Conscious Aging: Picky Eaters

A friend is going on a weekend women’s retreat with a group she’s known for a long time. Two attendees are assigned responsibility for each meal: they have to shop, bring ingredients, prep, and serve. She and her counterpart have a lunch, and are planning egg salad with lettuce on whole wheat bread and a small side salad. Nowadays, it’s necessary to send out a description of what you’re serving and the ingredients so people can say back what they won’t eat. Some don’t eat bread, so suitable lettuce leaves have to be provided for egg salad in lettuce wrap. Some don’t eat mayo, so they need plain hard boiled egg. There are all kinds of stipulations re salad dressing — what it can and can’t contain. I suppose when they get there someone will balk at the egg entirely and be out of luck.

I know there are people with legit food allergies, and of course someone serving a meal would want to know about those. One time Jerry and I took friends to Mamasan’s VietNamese restaurant in Rochester, where almost everything has fish sauce in it. One of our guests, looking at the menu, announced that he was violently allergic to fish sauce and had in fact forgotten his EpiPen. I asked the owner, Be, to come over to our table. I pointed to the friend and said, “If he eats fish sauce he will stop breathing and die.” Be’s English was more functional than fluent, but she got the point and announced that she would personally go into the kitchen to fix him something. I thanked her and said to our friend with a smile that had steel underneath that whatever happened to come out of the kitchen, he would, I was sure, be glad to eat.

But I can’t imagine Jerry and I having friends over for dinner and feeling that I had to send the menu out ahead of time. I think we have a lot of self-diagnosed people who refuse gluten and heaven knows what else, claiming adverse health effects. In short, we’ve become picky eaters. I’ve been with friends in restaurants who quiz the server extensively on what is in a dish they’d like to order, demand it with various modifications, then when the dish comes claim that one or another ingredient was left in and send the dish back to be prepared again. Honestly, it must drive restauranteurs crazy.

I’m fortunate not to have food allergies, and my stomach tolerates most things. If I’m served something that looks unappealing I take a small taste and leave the rest — without making a big deal.  I had friends over for lunch recently, and never thought about sending out what I was going to serve. If, in the moment, my lunch had been refused the alternative would been peanut butter and jelly that I keep on hand for the grandkids. Fortunately, it never came to that.

10 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: Picky Eaters

  1. I am allergic to shellfish. My friends know it and are very accommodating and will even point out appetizers for me to avoid. I remember the option of vegetable lasagna at Amy and Matt’s rehearsal dinner. I was greatly relieved. Seriously, if you offered me PB and J at your house I would gladly eat it.

  2. When this pickiness really got to be a problem – somewhere around the time carbs and gluten-free got to be on everyone’s radar – I read an article about one host’s revolt. She got tired of trying to plan a dinner party based on everyone’s whims so she started doing something like the following……she prepared a meat, some side vegetables, a big salad with all the fixings, and a good bread or rolls. And said take it or leave it. She decided there was enough variety that all guests could find something to eat no matter what their preferences or real or trumped up allergies. Smart woman!

  3. for Joyce: Maybe Seattle is the picky eater capital of the country because of all the faddish diets people are on. But I have all the sympathy in the world for actual food allergies, which are sometimes hard to avoid when eating out. Hey, try Stonewall Kitchens strawberry jam — available online or in high end grocery vendors. We discovered it years ago on our family Vermont bike tours. Closest thing to home made I’ve ever tasted. I actually quite like PB&J too, and often eat it with the kids. 🙂 BTW, the book Miss Rumphius is here and I’m getting Else early from day care today, so we’ll read it here and then take it to their house for Archie. Love the book. Thank you.

  4. for Phyllis: Sounds really smart — something for everyone. Matt and Amy have a friend who actually does have celiac disease and must avoid gluten or get very unpleasant gastrointestinal consequences. But all the people who claim to have it can’t possibly, I suspect. I feel fortunate that I can tolerate most things, and so can sample widely from many cuisines.

  5. for Joyce: Yes, I loved that too. 🙂 It’s a charming book. I have visions of both kids casting seeds all over the neighborhood.

  6. We are happy to adapt our cooking for people who have true serious illnesses or food allergies. We don’t make shrimp perloo when a friend with shellfish allergies comes to dinner, or cook spicy foods when another friend who doesn’t tolerate “heat” eats with us. Ditto for diabetics or people with true gluten allergies. I agree with you – I think for a lot of people it’s simply a fad to be allergic to something, and a mode to get some attention and keep your hosts hopping. The women’s group process you described yesterday would drive me crazy! We know Trump fuels himself on cokes, hamburgers, and steaks. What do you think his problem is?????

  7. for Phyllis: Trump is the perpetual adolescent — even in his dietary choices. And I think having a White House chef on call is not good for him. When you see him in golf attire, it’s evident he’s gotten quite fat.

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