Adult Picky Eaters UK

For Picky-Eating Adults in the UK and worldwide

Diwali November 13, 2007

Filed under: Personal Stories — Claire @ 4:12 pm

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Diwali party in Edinburgh, at the home of the parents of my cousin’s partner.  I should say first of all that it was a lovely party, and  our hosts were very friendly and welcoming.  But I would just like to share my experience if I may, amongst people who will understand, of what I went through on the food front.

Obviously, it being a Diwali party, the food was Indian.  And vegetarian.  Not something I am able on the whole to manage.  I should have asked my cousin in advance to explain my “problem” to the hosts so that they wouldn’t be offended.  But I didn’t.  And I think perhaps because I don’t generally tend to make a fuss or a big deal about my eating, I just get on with it (or not) quietly and unobtrusively, he may not have realised the potential nightmare scenario that this party might represent for me.

First of all, the father handed round a plate of Indian sweets.  In my sheltered life, these were entirely novel to me.  My instinct is to say no thank you.  But I understood the social exchange that was being initated, and that the correct response was to accept with interest.  Which I did.  And then I was in the situation where I had to eat this totally novel thing (as it seemed to me) without displaying any fear or caution about it, or heaven forbid, distaste, for fear of offending.  Luckily, it was actually very nice.  But what I find is that my eating issues are not especially based on whether a particular food tastes good to me or not, but more on its novelty.  And if I manage to try something, it doesn’t matter whether it’s nice or not, it’s still a novel food, and I can’t just leap into consuming great quantities.  For normal people, I think, if you try something and don’t want more, it’s because you don’t like it, you don’t think it’s nice.  But that is not how it is for me.

Anyway.  Then at a certain point, it was announced that food was ready.  It was a buffet, which in some ways is a good thing, because you have some degree of control.  Assuming there is something there that you can eat.  But where everything on the table is beyond your experience, and where it is vegetarian, this poses a problem for me, and I’d sooner not partake.

However, my hosts had obviously spent a lot of time and effort preparing the feast, and to refuse would have clearly been churlish and rude.  It was a dreadful situation for me.  On top of this, they were very attentive, as good hosts would be, and my not eating did not go unnoticed, as I’d hoped that it would.  I wanted not to offend them. I wanted to accept their generous hospitality. I wanted to be appreciative.  But my little-known “condition” prohibited me.  It was dreadful.  Actually I wanted to cry.

I realised I had two options.  I could try to explain myself, but I knew that it might be misinterpreted as an elaborate excuse for rudeness, not to mention, too much of a personal self-disclosure for the context, and possibly attention-seeking.  My other option was to attempt to eat something. Which as you all will know is a big risk.  Either I might gag – big no-no, especially as it was home-cooked.  That would be like saying that the cooking was bad, even though my gag-reflex has nothing to do with food quality.  Or, I might end up with a plateful of something I cannot eat.  Which would look like I’d tried it and didn’t like it.  Also a no-no.

Luckily, my sister who had eaten, offered to get me a plate of things that she knew I’d probably be ok with.  What would I have done without her.  She came back with some potatoes and rice, and a small round thing sort of like bread or pancake.  Anything that’s like potatoes I can eat, and anything that’s like bread.  So that was fine.  Potatoes nearly blew my head off, though I gather they were “very mild”.  I even managed a little rice, though ordinarily that would be a no-go area for me.

So I got by, but not without trauma.  As fellow-picky-eaters will know, it’s dreadful that good manners are bound up with eating things.

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9 Responses to “Diwali”

  1. Jack Says:

    I certainly can relate to your story.
    However the difference between you and me; is that you went to the dinner.
    I would have most definitely declined. I give you a lot of credit for attending and it took some guts to eat the Indian sweets.
    I totally avoid close-in dinner situations where I might offend the host, expose my secret or draw attention to myself.

    This week I was obligated to attend a retirement party for an officer of my company. Normally I will leave after cocktails and before dinner, however that tactic is wearing thin and becoming obvious. This time I was stuck. To make things worse I was cornered into sitting next to my boss whom already knows I’m a weird eater.
    I typically pick a table with strangers or people I do not work closely with. I did not take the salad, or the soup, and gave my crab cake to a chubby fellow on my right.
    The dinner was surf & turf. Like you I was able to eat the crunchy mashed potato thing and a few rolls. I ate a few bites of the beef and was totally embarrassed by the surf. My boss on my left, asked me for my surf if I was not going to eat it. (it hadn’t been touched). Well at 58 years of age I never knew that lobster tails were actually served with the lobster meat neatly placed on top of the lobster. I looked like a classless idiot with attempted transfer. There goes my low profile. I need to somehow block this memory out. If I can’t, I will probably need to find a new job.

    So much of our lives and social behavior revolves around food its acceptance; it’s fellowship, experimentation and for some, enjoyment.
    I always thought I was alone in this world. Thanks to the Internet and this site I see that there are others.
    I also see and regret how much of life we miss out on.

  2. Z Says:

    I think it was rather splendid of you to make such an effort rather than hurt your hosts’ feelings. Fortunately, being anxious about the spiciness of Indian food is not too unusual and I should think they put your hesitation down to that.

  3. Claire Says:

    Hello z, and thank you for that. It wasn’t an effort of choice for me though, but of necessity (being reasonably well brought-up), so I wouldn’t take any credit. If anything, the credit should go to my mother.
    Do I guess that you made it here from my other blog, or have you an independent interest in such matters?

  4. Z Says:

    I have a friend who, over the last few years, has been able to eat a diminishing number of foods and become dangerously thin as a result. I originally came to this site, quite some time ago, to learn more and understand her situation better. I suppose I came from your other blog, it was a reference from another blog to this one.

  5. Claire Says:

    Oh, right. Personally, I know everyone’s different, but having a limited repertoire needn’t mean weight loss. Anyway, hope helpful.

    And while I’m here, I’ve just got to set the record straight. I wasn’t sure if my cousin might read this post, so I said the Diwali sweet was very nice. That’s not strictly true, in anything other than an objective sense. In my life, I’ve eaten things that look or taste revolting, and this was not one of those things at all. But it was novel, and what it was like, if anything, was marzipan. Which is a non-food food to me. So while I’m not critiquing the actual thing, the eating of it was, shall I say, very difficult.

  6. I don’t know if this little trick would work for you, but I use it when needed in these “mind your manners” situations. I cannot eat marchino cherries or cherries put in anything, it is an impossibility. It causes me to throw up or at least gag. Because I suffer an adverse reaction I have no qualms with telling people (when needed) that I am allergic to them and have been since I was a child. When they ask me what happens if I eat one I respond that it causes instant vomitting. This has graciously saved me from many a cherry cheesecake.

    In the past I would just say that I didn’t like them and people would tease me, try to coerce me, or be offended. “Allergic” is a much safer word because no one dares mess with allergies these days.

    In your case I would just say, “Oh, I don’t dare because of my ‘allergies’ but it looks delicious.” And if they ask what you are allergic to just say, “Oh, so many things I couldn’t even list them.” And if pressed you could just drop names of the foods that cause you the most grief.

    Good for you for braving Indian food. I love Indian but even I am wary if I don’t know what exactly is in it.

  7. Claire Says:

    Yes, this is good, I can see it would work in lots of situations. Thanks.

    I think the reason I’ve never thought to use it is that my personal instinct is that I’d be more embarrassed to admit to an extreme or multiple allergy like that than I would to just having an “eating thing” as I like to call it. I feel it would be equally rude somehow, because of the scale of it. Also, I think I don’t really want to distance myself from other people with an untruth – it seems important to me in my ideal world to be able to just be who I am without having to make excuses or hide it.

  8. Robert Says:

    Does your cousin know of your picky-eating habits? If so, have been able to assist your discomfort, either by warding off unwelcome offers of sweets, or corroborating a fictitious illness that excused you from dining.

  9. Claire Says:

    Yes, I think he does know. But I also think it’s difficult for a non-picky eater to understand what such a situation would be like for a picky eater, and possibly it would be unreasonable to expect him to. In the scheme of things, it isn’t a massive deal.


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