Monday, April 30, 2012

On Dietary Ecumenism

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
via the Dutch National Archive.
I've come to a conclusion after nearly two years of a paleo-style diet. I don't care if you are vegan, vegetarian, Muslim, a keeping-kosher Jew, someone with food aversions, someone with food allergies, a pescatarian, a fruitarian, a raw foodist, or someone who has sworn to never eat fat again as long as you live.

If I have invited you to dinner and you have dietary restrictions - and I don't care whether those restrictions are medically necessitated, religiously necessitated, you simply trying to do better in how you eat, or otherwise! - I will make. it. work.

I'm dead serious. No matter what your eating style, there is enough overlap between what you enjoy and what our family enjoys that I will figure out what those foods are, and I will make a menu that we can all enjoy, so when the occasion arrives, the focus is not overwhelmingly on the food, but more on savoring our time spent together.

One way I might do this is my favorite and most flexible ecumenical meal of all: DIY taco night.

If you're vegan or vegetarian, I will get some sprouted corn tortillas from Whole Foods, and perhaps soak ahead some beans to make beans and white rice - and I'll serve alongside a wide variety of veggies, and maybe (if you don't object) our family's cooked carnitas or shredded chicken.

If your religion has you fasting or abstaining from certain foods, I'll do a little Googling myself to get a ballpark understanding, and then I'll confirm with you which taco fillings and toppings you'll enjoy.

If you avoid pork, I'll avoid carnitas that night and use ground beef or shredded chicken instead.

If you are lactose intolerant or casein free, I'll see that dairy stays out of the mix.

If you're doing the GAPS diet or SCD diet, I'll do everything in my power to ensure that you have ingredients and dishes to enjoy based on the allowable food lists and where you are in those diets.

If you've recently announced you're Dukan-ing, I won't blink an eye if you want to only eat the meat and greens on offer.

If you're doing some kind of juice detox and you only want to bring and sip your juice, I don't care, as long as you come!

I. don't. care. how. or. what. you. eat. My interest in you and my affection for you goes so much deeper than that! I will do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable and welcomed in my home - and part of that will involve home cooked meal that we all can enjoy.

Why is this? Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) When you are a guest in my home, my main mission as a hostess is uncoupling you from your burdens and worries - to give you comfort, to give you laughter, to let you relax and be yourself.

I am also required of Scripture not to cause my brothers and sisters to stumble (1 Corinthians 8). If you have arrived at dietary restrictions, I know that you did not do so lightly, and have done so based on any combination of reasons, including health, digestive comfort, and personal convictions. While society is not kind or accommodating on the whole to anyone who dares to eat differently from the norm, I want our home to be different for you - to show that you can freely enjoy an evening with us without worrying about compromising your eating habits.

Finally, 1 Peter says, "Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." As I offer grace through flexible hospitality, I hope it might in a very small measure reflect the grace that God has lavished on me!

This post is dedicated to my mom and my mother-in-law, who have always patiently and graciously hosted  us (and, since 2010, our paleo quirks, too).


  1. Agreed! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Great post. I've been follOwing your blog for about a month. My husband & I went primal 6 weeks ago & have lost 30 together. Thanks for your blog & the lunchbox posts. Our daughter is only 5 months old but is primal as well & we will bring her lunches to daycare & preschool for her.
    Joy, Sara in Iowa

  3. I love this so much! Two of my closest friends are vegetarian and keep kosher, respectively, and we laugh all the time about the little overlap between the three of us. But we can always make it work! And when it comes down to it, it's about time spent together, and not food. Thanks for posting this!

  4. Two things: A) I love tacos and that's what we're having for dinner tonight. B)You always have been a fantastic, considerate and welcoming host so this post surprises me not. Though I'm not primal I love this blog! Keep up the great work!

  5. Sharing a meal with my family brings great joy....and as long as I have your guidance in person and through this blog I am more than happy to meet your dietary needs. I am so proud of your efforts to keep your family healthy and to teach your children to eat a variety of foods.

    Love, Mom

  6. perhaps i am misreading this post, but, if you have such "interest and affection" for someone, perhaps you shouldn't force your food on them? if your point is that you just want to enjoy their company, then can't you just enjoy their company without putting the focus on what is or is not served or eaten?

  7. Hi, Anonymous,

    Yes, you have definitely misread the post. I'm in no way forcing my food on anybody, in fact my point was that I'm willing to go quite out of my usual grocery shopping and cooking patterns to buy and make foods that somebody else would appreciate according to *their* dietary lifestyle.

    My point is that as a hostess, me taking time to make my guests feel comfortable and at ease within their own dietary comfort zone means that we can all then focus on our time together.

  8. hi, it is anonymous again :) thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

    i think it is wonderful that you want to go out of your way to accommodate a lifestyle choice, especially when so many people are not that open minded or open hearted.
    BUT, when there is a medical danger (as opposed to a lifestyle choice), i don't think it is fair to expect someone to partake of food where the origin is unknown to them and it could potentially put them in the ER or worse. admittedly, as a person with food allergies, i am overly sensitive to the topic. i really don't want to offend a host by turning down their food. but at the same time, i don't want to make myself sick. i simply want to spend time with them, same as you.

    ...anyway, i'm sorry to sound like a negative nellie here! i think our end goal is the same--to spend precious time with our friends and families.

    i enjoy your blog and i enjoy what you have to say. thank you for your sharing your voice with the world. :)

  9. Hi, Anonymous,

    I don't ever expect someone with allergies to eat food of unknown origins. We LOVE to host dear friends regularly at our house - and they have egg, peanut, and fish allergies. I try to save any labels involved - even on condiments and spices - on an evening when I cook for them. They often ask questions about what's in the food (and I don't blame them one bit!), and I show them labels and describe in as much detail as possible what went into the meal.

    In other words, I do everything in my power not only to avoid guests' known allergens and sensitivities, but also to reassure guests with allergies by providing them lots of information on the sourcing of the meal's ingredients. That said, if anybody is unsure, I will never blame them if they chose to abstain from a food.

  10. Love this! And I have to say, I honestly respect my friends who have different restrictions/convictions than mine more than the ones who just eat everything. I am so not vegan, for instance, but love that my vegan friends are questioning the normal food 'culture' in this country. Also makes for fascinating conversation!

    But great post, and one that more people should take to heart.

  11. Right on! :) I have done this, and it is so gratifying.

  12. Thank you for this post, I feel the same way too :-) I think you make an excellent hostess. The point is so that everyone is comfortable about the food so they can relax and enjoy each others' company. When I had Hindu housemates who did not eat beef, all of us who were beef eaters made sure we did not buy any beef products. We enjoyed our beef while eating out. And my non-Muslim friends have always reciprocated in kind by keeping halal. There many good, wholesome foods we can enjoy together.


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