts, than other courses. Maybe a regional thing?


                  2. It's too bad that these people do not respect your diet, but it IS offensive to make requests at a potluck, especially since the grains, starches, and beans you can't eat are probably the bulk of their diets. If you want choices that you can eat to be available, it is up to you to bring them. Basically, although THEIR behavior is offensive, you don't want to be offensive in turn, so you have to fend for yourself in these situations.

                    If your response, "I can't eat it for health reasons" is leading to arguments that the food IS healthy, perhaps you could simply say that you are allergic to grains, or that your doctor put you on a special grain-free diet, or whatever.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Nicole

                      perhaps the OP could say 'ooh that sounds nice' and stop telling people what they can and can't eat. People who tell you they hate/can't eat brussel sprouts, wheat, dairy, this that and anything else are boring. If they are not cooking for you then it doesn't affect you so why bother to start a discussion.

                      bring what you can eat to a potluck or meeting and all will be fine. Personally, I have no interest in other people's food requirements unless I am providing for them.

                      1. re: Nicole

                        Oh, please don't resort to an allergy "excuse." This just makes is harder for everyone who has a real allergy. I think you should stick with the truth, and get assertive!

                      2. I have crazy food restrictions, and find it boring talking about it all the time, so I either bring food I can eat, and eat just that, or eat before or after. Usually there will be someone who will say, but can't you just try this little bit? No, I can't. Hopefully they leave it at that. However, if relentlessly pressed like stated above, I find it entirely appropriate to bust out the explosive diarrhea talk. Unpleasant? Yes, but it nips it in the bud.

                        1. Self-righteousness, whatever form it takes, is hard to take. You need to explain that healthy means different things to different people and that eating their food will make you sick. Tell them to think of it in terms of food allergies. Walnuts are healthy for most people, but they are lethal to some.