So having family and friends over for a holiday dinner was always a fun opportunity. But my, oh my, has it gotten more complicated lately.
Not so many years ago, a hostess would gently ask her guests in advance, “Are you allergic to anything?” Most of the time, people said “no,” or “only peanuts.” Not a problem.
But now people, especially millennials, are strongly asserting their eating preferences. And cooking for their various needs is becoming an escalating demand and time-consuming effort.
Take my own family and all their kids. It was time for an Easter dinner so I asked them, “Lamb or ham? Which do you prefer?
“Lamb,” my husband clearly announced. “Either,” one of my sons replied. “I’ve become a vegetarian,” his wife said, so just a lot of vegetables would be great.” “I eat only chicken or fish, because they are the healthiest,” another son declared. “I’m on a diet, so nothing with fat, please,” my daughter-in-law said. “If you serve ham, no cloves or cinnamon, and no horseradish or mustard.” “I don’t want to eat beef, and I guess lamb is as bad as beef, so I want ham,” a 15-year-old grandson ordered.
Allllllright. Chicken (and tofu) it is! – for Easter?!
One of my neighbors really had a much bigger problem. She had to take care of her 16-year-old granddaughter for a week, who thinks killing animals is cruel, so she’s become an insistent vegan. “No compromises, grandma.” But she also insisted on only organic -- nothing that any pesticide came near. And she is convinced she has a gluten problem so only “gluten free.” And she also is lacto-intolerant, she declared.
My neighbor, Sally, called. “What on earth can I cook for her? Help!” Her granddaughter's mother was out of town so my neighbor was on her own. She diligently went to a gluten-free bakery and bought bread and dessert; she went to Whole Foods to ensure every vegetable she bought was organic; she got almond milk for breakfast and organic raspberries.
Her granddaughter, Ann, arrived and Sally said, “I’ve got dinner ready for you, honey. Sit down and we can eat.” Sally put a steaming plate of organic, vegan, and pesticide-free food in front of her. Ann looked at it and said, “I’m not very hungry. I am going upstairs to read.”
We now place great demands on the foods we are willing put in our collective mouths these days. There is the Atkins diet, Dukan diet, lemon detox diet, Ketogenic diet, Zone diet, Paleo diet, Baby food diet, and the Cabbage soup diet, as starters. I am sure there are other new new diets on the way/
Not only that, people declare they are lactose free, want no carbs, no fats, no dairy, no antibiotics, no BST in the milk, free-range chickens, no sweeteners, sugar-free only (“I am pre-diabetic!”), and no artificial color.
I looked up the 10 “ickiest” foods – most disliked foods: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, fish, turnips, beets, liver, spinach, avocado, cottage cheese and eggplant. This list of dislikes, I want to assume, reflects the tastes of East Coast and Midwest residents. Certainly not Californians. We like our vegies, don’t we? (I don’t like cottage cheese, I admit -- but that's not a veggie!)
All I can say to those not locally grown people is you are just going to have to learn to eat these so-called “icky” foods. They are good for you and if you cook them right (which is easy), you too will like them!
But underlying all these likes, dislikes, choices, options, and insistent demands is my question: Are we getting fussier about our food? Too fussy? Alas yes, that is sad and bad.