Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Eating for the Season

Here we are in November, already on the cusp of the holidays. Soon there will be that whirlwind of soirees to attend. A potluck here, a cocktail party there. Oh, the joys of the season!

Homemade treats can be riddled with hidden ingredients that can be taboo for a guest not free to eat with abandon. Take, for example, this seemingly harmless soup I ate at a recent luncheon: rich, beef-tomato broth chock full of veggies, tiny chunks of potato and flavorful meatballs. What could be wrong with that?

A casual conversation with the cook revealed some alarming details: mashed potatoes were mixed into the meatball mixture, and his preferred brand of tomato sauce contains corn syrup. Oh, it's just a little bit--that won't really harm anything, will it?

Yes. Yes it will.

This is why diabetics experience "unexplainable" blood sugar spikes, and people with food allergies have a sudden explosion of symptoms. Even if it looks acceptable and appears to meet dietary restrictions you may have, it might not be. Wherever possible, ask what's in it.

That can be so hard to do while trying to be gracious to our guests, though. You know the people you can quiz about ingredients without taking offense--your mom, your sibling, your cousin, your best friend. Your spouse's boss, though, might not be so understanding. We don't want to come off as picky pains in the you-know-where, now do we?

I have two main tactics in my arsenal of party-going prophylaxis:

1. Contribute a dish or two to the the party. You can make something that's safe for you to eat while sharing your own foodie culture. No one will notice that you're staying close to what you brought.

2. For those times when it's impossible to bring a dish, eat a salad or some other acceptable heavy snack before going. Bummer, I know, but it's my job to be aware of my dietary needs. If ruining my appetite means I can enjoy the party more (because I'm avoiding that icky feeling that comes with eating the wrong stuff), well, I'm okay with that.

How do you deal with dietary restrictions/preferences
at holiday gatherings?


Mary said...

I avoid the standard soy induced bowel explosion (sorry to be so graphic) from hidden tvp, soy protein and tofu, by staying away from meatballs (especially at my inlaws), not eating anything creamy, and trying to stick to mostly recognizable foods like carrots and celery and rolls.

Unfortunately this method is not foolproof and I've learned to stay away from broccoli salad too. Costco's broccoli salad has "soynuts" in it. It was a lesson learned the hard way.

Amanda said...

Oh, girl!

You're right about looking for easily-recognizable food, though. You never know what's in a meatball or salad-y concoction, that's for sure. Even dippy things can be hiding wierd ingredients--especially if they're store-bought.

kesha said...

Eating a seasonal diet means eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains with the occasional local, organic piece of meat or cheese. When we eat a mostly vegetarian diet our bodies get a chance to relax. Digesting vegetables is markedly different from digesting meat and dairy. The former takes a lot less time and energy than the latter. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals the body needs to function at its optimal levels and to protect itself from disease.



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Amanda said...

Hi, Keisha. Thanks for stopping by.

Angela said...

I'm a vegetarian who refuses to stoop to eating Tofu so I end up nibbling on breads and veggies. There are always questionable dishes. Something that looks like it's a veggie dish but wait, what's that under that layer of fresh veggies? It's crumbled hamburger meat, of course. Thankfully I stick pretty close to home for the holidays so I have no problem bugging my various siblings about what they're trying to feed me.

Always better to be safe than sorry.

Amanda said...

Oh, Angela--I can only imagine how difficult it must be for vegetarians! Eek!

We once attended a party and my husband brought that ubiquitous velveeta-hamburger dip. A vegetarian guest unknowingly ate quite a bit of it before asking what was in it; it was our first meeting, as well, so we didn't know she was veggie until it was too late. She was horrified, poor woman, and we felt terrible about it.

You said it--better safe than sorry!

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