I recently read this post from Michael Ruhlman titled, “Food Fascism” and it really struck a nerve with me. I’ve known a lot of people like this and I just had to say something. Read on, you might be surprised at where I go with this post.
Michael went on to talk about a wedding where a mother was helping plan a wedding for her daughter and didn’t want to have to accommodate everyone’s special food requests — then not get it right and in turn, people not eat their food, and then her have to pay for uneaten and wasted meals. While most of his post talks about people who are simply following the latest fad diet, he does respectfully call out those with celiac disease or shellfish allergies as someone to be considered when planning a menu.
My personal belief is that if you are on a special diet — whether it’s a self-imposed real food diet, or a gluten-free diet because you have celiac disease — it’s not up to everyone else to make sure you get the food you want (or need), IT’S UP TO YOU AND ONLY YOU. If you’re going to an event like a wedding, be prepared and bring your own food and deal with it. Just please don’t ruin the day for the folks that are getting married — this is their day, not yours — and more likely than not, they don’t share the same needs or beliefs as you in regards to their food. Considering you would be the minority and they are paying a significant sum of money for the catering, they shouldn’t be expected to plan the menu around you.
If you’re going to a restaurant, don’t preach, don’t demand, just ask politely if they can accommodate your request and then use your best judgement in assessing the risk — eating out is always a risk (especially for people with celiac disease (even if they have a gluten-free menu).
If you’re going to a restaurant that advertises their gluten-free menu, then you have every right to ask questions and expect answers, but by all means, be polite and don’t expect the waiter to get back to you with detailed answers you’d expect from a doctor or a dietitian. Most restaurants with gluten-free menus are simply following advice from a marketing stand point and don’t really understand the importance of a gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease. They’re simply treating it as a way to attract more customers. If they knew the implications, they probably wouldn’t be offering the GF menu. There are a handful of great restaurants out there that do understand and really do go out of their way to accommodate those of us who must eat the way we do — seek those restaurants out, then visit and revisit often so they know how much you appreciate them.
The bottom line is that it’s NEVER OK to rant and rave and make a scene about your food. Whether you’re at a party or at a wedding, just remember that the event is not about you (unless of course it’s your own event). Even if you’re at a restaurant, the other diners don’t need to be subjected to your special dietary concerns. If you have a problem, quietly ask for a manager and pull them to the side to discuss it. Even better, write a letter to the management and don’t go back to the restaurant — both you and the restaurant will be better for it. I’ve always appreciated a restaurant manager that will tell me up front that they can’t accommodate me as it means that nobody is wasting their time and even better, I’ve just decreased my chances of getting sick.
Don’t be what Michael Ruhlman refers to as a “Food Fascist”, you will neither be liked by others and you’ll be giving a bad name to the rest of us who have to (or choose to) follow a specific diet.