Our book club alternates meetings between restaurants and our homes. As the “one with food issues,” I am given the final say on the restaurants where we’ll meet and eat. No problem there. It’s when we gather at one another’s homes that problems arise.
What can Amy eat? I bought these gluten-free crackers especially for her. Oh, I forgot she can’t have milk. When did Amy become allergic to soy, I thought she just had celiac disease? Why isn’t she eating the carrots? What do you mean the veggies can’t be served on the same platter as the crackers?
Just this morning one of my book club friends asked if I could eat Chicken Curry (our current book takes place in India). I figured she had found a safe recipe for me; after all, isn’t curry often made with coconut milk? When she emailed the recipe, I was surprised to see sour cream and mayo. Now this is a person I have traveled with and eaten out with many times, so I was a little surprised she didn’t remember I was allergic to dairy and eggs.
But I let it slide.
Of course, there are several perfectly acceptable things I could have done. I could have suggested she take a look at the recipes over at Freedible or on my Pinterest board and make some substitutions. I could have asked her to make me a plain piece of chicken. I could have offered to make a salad or a side dish.
But I simply told her I would eat before I came.
You see not eating at book club IS NOT A BIG DEAL. I am there for the book discussion and the comradery. And okay, maybe a little for the wine. But never for the food.
I have learned a long time ago that eating before I go to people’s houses is safer and easier–for me and for the host. Of course, when first diagnosed, I do remember feeling left out, especially during the holiday season when the food looked so festive and tasty. I do remember wishing I didn’t have to always pass on the birthday cake or the special tapa a chef brought to the table.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped caring–and when I stopped caring, I started enjoying life more.
While I consider myself a true foodie, I don’t feel like food always has to be the center of every social event. I can enjoy myself on just about any occasion without having to eat. In fact, by not having to think about what’s in that curry sauce, or if there are croutons in the salad, or if that fork touched the pasta, I am free to enjoy myself more. I think it’s harder for those without dietary restrictions to understand this.
So tonight at book club, I’ll probably be asked why I’m not eating along with a dozen other questions about what I can and cannot eat. But that’s okay. I figure if I keep declaring my independence from food and my food restrictions, someday my friends will stop trying to feed me.
This post originally appeared on Freedible in honor of Declare Your Independence from Food Restrictions Month. Anyone with any food restrictions should check out this website. It’s a place to connect with people who eat the way you do.