Archive for the 'food' Category

23
Nov
11

a little potluck etiquette

Reader E.W. writes:

It’s potluck season! Can you please write a post about etiquette for these gatherings? Not for me, for my clueless friends.

Dear E.W.:

Why, sure!

Potlucks are supposed to be a way for a host or group to diffuse the burden of feeding the group among the group’s members. That way, no one person has to do all the work. (That’s the goal, anyway.)

If you are invited to a potluck, be prepared to bring a dish. If you’re a good cook, it’s your time to shine. Prepare to make that thing you make that everyone loves. If you’re not a good cook, prepare to order something from your favorite bakery/deli/bbq joint and bring it with you.

If you are hosting a potluck, be gracious. Prepare something big so that if the people in your group don’t read my blog, you can feed them anyway. The world is full of mooches who don’t recognize their own mooching, and they probably have a great rationale for why they don’t bring food with them (I’m a bad cook; everyone else makes more money than I do; whatever). Appreciate their company if nothing else. The only thing you can do to a shitty potlucker is not invite them to the next potluck.

For you shitty potluckers who don’t want to get kicked out: You probably run with a group of people who do potlucks all the time. Think of the people who consistently bring good food. What do they bring? Can you ask them for advice? And can you relieve them of the inevitable “I’m the provider” fatigue that accompanies being the person who always brings good food to the potluck?

Here are a few good pointers to being invited back:

My potlucks never look like this.

Image: Rosen Georgiev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make a main dish or at least an exciting and substantial side. The problem with potlucks is that it is a diffusion of responsibility, so people don’t think they need to bring anything important, and you end up with a bunch of chips and salsa and 2-liters of diet soda.

If you’re really smart, you will contact other people going to the potluck and see what they’re bringing, so that it’s not a battle of the enchiladas or a spread of slaws. A great host will even assign you an item to bring, or at least a category of food to prepare.

Bring enough food for yourself and everyone else in the group. If you’re bringing alcohol, bring enough for you to drink, and enough for everyone else to drink. One bottle of wine? Okay, if there are only three people at the potluck. One six pack? Same rule. Bring more. And bring a variety. As a friend recently said, “If you bring a bottle of wine and drink the whole thing yourself, you are NOT contributing.”

If you have a food allergy or “alternative” diet, this is not the time to preach about it. Also, a potluck is not the time to try and punish people for not subscribing to your extreme vegan diet. Bring a dish you can eat and make sure there’s enough for everyone else. Make sure it’s something delicious so they’ll say, “Wow, maybe she doesn’t just eat hay all the time!” Be kind about it. Food is a tough subject and people are crazy, and that includes you.

Make something that is easy to reheat or doesn’t require reheating. Something in a crock pot is a good idea, or something that will maintain heat from your way over to the event (potatoes!), so you don’t have to line up for the microwave or oven. If you’re bringing a tray of something, be careful about meat and milk. Food poisoning sucks. Being the person who poisoned everyone at the potluck sucks more.

Also, be prepared to bring your own serving utensils, and keep track of your dishes. It’s a good idea to put masking tape on the bottom of your dish with your name on it. If you buy cheap kitchenware like most people, it’s highly likely they saw the same sale you did and stocked their kitchens in an identical manner. If you are a host, have extra utensils and serving available, in case someone forgets them. (Nothing quite like microwaving something in a tupperware container and getting melted plastic as part of the meal.)

Be prepared to handle leftovers, either by taking them back home with you or having your own tupperware. Your host may want to keep the leftovers, so offer to give them to him/her, but don’t just assume he/she wants a fridge full of other peoples’ food. Don’t expect the host to wash the dish for you, either.

Finally, when you do go to a potluck, try every dish that you can, at least a little bit. (“Can” is determined by food allergies or dietary restrictions, too.) There will probably be dishes that are preferred over others, and when you go back for seconds, you can have those. Just make sure you’re not eating so much that other people don’t get food, or so little that it’s obvious you’re picky and ungrateful.

Remember that the word “luck” is in the title of this event, and so what you get to eat is at the whims of the other people involved. But you can make your own luck by bringing something you like.

29
Mar
11

girlfriend is getting fat

Reader F. G. writes:

My girlfriend is getting fat. What can I do?

Dear F.G.:

Holy loaded question, Batman! That’s quite a lot to take on. First, I have to address a few, ehm, political issues.

Let’s start with the term “FAT”. This is such a weird word in our culture. It means “big”, it means “unhealthy”, it means “ugly”, it means “having mass”… I have to wonder which of these your girlfriend is becoming. Is she just getting bigger? Is she becoming unhealthy? Are you concerned because she’s becoming unattractive to you? Or because you’re worried she’s going to come to irreversible harm?

As you probably know, our culture is obsessed with being thin. Regardless of how much we rail on about the harmful effects of anorexia and bulimia, or how many of those Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” commercials we see, we still live in a more fat-phobic society than one that celebrates actual health. We equate being thin with being attractive, even though “skinny” girls are often in just as much (if not more) trouble than “fat” ones.

Therefore, saying your girlfriend is “getting fat” makes me want to punch you in the face. Given the weight we give that word (haha, pun intended) in our culture, the fact that you would use that word to describe your girlfriend makes me feel like you’re probably a crappy boyfriend to begin with. Don’t ever talk about a girl getting fat if you care about her. Period. We have enough issues with media-inspired self-loathing; we don’t need help from our (supposedly human) boyfriends.

tomato

Size isn't always a good indicator of health. Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But we must talk about the real obesity epidemic in our country. Yes, lots (if not most) people are overweight in our great nation, and few are doing anything to stop it — i.e. exercising and eating better. It’s just so easy to get cheap, fast food and sit on your butt in front of the TV all day.

Being overweight also means someone is generally much more likely to get life-threatening diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. Extra weight can also harm joints and cause other mechanical problems. So while it’s dangerous to encourage girls to hate their bodies and be thin, it’s equally dangerous to let them think it’s okay to be unhealthy and overweight.

As a real, loving boyfriend, you are allowed to care about your girlfriend’s weight as a health issue. I’ll give you that much.

Now let’s decide if your girlfriend really has an issue, or if you’re just being a shallow jerk.

I have a love-hate relationship with the National Institute of Health’s Body Mass Index, because it doesn’t always work. This is because people are individuals, and not numbers, so being “average” doesn’t actually mean anything. Many of my friends who are more in shape than anyone I’ve ever met weigh a lot (muscle weighs more than fat, FYI), and thus have a BMI that is a bit too high for their height. The BMI doesn’t take your fat percentage, cardio fitness, or muscle mass into account, so it’s not always totally useful.

Still, if you look at the BMI calculator, you’ll see that a “normal” weight is about 40 lb. in any direction for a given height. For instance, for my height (5′ 7″), I can be anywhere between 118-160 lbs and still be “normal”. That’s a pretty big range. So if your GF is just gaining weight, she could still be in a healthy range, technically. And you’ve got nothing to worry about (beyond your awful fat phobia).

Basically, what I’m saying is, if she’s just gotten a bit bigger over time (perfectly natural as girls age), or maybe she’s going through a rough patch and is just gaining a bit of weight as part of it, my advice is for you to change your attitude about “fat”. Girls gain weight. It happens. If it’s not life-threatening for her or isn’t part of an unhealthy lifestyle change (maybe it’s just her metabolism, or she’s on a new medication), then you need to just be emotionally supportive. If it’s just a few pounds, she’ll probably lose them once her life gets back to normal anyway.

A friend of mine once asked what he could do about the fact that his GF was getting cellulite. I told him to dump her and find a new GF if it bothered him, but good luck because we all (at least 80-90% of us) have cellulite. Girls who don’t have cellulite are either extremely lucky, or have been subjected to unnatural surgery (gods bless ’em). I told him to deal with the fact that girls get dimpled skin on their asses as they age, or get over having a normal, healthy girlfriend.

I offer you the same advice, if you’re just over-reacting to an increasing number on your girlfriend’s bathroom scale. Deal with it. Or be shallow and date a 19-year-old until she starts gaining weight, at which point you can just repeat the process eternally and never have to be emotionally mature or deal with a real, human girlfriend who has imperfections.

If, however, you are really concerned because your girlfriend has picked up some unhealthy lifestyle habits, then I will gladly offer you some better advice.

1. Don’t be the pot calling the kettle black. Chances are, if your girlfriend is eating poorly, you are, too. One of the hardest components of a weight-loss plan is that our closest friends and relatives hold us back by offering us cake, candy, cookies, and cheeseburgers. Maybe you have the exact same (crappy) diet as your GF, and she’s just got a less hyper metabolism (tends to be the case in women vs. men). If you want her to be healthier (and possibly thinner), you’re going to have to commit to it, too. Anything you ask her to do, you’ve got to be willing to do right alongside her.

2. Talk frankly with her about your concern for her health. Notice I said health, and not weight. Screw the numbers, screw the BMI, screw the cellulite or muffin tops. Tell her you want her to be happy and healthy, period. Make sure you’re not accusing her of being a fatty, or of being unattractive, or of any of the other fears we girls fall prey to when we’re gaining weight. Have a discussion with her, meaning listen to her side of things. I’m guessing she knows she’s been gaining weight. She’s probably less happy about it than you are. Work with her to come up with a plan for helping her out.

3. Help her set goals. Like most mammals, human beings train really well if there’s a reward system in place. Sometimes, looking and feeling better is a reward unto itself, but that can take a long time to take effect. If she’s not going to become more healthy merely for her health’s sake, she’s going to need something to strive for that will actually motivate her. My sister and her husband had a trick where if she made a fitness goal (lifting a certain amount of weight, running a certain distance in a certain amount of time, etc. — NOT losing weight), she got a present, like a pair of boots she really wanted or a new dress. Make the goals reasonable, of course; if she’s very over weight right now, shedding pounds may be an easy goal to accomplish in a few weeks’ time, as weight loss is always easier at the start of a training regimen. A great idea is to make her promise to eat 5 vegetables a day for a week, and if she accomplishes this, at the end of the week she gets a non-healthy treat, like ice cream. This limits her intake of unhealthful food by making it a reward rather than a right, and pushes her to replace the unhealthy food with good stuff during the week.

4. Be supportive. In every aspect of the word: emotionally, physically, spiritually. Do research for her on new workouts or recipes. Volunteer to cook meals. Pack her lunch. Buy her a new pair of running shoes or a set of exercise clothes. Sign up for a gym and go with her every night, or take her out for a walk before dinner. Listen to how she feels. (Pro-tip: that’s what makes a good BF in the first place.) Don’t ever tell her she looks fat, and don’t rail on about your disappointment if she misses a goal. Losing weight and being healthy can sometimes take tough love, but she should get that from a trainer, and not her boyfriend. She needs real love from you.

So, there you go. Godspeed, amigo.

16
Nov
10

not so thankful

Reader T. B. writes:

Thanksgiving is next week and I’m supposed to go home and “celebrate” with my family. The catch is: I hate my family. What should I do?

Dear T.B.:

My first words to you will be words of comfort. Find solace in this fact:

Everyone hates their family during the holidays.

gourd family

I'm sure the pumpkins wish they weren't related to the acorn squash. Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh, sure, you’ve got your Goody-Two-Shoes friends who will deny that vehemently and say they love their family, all the time, but in all truth, there is nothing to love about a group of stressed out people who only visit each other once a year and are only loosely tied to each other through DNA and know exactly how to press each other’s buttons.

Of course, some people hate their families less than others. And some have reason to hate their family to a greater extent than others.

So on that note, I have two suggestions for you:

1. Don’t go. Cancel your plane or train tickets, regardless of how much they cost and who bought them. Call Mom right now and tell her you’re putting an end to the madness. If you hate your family that much, she’ll probably be relieved, even if she does get angry at you or try to guilt-trip you. Stand up for yourself. Refuse to come, no matter how much of your favorite dish Aunt Jane is  going to be making. Deny your grandmother’s right to see you one last time. Hold your own orphans’ Thanksgiving with people you DO like, or just stay home and watch whatever marathon of whatever TV or movie series appears on whatever cable channel you can get while sipping your favorite beverage of choice.

This would appear to be the cruel and callous way to go. It’s selfish. You’re hurting everyone’s feelings. But let’s take a step back. Sometimes it’s ok to be selfish. You can’t please all the people all the time, and sometimes you need to make sure you’re actually happy. I have forgone a Christmas or two myself because my mental health couldn’t handle it, and let me tell you, I am one of those Goody-Two-Shoes who says she doesn’t hate her family. Sometimes you just need a break. It can actually be better to remove your grumpy ass from the supposedly happy occasion to let everyone else breathe a little than to show up and be the terrible cousin who’s sulking. At those moments, for me, James Bond and Jack Daniels are all I need to make a worthwhile holiday.

But of course, there have been other seasons in my life, which brings me to option 2:

2. Get over yourself and go hang out with your family for two days. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unless they’re going to physically or emotionally or mentally abuse you (and I mean, really abuse you, not just tease you about that time you wet the bed when you were seven), toughen up and just go. I can almost promise that this Thanksgiving holiday won’t kill you. (There are always those people trying to fry their turkeys who burn down the house, so I won’t make any absolute promises.)

As Americans, we are so adverse to being around people we haven’t chosen to be around that we forget the world is populated by others. Smelly others. Annoying others. Others who voted for the wrong person or talk too closely or watch stupid TV shows. Sometimes those others also happen to be related to you. Being around people who annoy you builds character. It teaches you patience.

And furthermore, if these annoying people are biologically related to you, you can learn a thing or two about yourself that you’d be completely blind to if you’re only allowing yourself to hang around people you like (and who, hopefully, like you, too). You may have one of those surprising movie-script moments where you learn your dad sacrificed a lot to get your family through some giant, meaningful crisis you weren’t aware of when you were seven. Or you may get so mad at one of your siblings that the potatoes end up on the wall with the gravy following soon after. Either way, you’ve got a story to tell, at least.

Plus, why is it always someone else’s job to watch out for your feelings? Make Thanksgiving enjoyable for you, even if you do have to spend it with your crazy family. Just change your perspective and look for the positive side of things, and you’ll probably actually end up hating your family less by the end of the weekend.

I’m never going to advocate “blood is thicker than water” — I think sometimes our families can cause us more harm than good. If your family is truly abusive, I think it is your duty to take care of yourself and stay away. But for the rest of you, who are just annoyed that you have to spend a weekend away from that bar you go to every night anyway, I’d say give Thanksgiving another shot. Enjoy your crazy family. Get some stories to tell your chosen family of friends at that bar for when you all get back. I’m sure they’ll have a few good tales of their own.

06
Oct
10

relationships and weight maintenance

Reader C. L. writes:

I am the classic girl who has fallen prey to the whole “I’m in a relationship and I’m gaining weight because I’m comfortable” problem. You know, now that my relationship stuff is finally on track, I no longer workout to fill my time. So how do I maintain a healthy routine while working my relationship into the mix? And on a similar note, how can I motivate myself to start working out and losing weight, when the stress of being chubby makes me eat my feelings?

Dear C.L.:

I think there are a few kernels of truth I can glean from your question(s), so I’ll lay them out one by one.

1. Maintaining a separate identity in a relationship is key.

2. Part of maintaining a separate identity in a relationship is having your own friends.

3. Your friends can be extremely helpful in getting you motivated to be healthy.

4. Your real motivation for change has to come from within.

5. Emotional eating is disordered eating and you may need professional help to fix it.

om nom nom nom

This guy is definitely an emotional eater. Image: 7thsens / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Part of gaining weight in a relationship is due to the fact that when you’re comfortable, you let yourself slip. But I think even more important is the fact that we ladies are often far too willing to sacrifice whatever time and energy we have to the relationship. It is imperative to your health and that of your relationship that you maintain your own identity. I don’t care how great the relationship looks — if you’re sacrificing viable pursuits and time with friends to spend time with him, it’s not healthy. Taking an hour a day to go for a run or hit the gym is not going to kill your relationship. And if it does, then it was a cruddy relationship anyway.

As a way to kill two birds with one stone, I think you should make your work out time a time to be with your friends. They’ll make you work harder than you would if you went alone. And you can talk with someone who isn’t your SO while you work out. Most importantly, if you’ve got a set time to meet them, you’ll be less likely to convince yourself it’ll be more fun just to sit on the couch and eat nachos.

Get an accountability partner going for your eating habits, too. If you want to quit eating bad stuff when you by drinking water and eating salad with you. You must have girlfriends who are going through similar issues. They’re your best bet for this.

As an aside — I’ve read multiple articles that stated the biggest detractor from a weight loss program is usually a spouse or significant other. I’m not sure what the explanation was, but apparently our nearest and dearest tend to be the ones who hand us the candy bars when we’re trying to stick to celery. Either enlist your boyfriend in the boot camp (unlikely) or find ways to deal with the almost certain temptation he’s going to bring your way.

Keeping a food diary is an excellent way of making yourself aware of what you’re putting into your stomach. There are apps for your phone, or just a plain old notebook, to make this easy for you. Writing down everything you eat, even without noting how many calories it is, makes you realize just what you’re doing. Self realization is key here.

Which brings me to the emotional eating issue. I have the same problem. Or I used to. “Rewarding myself” with cheese fries and ice cream has, in the past, been a way to deal with being sad. And gaining weight is one thing that can sure make a girl sad. Stupid vicious cycles. The fact that you recognize you are an emotional eater is, as always, a huge part in changing it. Disordered eating is pretty rampant amongst us females, and you need to retrain your brain.

You’ve got to start to see treats like sugar as something that should be rare. Start recognizing the goodness in eating healthy food. Think of food as what it is: fuel. Broccoli is better fuel than cookies. Learn to recognize when you’re actually hungry, and eat then, rather than when you’re sad. This may take counseling. It may take extreme brain reorganization. And I definitely think it will take help from your buddies. Again, I think you’ll find that many (if not most) girls in our time are disordered eaters, and you will be able to track down many sympathetic lady friends who are interested in working out their issues alongside you.

My final advice to you is to chill out. Don’t weigh yourself every day if that number stresses you out. I know a lot of people claim it helps in weight loss to keep track, but I think your head isn’t in the right place for that right now. Remind yourself that you’re gorgeous, regardless of how much you weigh. I like to look at paintings by Renoir to remind myself that skinny isn’t necessarily beautiful. Meditate on self-affirming things. Get your nails done and your hair done so you feel pretty, too. And wear clothes that make you feel fancy, rather than freaking out because you’re not fitting into your favorite jeans right now. You will again soon enough.

I hate to sound like a self help nonsense guru, but surround yourself with love and supportive friends, and you can do anything. Losing weight or maintaining a routine are hard, but ultimately rewarding. When you’re really ready to make the change, you will.

06
May
10

tips

Reader C.N. asks:

I am a fantastic tipper at restaurants and strip clubs, etc. I get tipping in the food industry. It makes sense to me. But what about in other areas? Bell boys? Car washers? When is it appropriate?

Dear C.N.:

Tipping is such a strange custom in America. You would think in the land where we pretend there are no class divides and everyone is “equal”, giving service professionals money for how well they performed their job would be a thing of the past. In most countries, gratuity is included in the bill, and you can give more if the service was exemplary. Not so in our dear America. Maybe we’ve made it so confusing because we want to make life even harder for foreign visitors trying to get a drink at a bar.

Whatever the reason, we’ve held on to the tradition of tipping being up to the consumer, rather than mandatory.

Most Americans, like you, understand that you’re supposed to tip 15% at restaurants, 20% if they were awesome (or you’re awesome and have worked in food service before), and 25% if you’re really really drunk and happy. Apparently, people paying via credit card are better tippers than those who have cash (which figures — you only ever have a limited amount of cash, but credit cards go on forever). And personally, I judge people by how well they tip (especially dates).

But then there’s the question of what to do when you come across someone who’s providing a service but isn’t your waitress. If you’re not provided a receipt with a line to fill in the tip, what are you supposed to do?

I can give you a few tips (harhar) on what to do in certain situations, but the golden rule is that tipping, especially in America, is never mandatory. It’s completely up to you. If you don’t happen to have any singles on your person, you don’t have to tip. You might feel horribly bad about it (and you probably should), but it’s okay. Just remember that in general, this is how these people are making a living.

But here’s a list of what’s sort of expected, from what I can tell:

Bartenders: Usually $1 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill if you’re someplace way fancy where drinks cost $12, like in Manhattan.

Who tips 20 Euro?

Here's a tip: avoid the clap. Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bellhops, Baggage Handlers for Rental Car Shuttles, Curb-side Check-in at the airport, etc: $1 per bag.

Taxi Cab Drivers: 10-15% on top of fare (they usually have a fancy button they press to charge you extra for handling bags, btw).

Bathroom attendants: This one is definitely completely optional unless you’re somewhere extremely fancy. $1-2 for every trip in, unless they don’t have a tip jar, in which case, it’s awkward to hand someone a dollar bill in the bathroom.

Doormen/Concierge: No need to tip for holding open the door, unless you’re feeling extremely magnanimous; if they get you a cab, you can give ’em a buck or two.

Car wash: This is another instance where it’s hard to tip unless they have a tip jar handy. I always try to give at least $1 per car, preferably $2-3. Remember they split the tips amongst the shift workers.

Car mechanic: Don’t tip for an oil change. That’s silly.

Pizza delivery guy: 10-15% of the bill for the pizza, or $5 for kicks.

Casino table dealer: You don’t have to tip, but if you’re up, throwing the dealer a $1-chip from time to time can be considered lucky.

Caddie/cart guy while golfing: Depends on the green fee and whether or not the course has a dress code. It’s somewhat complicated, and I’m not a golfer, so I’m just going to direct you to About.com’s article on tipping at golf courses.

Haircuts and spa treatments: 15-20% of total bill, depending on how good you want your hair to look next time. I always throw down an extra bit at Christmas, ’cause your hair stylist/waxer/nail tech is like your bff.

Hotel cleaning staff: No tip expected, but you can leave them a little envelope if you feel particularly nice. It’s quite likely they’ll have no idea what to do with it, or they won’t be allowed to accept it anyway.

Post Office Mail Delivery Person: It’s not uncommon to give the Postman (or Woman) a small tip or gift during the holidays, but otherwise, they won’t know what to do with it, and are you going to chase them down the street to give them $1 for delivering your mail?

Buffet or cafeteria-style restaurants: Usually these places will have a tip jar at the cash register, but you should probably leave 10-15% tip on the table for the bus boys.

Valet parking: Give ’em at least $1 for not scratching your car or taking it on a Ferris Bueller-style joy ride. More if you’re at a fancy hotel. Otherwise, they may not get your car too readily next time.

Grocery baggers: Even if they bag your groceries and carry them out to the car, they’re usually not allowed to accept a tip. You can try, though. (My mom was once asked if she’d like to join a Star Trek Role Playing Game by the grocery bagger. They’re friendly folk.)

Concessions worker at movie theater: Again, they’re probably not allowed to accept a tip. Unless there’s a tip jar out in front of the register, don’t bother.

Baristas: Again with the tip jar. If there is one, at least throw your spare change in. If you’re a regular, try to tip well at least once a week — throw in a buck or two. Even Starbucks employees like tips. They probably have to split the money with everyone else on the shift, too.  If there’s not a jar, they work at a crappy coffee shop.

Tattoo artist or piercer: At least 15% is a good rule here. Like your hairdresser, things can get pretty intimate with a tattoo artist. Tip 20% or more if you got a custom job; 25% or more if you got an amazing cut on their hourly rate; 30% or more if you wanna’ get in their pants, etc.

Am I missing anything?

30
Apr
10

food issues

Reader J.S. asks:

The enemy. Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m fructose intolerant. It’s like gluten or lactose intolerance, in that eating something with fructose in it (like anything made with high fructose corn syrup or, say, an apple) won’t kill me; it just makes me really uncomfortable and sick. My problem is that it’s such a rare and weird-sounding issue to have, I don’t know how to break it to friends or relatives when they’re making food or asking me to dinner. I don’t want to sound like the needy, whiny, picky, weird person at dinner parties, but what can I do to ensure my own comfort and ability to eat without freaking people out?

Dear J.S.:

While fructose intolerance may be a somewhat new malady on the market, it is not one without plenty of precedent and good company. (If you can call any sort of food intolerance “good” in any sense.) Celiac disease (that’s gluten-intolerance, more or less, for you playing along at home) and lactose intolerance have certainly become more accepted and recognized in the food world over the past few years. Nowadays  restaurants have entire gluten-free menus, and there’s a “may contain milk byproducts” warning label on many foods. And let’s not forget the rise of vegetarians and vegans, plus those who are deathly allergic to peanuts — all have inspired their own walls in grocery stores and sections in airplanes.

What I mean here is: you’re not alone. And you should keep that in mind.

Speaking up about something that disturbs you is important, even if it may cause discomfort in those around you. Although the issue of when to speak up is fuzzy when that discomfort is intangible or emotional, when it’s physical discomfort, you have a right, nay, an obligation even, to speak up about it. Your friends like you. They want you to be comfortable. And they’ll probably be somewhat fascinated by your dietary restrictions.

So if a friend invites you to dinner at their place and asks what you’d like to eat, let them know you have trouble with fruit and fructose. You can do this tactfully without making them feel evil. Tell them that tomatoes and apples give you trouble, but you’re fully capable of eating around the grapes or the bananas if need be. Make sure to give them a good list of what you can eat in the category at hand — table sugar, sucrose, berries, chocolate, etc.

You’re right to be a bit hesitant about the issue when you’re out in a big group at a dinner somewhere. If you’re out with strangers, it may be inappropriate to bring up your dietary restrictions, especially in a place where you can find food that suits your needs without having to make a big stink about it. Besides, dealing with your dietary constraints should be the waiter’s problem for the evening, not your friends’.

But by all means, let your good friends and family members know your concerns. They need to know, and you shouldn’t feel bad letting them know. It’s okay to be a bit needy sometimes. You’re not proselytizing or trying to convert them to fructose intolerance; you’re simply expressing a physical need. If you were diabetic or allergic to peanuts, you would do this without a second thought. Just because it’s not life threatening, it doesn’t mean you should just ignore it to make other people feel comfortable.




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