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I’m Gluten-Free-Vegan-Intolerant

Conscientious Eaters or Pain-in-the-Ass Persnickety?


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If you really are what you eat, then everyone I know is nuts. You can’t lob a legume through a restaurant these days without hitting someone on a fussy — and fairly freaky — diet.

Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Sugar-free. Wheatless and meatless, pescetarian and Paleolithic, macrobiotic and Master Cleansed. And for heat’s sake, raw.

As nutritionists analyze our diets to bits, as they break down every edible ounce into shockingly potent micro-ingredients, ascribing common ailments and valorous remedies to each (“These cause bloating, these fight cancer, these are linked to erectile dysfunction, these thwart nuclear radiation”), our eating has gone from absurd to exasperating.

Starshine Roshell

Do you have legitimate medical and/or moral reasons for your odd eating, or rather, non-eating, habits? Yes, I’m certain that you do. Does it make you any less irritating to the rest of us? No. No, it doesn’t.

The line between “conscientious” and “pain-in-the-ass persnickety” is invisible to the naked eye. You say, “I avoid foods with a high glycemic index.” We hear, “I only eat miso and millet, tempeh and tofu, quinoa and kale. And only when it’s organic and seasonal. On Tuesdays. When the tide is low. And the Redskins are ahead.”

I’m nostalgic for the days when we had food preferences, as opposed to food renunciations — things we liked and didn’t especially like, rather than things we wouldn’t consider swallowing even if they were coated in honey. Especially if they were coated in honey. (A vegan friend recently informed me that honey is “bee puke.”)

I’m actually anxious about offering treats to friends anymore; there are only two good reasons to refuse the homemade chocolate-chip cookie I just offered you: “I just brushed my teeth and am hoping to make out with that hot guy over there” or “I had nine of those for lunch, so I’m set.” Anything else feels like holier-than-thou judgment and hurts my probably over-sensitive feelings.

What if I decided I wasn’t going to eat solid foods anymore? Not because I just had my tonsils out, or my jaw wired shut, but because I find that chewing puts my chakras out of alignment and believe that sucking through a straw is beneficial to my diaphragm. How would you feel if I showed up at your dinner party, noticed the lovely table settings, and proclaimed, “Oh … forks?! Ooh, yeah, this could be a problem for me. Any chance you can liquefy that lasagna?”

I realize that you’re being health-smart by pronouncing yourself an ovo-lacto something-or-other. And I admit that you should not sacrifice your longevity simply because I make fun of you in print. And also behind your back at potlucks. And sometimes when I overhear you exalting goji berries. (Here’s the thing: If goji berries were meant to be eaten, they wouldn’t taste like earwax.)

I understand that it’s immature for me to feel threatened by your refusal to consume lactose. Or sucrose. Or cow toes (snicker, snort). I see that it points to an infantile reluctance to grow up and take my own nutrition by the reins. I admit I still resent the trans-fat police for condemning my Oreos and the high-fructose corn syrup cops for exposing my Wheat Thins, and that I clearly have a long way to go toward clean eatin’.

Long as I’m juvenile, though, I’ll share a fun party trick that gets me through the my-friends-are-food-fickle blues: Set out a simple snack plate at your next soirée. Watch your guests slowly back away from it as if it were a deadly trap, and imagine them saying, “Not this time, Lex Luthor! You thought I’d fall for your diabolical cheese-and-cracker scheme? Ha! My irritable bowels will never quake at the likes of you!” Yeah … good times, good times.

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Starshine Roshell is the author of Wife on the Edge.