The other day while dreaming of the days when I was able to afford to travel I noticed a book being offered, The Gluten Free Guide to Italy. I supposed if I had a gluten allergy, and I were going on a trip to Italy I might just try to avoid gluten as I probably would be doing anyway, all of the time. In fact, ultimately I would eat the food groups I normally do, and in Italy I would be ordering polenta and risotto rather than pasta. What's the big deal? Would I need a book to figure this out, or would I need the book to make me feel special as I flashed it around?
Someone I know does not eat tomatoes or eggplant or anything else from "the deadly nightshade family." She read in some crackpot health food journal that eating foods from this family encourages arthritis. And she is concerned with acquiring debilitating arthritis. The fact that nobody in her family has ever even complained of arthritis is of no interest to her. She very concerned.
By the way, I consider "scientific research " crackpot, particularly if there is any profit motive involved. Take for example the consistency with which how very profitable drugs seem to plagued by "recent research" just months before their patent protection expires. They are found to be deadly and banned moments before generics are produced in mass quantities. But that same drug company has a replacement drug just coming out which does an even better job than the newly banned one. Though while scientific research is crackpot it makes more sense to me than religion based pseudo-science which seems closely associated with the Republican Party.
For 20 years people avoided eggs like they were the black plague, because they were so high in cholesterol, even though there is still no study that shows that if you eat foods high in cholesterol your cholesterol will go up. But then decades later they discovered that there was a testing error on that egg and they decided to waste another egg. Now instead of one egg a week you were allowed to eat three or four a week, even though they have still not proved that vital link. Nonetheless people who's 90 year old parents suffer from high cholesterol avoid eggs and take cholesterol lowering drugs.
Even worse than crackpot scientific research are allergies. My attitude as a cook and a host is if it just doesn't "agree" with you, and doesn't make you go into anaphylactic shock, just shut up about it, and eat around it. I am completely sick of hearing "Garlic doesn't agree with me," and "I can't eat onions." And I find it outrageous that if the crew on Jet Blue is told that someone has a peanut allergy the don't serve packets of peanuts on that flight at all. Oh, wait a minute, do they even serve anything anymore or have they installed vending machines along side the pay toilets?
And vegetarians are a total turn-off. Who even knows what the word vegetarian means? I do know what herbivore means, and it seems to mean what people only on rare occasion mean when they refer to themselves as a vegetarian.
I have heard:
"I'm a vegetarian, I eat shrimp, fish, chicken breast, cheese and eggs, but don't talk about chickens walking around with no breasts or I won't eat it. And I will eat a pastrami sandwich if I am visiting my cousin in Miami."
"She says meat disgusts her but she ate wild boar at Madonna's favorite restaurant in Tuscany."
"I eat no poultry or mammals, but I eat shrimp and seafood, and those chopped salmon patties from Costco, but not gefilte fish. And I think I am off of cheese because of the animal rennet."
"I eat no fish, mammals, poultry, eggs or cheese. But I do eat Parmigiano Reggiano grated on my vegetables."
"I'm a vegan and I eat no meat, poultry,cheese or eggs. I don't drink milk or use cream or butter, or eat ice cream. But I will eat a cookie made with butter and eggs (if it is made by my mother-in-law.)"
I'm waiting to hear, "I'm a vegan, but I eat ham on Passover."
It does seem a little like a obsessive, but not very compulsive disorder: I put my left sock on first, followed by my left shoe, followed by my right sock and then my right shoe, and then my underwear, unless I forget.
But there is one kind of "vegetarian" of which I do approve. Ones who keep their mouths shut, and don't obsessively throw their disability in your face. I have a friend who eats no meat, poultry, or fish, but will happily eat a beef stew, eating the vegetables and potatoes but not the chunks of meat. Hey, since I love having a double meat portion, and she is satisfied with a double vegetable portion, it works for both of us. (She also eats garlic beef salami from Chicago when the opportunity presents itself.) Not surprisingly, she isn't a religious fanatic, or any other kind of fanatic either. I find people who take themselves too seriously, in general are very tedious.
So, I am much less resentful cooking a vegetarian dinner for this woman than I am for someone who is a totally rigid except when they have a yen. And the last time she was here I did cook a "vegetarian dinner" But perhaps she isn't really that easy going at all. perhaps she just knows how to work me.