The new dietary restriction landscape


Non appetit, the modern quandary of preparing a dinner for people who all have different types of dietary restrictions. Depending on whom I invite to dinner, I may have to put together a meal that conforms to one or more of the following restrictions: low-fat, pescetarian, vegetarian, nondairy, non-pork, non-beef. (Yes, many of these categories overlap.) To the best of my knowledge, none of my dinner guests have had nut allergies or been gluten intolerant.

I remember telling a story once and mentioning that the subject of the story was a vegetarian. The person I was telling the story to (who is from an older generation) asked, "Are they so poor that they can't afford meat?" Because in an older era, people were vegetarians because they had no choice.

Comments (25)
  1. joe says:

    how about funny food allergies?

    if you slip me a raw banana in something, you’ll be searching for a epipen or calling 911…

  2. Kz says:

    Allergies and intolerance I understand and I will accomodate you. For the others: you’ll eat what I cook or starve.

    It’s fine if you don’t want to eat meat, but you won’t force it on me. Seriously… This is a disease of modern times.

  3. Randall says:

    I was on a flight once and they asked everyone not to eat peanuts because of some kid on the plane that had a peanut allergy.  Guess what the only snack I brought was?  I ate them anyway, and the kid was fine.  People are WAY too fussy nowadays, and we as a society are WAY too accomodating.  It reminds me of a state park I used to go to in Ohio…the parking lot was 20% handicapped spaces, which were never occupied.  Apparently handicapped people don’t spend all that much time on unpaved nature trails, who would have thought?  idiocy.

  4. mikeb says:

    Isn’t this the problem that salads solve?

    Can’t or don’t want to eat my bacon-wrapped, tripe-stuffed creme-puffs?  Well, here’s a nice tossed salad.  You can pick out the olives if you don’t want ’em.

  5. Julian says:

    Asking for vegetarian food on an aircraft (beforehand, obviously) can be a good way to get better food.

    On an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland many years ago, my fellow passengers were rather jealous that my vegan meal consisted of about 2lbs of fresh strawberries together with various other varieties of fruit (after a first course of a mushroom pie). Much more appetising than the stodgy chicken something-or-other that everyone else received!

    And before anyone thinks me rude – I did share the strawberries with my neighbours.

    The food provided by Microsoft at the UK Vista launch last year was quite good too – plenty of fruit and salad.

    For most vegetarians/vegans you can  satisfy requirements just by providing a range of fruit and salad (just probably avoid dressings other than oil/vinegar). Cheese dishes tend to get a big yawn (or worse from the vegans!).

  6. "none of my dinner guests have had nut allergies"

    I have a nut allergy (and a peanut one as well) but I don’t know that I have ever made a big deal about it. I am careful about what I eat, travel with an Epie Pen and will eat the food I can and avoid the food I cannot. If people want to eat nuts/peanuts around me that is fine – just don’t get upset when I wait until you’ve washed your hands to shake them. :-)

  7. dlane says:

    For my wife and I, going out to eat (or having friends cook, etc) can be exasperating.  She’s a heart patient, so low salt, etc.  I have a weird laundry list of allergies  which I mostly reduce to "cow" (cow’s milk/cheese, beef) and spinach.  That knocks out most "random green salad" items because even when the waiter checks with the chef the answer can be "he’s not sure; best to skip it."  I don’t remember the last time we ordered off the menu at a restaurant without a bunch of questions or special instructions.

    (Who else is allergic to spinach??? geeze)

  8. Ed says:

    To paraphrase: selfish people are a pain in the arse.

  9. man with a pan says:

    I think one might before paraphrasing distinguish the fussy and those with more serious reasons.

  10. Craptaculus says:

    Wow, a lot of rude people commenting.  If your father didn’t like green beans, you’d make green beans as the only side?  If your friend didn’t like pizza, you’d insist on going to Domino’s?  Jeez.  If you have friends over who don’t eat meat, why not try just a teeny tiny bit to accommodate them? What’s the harm? (No, I’m not a vegetarian.)

  11. I’m very fortunate that my wife is an excellent and creative cook.  One of our children is a strict vegetarian, and another is Celiac (requires strict gluten-free diet).  AND we keep kosher.  Always interesting…

    No complaints, though — we’re fortunate not to have any nut allergies, though the kids have classmates who do.  Very, very scary stuff, nut allergies.  @Randall, it may have seemed like fussiness and low risk to you, but had particles of your snack become airborne in that cramped cabin, it could have killed someone.  You should take that stuff more seriously.

  12. PETA Forever says:

    Nah, it’s easier to just not have vegan or vegetarian friends.

  13. Xepol says:

    Remember when guests thought it was rude to inconvenience a host?

    My only other thought on the subject is : Remember who the vegetarians are, when society collapses, they are the grain-fed ones who don’t taste gamey!

  14. Arun Philip says:

    Because in an older era, people were vegetarians because they had no choice

    In large sections of India, this is still the case. Meat is a delicacy consumed on special days – Sundays, festival days, etc.

    I eat meat every day, and quite a few of my colleagues and friends check to see if I’ve blood dripping down my chin :)

  15. Leo Davidson says:

    Blimey, what is with all of the self-righteous meat-eating commenters? If people don’t like the taste of meat (I know a couple), or think it’s healthier not to eat meat (I know one), or don’t like killing animals (I know several) then that’s fair enough. Why force them to eat something they don’t want to?

    Last I checked, meat-eaters can also eat vegetarian meals. I know someone who complains about having to cook two meals when a vegetarian visits. I never understood why they didn’t instead cook a vegetarian meal for everyone. I’ve tried their vegetarian cooking and it was excellent and would have been enjoyed by everyone.

    Of course if there is no common ground among a group of guests then you have to have multiple options or make some go without, but I find it downright stupid that meat-eaters cannot even conceive of eating one meal without meat.

    I eat meat but I respect those who don’t for whatever reason.

    The only diets which I don’t really respect are the religious ones, because it’s so obvious (to me) that the reasoning behind them is faulty and out-of-date, but even there if I had a guest with those concerns then I’d respect them and aim to do something which made everyone happy, rather than single them out with something special and complicate things further. If it bothered me that much I wouldn’t invite them in the first place.

  16. Jonas says:

    "I ate them anyway, and the kid was fine."

    That is toying with danger, since people can be more or less allergic. A friend of mine is allergic to peanuts, and just having them in the same room will cause him serious problems.

  17. Xepol says:

    Leo -> Allergies are one thing, but the group you are talking about tend to push their eating habits on others as a political point of view rather than just limit their own food choices.

    Sooner or later, people were bound to get sick of it.

  18. Rick C says:

    @Leo Davidson: "The only diets which I don’t really respect are the religious ones, because it’s so obvious (to me) that the reasoning behind them is faulty and out-of-date"

    Some religious dietary restrictions were originally most likely health-based.  Don’t eat the animal that tends to have worms if you don’t know how to get rid of worms, ya know?

  19. The Capt says:

    I love how people are complaining about vegetarians, despite the fact that no vegetarians are chiming in to complain about meat.

    Maybe the sterotypes should be reversed?  The self-righteous meat-eaters who want everyone to do exactly as they do?

  20. Jason H says:

    The Capt: There is a pretty simple reason.

    If I invite my friends over to have fried chicken wings, one of the wives of my friends is vegetarian, so I (being the host that doesn’t want to totally exclude guests) also have to make something for her to eat.

    When a vegetarian wants to prepare a meal, they don’t have to cook something with meat in it (assuming they’re good at making flavorful vegetarian dishes).  Since non-vegetarians can/will (generally) also eat good vegetarian food, the vegetarian does not have to go out of his/her way to cater to non-vegetarians.

    It’s roughly the same complaint as for game/software development: you have to code/cook for the lowest common denominator.

    That is, if you want to write one app/make one dish that works for everyone, you have to make it using the intersection of all target systems/diets.

    That’s fine if you happen to be the most-restricted person (you have a 10 year old video card/the vegan cooking dinner for their non-vegan friends), but if you are the least-restricted person (and especially when a large majority of the group have similar systems/diets to your own), it’s an issue.  Again, one makes exceptions for people with allergies (I don’t use peanuts due to a friend with heavy peanut allergies, though on my own I would be making the wings in peanut oil), for people that used to eat meat that one day decide "I don’t want to eat meat anymore" it’s a bit of a bother.

  21. Anon says:

    "It’s roughly the same complaint as for game/software development: you have to code/cook for the lowest common denominator."

    I think support for IEatMeat is mandatory in Human09

  22. Anon says:

    "Depending on whom I invite to dinner, I may have to put together a meal that conforms to one or more of the following restrictions: low-fat, pescetarian, vegetarian, nondairy, non-pork, non-beef."

    OOh, I know. Poached Salmon. Get some salmon steaks, splash on some olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Wrap the steaks in aluminium foil and bake until cooked. Serve with salad, rice or new potatoes. Ok, not vegetarian. But maybe the vegetarians eat fish.

    If not how about

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapo_doufu

    but use vegetarian mince. I think it’s quorn based.

  23. Mike says:

    "I ate them anyway, and the kid was fine."

    "People are WAY too fussy nowadays, and we as a society are WAY too accomodating."

    Can I join a different society then the one you belong to?

  24. Kyralessa says:

    I’ve found that sometimes these differing food requirements dovetail nicely, though.  We were having some Indian friends for dinner once and I asked about their food preferences.  It turned out that their avoidance of meat and some other animal products fit nicely with our Russian Orthodox fasting requirements (e.g. no meat, no dairy), so we invited them to come on a fasting day and everyone was able to eat what we served.

  25. SRS says:

    “…but I find it downright stupid that meat-eaters cannot even conceive of eating one meal without meat.” – that isn’t really the point.

    Vegetarians will expect you to cater specifically for their ‘needs’ (always a euphemism for ‘choices’) whist never being willing to do the same in return.

    [I’ve found vegetarian hosts to be quite considerate of my dining restrictions as well. Maybe you just need new friends. -Raymond]

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