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Note to guests: shut up and eat

Paleo foods: meats, veggies, fruits and nuts

The NYTimes has an article this morning about people who dictate to their hosts what they will or will not eat for dinner:

It’s becoming harder for Americans to break bread together. Our appetites are stratified by an ever-widening array of restrictions: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.

Though medical conditions like celiac disease and severe allergies have long relegated a small percentage of diners to rigid diets, more and more eaters outside this group appear to be experimenting with self-imposed limits, taking a do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose approach to restricting what they consume.

Some group-dining devotees say they are happy to adjust as the occasion demands. In April, Coco Myers, a writer who avoids gluten and lactose, invited a fish-averse friend to a dinner party in East Hampton, N.Y., hosted by a couple who don’t eat red meat. A few days earlier, the hostess (Scott O’Neil, a painter and an amateur cook, who had been planning a seafood stew) e-mailed Ms. Myers to ask about problem foods.

“Sometimes I go to dinner parties, and you just deal with what you get, right?” Ms. Myers recalled. “But she put it out there.” So she compiled a dietary no-fly list: no fish, no gluten, no lactose.

Ms. O’Neil was up to the challenge. “Nowadays I always ask, because there’s so many things people don’t eat,” she said. She swapped the stew for a mixed grill with chicken, scallops, salmon and tofu, rounding it out with rice, an asparagus-topped salad and an upside-down rhubarb cake.

This is an excellent way to ensure that social gatherings will become increasingly rarer or BYOM (bring your own meal).  I can’t even imagine who does this.  Who calls up or emails the host of a dinner party and dictates their food choices?  Presumably, there will be something on the table that niche diners can eat.  They shouldn’t be making unreasonable demands.  Otherwise the host has to cook several different meals or carefully structure one that doesn’t offend anyone.

Call me old fashioned or fascistic but I think it’s rude for people to do this.  I try to stick to a paleo diet because my triglycerides are a bit on the high side.  That means, I eat the meat/fish and the veggies.  But if someone is having pasta that night, I eat the pasta.  If it’s not a food allergy and one portion isn’t going to clog your arteries, eat it, dammit. And I *never* call or email ahead of time with my paleo list.

I admire the patience of the hosts in this article.  The one who got a bunch of special requests the day of the dinner after having sent out invitations days before should have told them tough titties. It’s a dinner party, not a restaurant.  How insensitive and selfish do you have to be to ask your host at the last minute to accomodate your extra specialness? What one diner adamantly objects to may be the thing that another diner can’t live without.  I think that’s what annoys me the most about this trend.  Sure, you may not eat the tartiflette with the bacon, cream and gooey cheese but the person sitting next to you might *love* that recipe.  If you can’t be satisfied with the vegetables, salads and apple caramel tarte for dessert, and have to impose your dietary restrictions on everyone, you’re not just inconveniencing the host, you could be ruining dinner for everyone else.  I’ve always seen dinner parties as a rare opportunity to eat what I might otherwise not cook for myself.  It’s an adventure, not an ordeal. Twenty years ago, this never would have happened.  You would have gone to the party and eaten what was on your plate or pushed it around and settled for the good company.

If you don’t like that solution, make your own bento box of carefully chosen gluten free, meatless, sugarless, raw veggies and bring it with you where you can consume it conspicuously and mark yourself as the self-righteous, morally superior person you are.

On the menu tonight: French bistro-esque salad with green beans, potatoes, thin slices of country ham, tomatos, capers and olives in a homemade shallot vinaigrette.