Considering I just took off the remains of a pedicure from September 30th – no joke – I wouldn’t consider myself traditionally high maintenance. I prefer sweats to stilettos, camping to clubbing, and the only make up I own is mascara and lip gloss. A beauty queen, I’m not.
But try inviting me over to dinner. I’m a vegetarian that leans vegan that reads the labels on every package. I weigh the benefits between sweetened soy milk in lattes versus sustainable, local milk. I believe in my eating style. I believe in being informed. However, I also recognize that not everyone eats by the same mantras that I eat by. Thinking and investigating food is just how I get my kicks.
So however much it seems like I’m shooting the vegetarian lifestyle in the foot here, that’s not my intent. It’s not high maintenance for ME to cook vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/soy free meals. Have an aversion/allergy/moral objection to certain foods? Come on over – I’ll make you dinner.
For someone who doesn’t cook like that every single day though, the prospect can be daunting. I realized this recently when I went home for the holidays and my mom admitted she didn’t know what I ate anymore so even though she loved to cook for me, she was nervous I wouldn’t like what she made, which was silly cause food made by moms is always bomb. Her fear that I wouldn’t be satisfied is a common one though.
So how do I deal with it?
First, people need to be informed so they have the option to accomodate you.
Everyone knows I’m a vegetarian. This is non-negotiable. Even when we were in Turkey and our lovely friends who were graciously hosting us at a fabulous dinner ordered a traditional dish that was supposed to be amazing.
Close friends and family know I avoid dairy unless I deem it worthy of a stomach ache and congestion – such as an amazing cheese platter or a pie milkshake.
As far as avoiding processed soy and grains when I’m out and about, I’m pretty lax on this. I’d rather eat a veggie burger than a wilted Iceberg lettuce salad. But maybe you’re not – so tell the waiter before you order so they can check for you before they bring the dish with hunks of pork in it.
Second, don’t be rude.
Have you ever had someone walk into your kitchen and read the ingredients label on your salad dressing or ketchup? Unless you’re checking for dairy if you’re a vegan, don’t do it. Even if you’re with someone that has seen you with mascara running down your face from bawling or helped bandage you up after cutting yourself while shaving your legs as you stand there naked, it’s rude. If it is that important to you, choose to not dress your salad and eat your fries plain if you want to avoid the added sugars and fats in processed condiments.
Personally, I’m more relaxed about this when out and about at a restaurant or again, I simply ask for my dressing on the side or a simple dressing of oil and vinegar.
Third, make it easy.
Recently, I was having dinner with friends and we were making grilled cheese, so I asked the host if it would be okay if I brought along a veggie burger to grill up instead. I didn’t put the onus on her to go out and get one, though she’s so sweet she probably would have!
Going out to eat with friends? If you’re a diehard about something – like I am about being vegetarian – speak up before you make a decision. There’s nothing worse than getting to a place and realizing that your options are French fries (which may be fried in animal fat anyway) or a side salad without out of season tomatoes. Who likes to be hungry while everyone is chowing down on an amazing meal?
If you’re flexible and eat cheese or don’t care if there’s chicken stock in your soup or can stomach the gastronomic distress eating gluten brings you, then just order and enjoy. Don’t spend the meal talking about it.
My tips are geared toward being vegetarian/vegan because those are my leanings but maybe you have a nut allergy or subscribe to the paleo philosophy or can’t survive the day without chocolate – whatever it is, most of these things still apply. Tell people, don’t be rude, and make it easy. If we all do this in a non-demanding way, we can change the perception that people with special dietary needs are high maintenance.
Now, I’m off to rummage through my piles of workout clothes for something acceptable to wear for date night.