We would’ve never dreamed of pushing food to the other side of our plate in protest or allowing the petulant sulk of childhood tastes take precedence over being a good guest. After all, I was born with the trifecta of gracious eating. Asian ancestry, missionary childhood, and community living.
As an Asian, food is about community and respect and eating together serves a purpose much greater than filling the stomach or pleasing the palette. It communicates love, pride, honor, and fellowship.
Raised as a missionary kid living most of my early childhood in community, we ate what was presented. I’m sure there were things we ate that most kids would turn their noses up at but we grew up on dahl and rice, and the occasional meat curry that was pressure cooked to kill all of the parasites and tough to chew. In the morning we would eat bread. It was impossible to keep the tiny ants out of the flour so they were simply baked in and we thought nothing of sitting around the table in the morning digging what we could out of each slice of bread.
And so began my experiences with food. I’m not picky. Sure, I have my favorites as do most of us, but invite me over to a shared meal and I would gladly eat whatever was served.
Blessed with an international pallette, my father’s tastes paved many roads to foreign missions because he would eat with the people. Whatever people. Indian, Mexican, Hawaiian, even Tibetan salted tea with fermented goats milk passed his lips as a sign of respect and honor. And nothing says I am engaging your culture more than a shared love and respect for their food.
Almost every culure has at its heart the shared meal. It goes back to our most basic forms of community, a shared table and the breaking of bread, so to speak.
So my aversion to the picky eater has always been somewhat prevalent in my prejudices. If only because it closes doors to community and relationship. And lets just admit it, the best people are those who love food. Give me a friend who knows how to eat over one who picks and pokes at things and has the calorie content of everything memorized.
And so I find myself in a tricky place. I have found that for me, the “semi-Paleo” diet has done wonders for me in terms of eliminating my constant migraines, irritable bowel, and constant fatigue. But, this leaves me with very limited food choices. Pretty much all grains are out, all refined sugars, and most dairy. Hmmmm. Sounds like the makings of a picky eater.
Not only that, but the Paleo/ Caveman diet is the latest rage in a series of fad diets that have been touted recently. I will admit that I was extremely resistant to try it primarily for that reason. Because yeah, I’m stubborn that way. But after reading some very interesting books about the subject and suggestions from my doctor to eliminate certain foods to help control IBS and some of the hormonal problems associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, I finally went grain free. And felt really good.
Except that I miss bakeries, and potlucks, and being able to eat freely in fellowship. I don’t want to be the high maintenance one who carries around her own Tupperware of cucumbers, mashed cauliflower, and chicken breast. I want to be able to break bread in fellowship and I haven’t learned how to do that yet.
I have asked God to help me develop a heart that is open to hospitality and although I know I will never be the extroverted socialite who has an open door and constant guests, I do want to extend my hand to envelop those who long for community. I have also asked, more like begged and pleaded, with God to help me with the areas of food addiction, gluttony, and comfort eating.
I’m not sure how Paleo will fit into all this yet. I just know that I need to do something.
How do you handle food restrictions and dietary issues when you are in community?