Toxic In-Laws
August 7, 2019 1:01 PM   Subscribe

My In-Laws Are Careless About My Deadly Food Allergy! Ask Polly (Heather Havrilesky) goes off on what she dubs the worst in-laws ever.
posted by larrybob (216 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
They basically say they're willing to risk her unborn baby (and her) life because... well... mushrooms are delicious?

When I was pregnant, my husband told them we would not take part in any family meals if they didn’t promise to keep the meals allergy-free. His dad said, “We can’t promise that. Everyone except your wife likes mushrooms, and we’re not changing what we eat for one person.”

It is scary. They didn't even fucking like mushrooms before she was dating him!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:05 PM on August 7 [28 favorites]


I love Ask Polly and I HATE mushrooms. Nuts are on my personal top ten list of favorite foods, but some of my husband's family is allergic and so we always make sure to put any nut additions to the side of salads and such. It is a basic way to respect other people to make sure they can eat the food you are serving at a communal dinner. Them treating it as a preference is the oddest thing.
posted by soelo at 1:07 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


There's umami powder from Trader Joe's which is mostly mushrooms, I think, and it makes food taste so good.

And yet...ENTREÉ WITH DEATH RESULTING is just more than I would dare merely in order to add a little extra frisson to some soup.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:07 PM on August 7 [21 favorites]


Ten bucks says that one or more of the in-laws regularly claims to be allergic to something at restaurants because they read an article on some "wellness" blog about it being full of "toxins." Smells like the most idiotic form of projection ever.
posted by tclark at 1:08 PM on August 7 [19 favorites]


Why do we humans hate one another so much, so often? What did we do?
posted by Melismata at 1:09 PM on August 7 [48 favorites]


The Husband should have squashed this at the onset. There is a huge difference between “not liking” something and it being a serious health hazard. When the statement “doesn’t like” came out it should have been corrected ASAP. And when plates with the allergen got passed around, it should have been time to leave with a firm explanation of why.
posted by kabong the wiser at 1:10 PM on August 7 [68 favorites]


My former in-laws used to serve the food I'm allergic to all the time, and I knew they despised me so whatever, I just didn't eat it. When they served it to MY FATHER, who is also allergic, that is when I got real real mad. They were a major contributor to the decline and fall of my marriage.

I agree with the response!
posted by wellred at 1:10 PM on August 7 [50 favorites]


Why do we humans hate one another so much, so often? What did we do?

Someone in this family really wants to play a role, I think. I don't think it's just about her dying or becoming deathly ill; I think they want to stage a drama. Maybe the storyline of the drama will be "prissy lady turns out not to be allergic and everybody laughs," maybe it will be "dramatic near-death event with tears at hospital," maybe it will be "funeral with weeping grandparents and poor motherless child to be cared for." They want a show.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:12 PM on August 7 [130 favorites]


In my experience, there are a LOT of people who think odd food allergies are actually just pickiness in disguise. They simply don't believe her and they want their gotcha!. And they want to punish her, regardless.
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:16 PM on August 7 [101 favorites]


Mushroom powder exists and is real and delicious, but these people sound terrible.
posted by corb at 1:16 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


Well, maybe she should give them a show. She could just bring an arsenic-laced side dish to the next family gathering. Problem solved!
posted by larrybob at 1:17 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


Uh, yeah, they want her dead.
posted by gwint at 1:20 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


Right, Polly saying mushroom powder is a weird thing was the only thing I disagreed with about her reply. Personally, I would never feel safe eating something these people made or even had possession of at any point. That kind of attitude is the kind that leads to people "sneaking" an ingredient into your food so they can prove you are lying.
posted by soelo at 1:21 PM on August 7 [16 favorites]


there’s a set of subreddits about toxic and abusive family members. in-laws who go “lol your allergy isn’t real so we snuck something that will kill you into your meal lololol” over and over again come up regularly. i try not to look at these subreddits anymore, 1) because i don’t want to become acclimated to the idea that all families are as abusive as the ones in those subreddits, 2) because there’s been a rash of fake stories there, and 3) sometimes i read non-fake stories (i.e. ones where independent press coverage exists) that are so pointlessly tragic that they leave me reeling for days.

if you are in a mood to be left reeling for days, you could google around for stories about a daughter with a severe coconut allergy, a grandmother who knew about the allergy but also liked doing up girls’ hair with coconut oil, and the worst possible outcome resulting.

you should not do that googling around, though.

basically i bring this up because apparently it is super super common for people to be so blithe about severe allergies among people in their families that they are willing to commit murder, under the theory (against all evidence) that the allergy is fake.

the in-laws in the question to polly are the worst people in the world. but also the world is crawling with people exactly as bad as they are. it’s, like, a common defect in the human mind: the tendency to hold the belief, despite all evidence to the contrary, that if something is harmless to them it’s harmless to everyone, and that anyone who says it’s not harmless to them — that it is in fact so harmful as to be deadly — is just being a picky princess or else being dramatic to get attention.

humans. we are only barely sentient, and that fact breaks my heart every day.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:23 PM on August 7 [129 favorites]


I’m not sure if it’s more or less horrifying that they don’t just slip mushroom powder or whatever into the food in secret (which, according to their apparent belief that all “weird” allergies are delusions, would give them their “gotcha” moment when she’d eat it and not react) but instead declare it outright and dare her to respond.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:27 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


And although it never works, the proper response to "Nobody had allergies in the old days, you kids are making it up!" is "Yes they did Karen, they just FUCKING DIED and no one knew why."
posted by emjaybee at 1:29 PM on August 7 [110 favorites]


Via @ellievhall, a related Dear Prudence column and follow-up letter.
posted by jdherg at 1:30 PM on August 7 [82 favorites]


"Eventually, the members of the group are so utterly confused and gaslit by each other that they enforce the will of the group and nod along with bizarre opinions until they can’t even remember what it means to think logically or have free will or behave like other regular human beings on the face of the planet."

Yup. I've met these people.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:32 PM on August 7 [38 favorites]


There are two ways the allergy suffer could deal with this:

* refuse to attend any of her in-laws' events, outright. The husband might end up going on his own; too bad.

* Go, but bring her own food and make an elaborate plate of it. Make it as over-the-top indulgent as you can, but only bring enough for HER. If anyone is tempted to ask for some say "sorry, no, this is all mushroom-free and I need it."

There is, however, only one way to treat the inlaws:

* Fire them into the sun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:37 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


Yeah, I think there's a human tendency not to want to change "what works for the group" just because a new person has come in, and if you don't recognize it in yourself, you get...insanity like this. Note to self: watch for this tendency in self.
posted by praemunire at 1:38 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Oh my god, that Dear Prudence and follow-up. Wow.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:38 PM on August 7 [46 favorites]


> "Eventually, the members of the group are so utterly confused and gaslit by each other that they enforce the will of the group and nod along with bizarre opinions until they can’t even remember what it means to think logically or have free will or behave like other regular human beings on the face of the planet."

Yup. I've met these people.


if this were a face to face conversation and you were a good friend and i had consumed a couple of margaritas, this is where you would get to hear a long story that starts with “... let me tell you about my family.”
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:39 PM on August 7 [26 favorites]


They're not 'careless,' they're downright malevolent. These people have been designing their meals around mushrooms since the writer was only their son's girlfriend -- how on earth did she stick it out long enough that they became her in-laws, much less agree to live near them?

(I halfway think this drama must have some sort of passive-agressive, culture-clash underpinnings ("son's brought home a ____ girl! And she's stupid enough to believe ordinary culinary mushrooms are deadly!"), but that doesn't make her husband's family any less mad.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:40 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


I had a friend that had a revolving and ever accelerating set of 'allergies' and 'food sensitivities' through our 20s... and man it annoyed my friends trying to figure out what she couldn't eat that month. So I sorta from a distance understand why people can act with disdain at some peoples claims... but fuck these people and anyone who would actively try to feed someone a food that had any chance of hurting them, forget about killing them.

Even if the alleged allergy is really just a dislike... why would you want to give someone food that you know they'll hate?
posted by cirhosis at 1:42 PM on August 7 [17 favorites]


the weirdest thing about the column is how she seems totally unfamiliar with this shitty behavior, which i think is actually very fucking familiar to anyone with food allergies or anyone who is or has ever been a vegan.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:52 PM on August 7 [41 favorites]


I am allergic to raw onions.

I very rarely eat anything I have not prepared myself because the behavior of that family is super normal. I could not begin to enumerate the number of times that people have tried to serve me stealth onions, out of an aggrieved belief that I am making it up.
posted by Vigilant at 1:53 PM on August 7 [20 favorites]




In my family, nobody likes or welcomes in in-laws, on either side, generally speaking. There has been the occasional exceptional dude who was welcomed in, but in general, most aren't. Myself included and I'm not even an in-law, I just got half-produced by one. So I always grew up expecting not to be liked or welcomed if I ever got married, which isn't happening anyway. But at least nobody actively tried to kill anyone, which makes my relatives look nice and tolerant. Then again, nobody's had any food allergies to use against them either. So I say this as someone who's used to and expects in-law dislike: between this letter and the Dear Prudence ones, JEEBUS H. MOTHERFUCKING CHRIST.

I have friends with difficult food allergies and they basically don't eat anything they didn't make themselves as far as I've seen.

These fucks are actively trying to kill her. If I were her I would just straight up refuse to be around them At All. I don't think I'd even consent to go over there if I brought my own food. That level of active hatred (especially since they only put mushrooms in EVERYTHING since she came along) needs to be avoided.

I don't know how the hell you can enter into a romantic relationship when your family is actively hostile to anyone you try to partner with. Lord knows I have had difficulties myself and my family was just passive about their dislike, not murderous.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:57 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


The only part of this that is even a little out of the ordinary is how they barely ate mushrooms before, but turned up the mushrooms to 11 as soon as they found out about the allergy. That's a bit next level -- more like your vegetarian inlaws finding out you're vegan and suddenly serving nothing but beef brisket.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:58 PM on August 7 [26 favorites]


i feel like there's a very cultish, outsider-marking-and-shunning aspect to the whole situation, going back to stuff like religious persecutions of jews and muslims, and forcing conversos to eat pork to prove that they were sufficiently christianized.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on August 7 [20 favorites]


I developed a allergy to anti-inflammatory medicines in my early 30s, and I was struck by how many people felt the need to question/doubt/interrogate my understanding of the word allergy. I wonder if it’s only this health condition, but i’m struck in how many of these stories, it’s women who seem to get punished more.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 1:59 PM on August 7 [26 favorites]


The real monsters here besides the fucking inlaws are all the fucking dipshits that claim to be allergic to things they don't like. They are the reason why when someone has a legit allergy tells you, you roll your eyes and say" Yeah, uhhh, sure". My dad's girlfriend claims to be allergic to cilantro and we just spent the weekend with a young man who claimed to be allergic to potatoes when boiled, but not when fried.

Jesus, the world is full of fucking babies.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:03 PM on August 7 [14 favorites]


Sometimes people are just unwell. There’s nothing you can do but pity them and keep your distance. It’s pretty awful when you’re related to them. But these motherfuckers are unrepentant. They’re angry, and they want to punish SOMEONE. God only knows what brought them to this, but your only recourse is to stay the fuck away.

I just want to recommend that you take caution. You are dealing with some next-level sociopaths. You need to protect yourself accordingly.
Golly gee whillickers! Who else does this remind you of? Currently?

HEY! She's met my aunt who raised me from toddlerhood. Major personality disorders, there, that I wasn't prepared to deal with in childhood, and unwilling to accommodate as an adult. And approximately 18 years ago, I did exactly what she suggested the letter writer and her husband do: I wrote a letter stating my issues with her and her relatives (including examples from their past behavior), and on what grounds I would continue to have a relationship with them. I also suggested therapy (although I myself couldn't afford it until 6 years ago. I held onto a lot of guilt for 12 years). They've NEVER responded to me, except for a couple of messages over the years sent via a different aunt "demanding" that I speak to them. N'uh-uh. Nothing doing. Even with the guilt, it's been the best 18 years of my life.

I feel angry for the letter writer, and so very sorry for her husband, but at least he's free to think and to act as he wishes, and not be part of the disordered group.
posted by droplet at 2:05 PM on August 7 [17 favorites]


This is so fucked up. And the thing is that it's perfectly easy to produce meals without mushrooms.
posted by slkinsey at 2:08 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


“I would’ve liked to add mushrooms directly to the salad, but SOMEBODY has problems with it!”

Add me to the list of people who would absolutely refuse to go to their house after an experience like this. "I would've liked to have attended Christmas dinner, but SOMEBODY is trying to kill me."
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:09 PM on August 7 [78 favorites]


This is so fucked up. And the thing is that it's perfectly easy to produce meals without mushrooms.

and they didn't even LIKE mushrooms before!! and now they're like In This House We Love And Respect The Truffle Pig ONLY
posted by poffin boffin at 2:12 PM on August 7 [25 favorites]


anyway i hope she stabs them with a bbq fork
posted by poffin boffin at 2:13 PM on August 7 [22 favorites]


Honestly, the best part of the letter is that they've already cut off most contact with the parents, don't go to family functions, kids don't see their grandparents, etc. It's nice that she didn't need the columnist's advice to do that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:15 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


The real monsters here besides the fucking inlaws are all the fucking dipshits that claim to be allergic to things they don't like. They are the reason why when someone has a legit allergy tells you, you roll your eyes and say" Yeah, uhhh, sure". My dad's girlfriend claims to be allergic to cilantro and we just spent the weekend with a young man who claimed to be allergic to potatoes when boiled, but not when fried.

I think there are a lot of people who don't understand what allergies are. There are obviously some people who are fond of drama and being the center of attention, but experience suggests to me that there are also people who don't understand the difference between "this tastes incredibly gross to me" or "this tends to upset my stomach" and an allergy. There are also people who spend a lot of time in charlatan-poisoned subcultures who have been inculcated with the idea that the natural state of the human being is eternally youthful, vital and pain-free, and that if you feel sick, there's an obvious single etiology, like consuming an "allergen". I've met perfectly decent, non-terrible people who are convinced that they have allergies on the level of "allergic to baked but not fried potatoes". Honestly, as long as they're not horrible about it, I try to treat this on the same level as my personal belief that every plane is constantly one loose bolt from a fiery crash - I'm not going to sneak tomatoes into their soup any more than I'd sneak an egg into a dish for a vegan.

The story in the OP is horrifying. Although lately my feeling is that the majority of humans are horrifying.
posted by Frowner at 2:16 PM on August 7 [56 favorites]


These stories are incredible. It must be illegal to serve food to someone that you have reason to believe will harm them without informing them, right?

Is this sort of sneering about allergies a modern invention, or has this been the case for as long as allergies existed?
posted by value of information at 2:16 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


There has got to be some underpinning cultural/social/racial enmity here where the mushroom thing is just the expression of the in-laws' disapproval/hatred/whatever of her background, origins, class, and/or race, because what the fuck. I'm with Polly here, I want to know more about these monstrous in-laws so I can understand why they are the way they are.

Also, if letter writer didn't have a food allergy to coalesce this animosity around, how would it manifest? Because I'm 95% certain that if it wasn't the food allergy, it'd be something else, and the in-laws would be equally cruel about it.
posted by yasaman at 2:22 PM on August 7 [19 favorites]


It must be illegal to serve food to someone that you have reason to believe will harm them without informing them, right?

It falls under either "aggravated assault or "attempted murder by poisoning" depending on exact phrasings of state laws. Saying, "but I didn't believe it would actually poison her" can reduce the charges, but "well, yes, she told me, but I thought she was lying," may not be convincing to a jury.

The reason most of these don't wind up with criminal charges is that it's generally easier to just cut off contact with the family, and it's often difficult to get the police to prosecute people who claim they just "didn't understand" that an allergy meant the food is actually poison.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:29 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


When I was pregnant, my husband told them we would not take part in any family meals if they didn’t promise to keep the meals allergy-free. His dad said, “We can’t promise that. Everyone except your wife likes mushrooms, and we’re not changing what we eat for one person.”

Reading this sent me to a dark place.

My father was unfailingly loving, and never would have said any such thing, but if I were that husband, and that was said in my physical presence, there would have been blood.

Keith Talent, cilantro allergy is quite real:
Cilantro allergy is rare but real. Cilantro is a leafy herb that’s common in foods from around the world, from Mediterranean to Asian cuisines. It can be added and eaten fresh or cooked, or boiled in dishes.

Symptoms of a cilantro allergy are similar to those of other food allergies. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 4 to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults have a food allergy. Most food allergies develop during childhood, but they can also crop up later in life. You can become allergic to cilantro even if you’ve had no problem eating it for years.
And since allergies are to proteins, and proteins are denatured and destroyed by different levels of heat, an allergy to boiled potatoes which disappeared when they were fried would be unremarkable.
posted by jamjam at 2:39 PM on August 7 [74 favorites]


's true. My spouse has developed a pretty extreme allergy to eggs (as in, a little mayonnaise in a sauce results in an evening in the restroom at minimum), but can eat cakes or other baked goods made with eggs without much risk.
posted by Scattercat at 2:46 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


I reread it again and have more thoughts.

From the OP:

"Short of taking them a doctor’s note, telling them my allergy is real, I’m not sure what to do."

I'm not sure if that or the therapist letter that Polly suggested would work with this level of cray-cray. Hell, I think watching her go to the hospital on Christmas about to die might only have a 50/50 chance of working there--but according to the Carolyn Hax letter, it had to go that far for a crazy mom to figure it out.

My husband supports me 100 percent, and he is very angry and hurt by their actions. But at times I feel terrible that I am the cause of this rift, and I just want a happy family.

They would probably be shits to any woman he brought home no matter who she was. It's not that you're bad, they just hate Outsiders. The OP, unfortunately, has an obvious Achilles' heel issue that is super easy for them to go after.

From Polly:
And when they do encounter someone who’s not in the fold, they recoil and attack.

Yup, this.

This rift has nothing to do with you. You could be the purest, most perfect, most lovable human alive, and these resoundingly toxic humans would find a reason to take issue with you.

And this too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:50 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


My dad's girlfriend claims to be allergic to cilantro and we just spent the weekend with a young man who claimed to be allergic to potatoes when boiled, but not when fried.

Jesus, the world is full of fucking babies.


I think you should educate yourself more about allergies. Those sound like real allergies to me.
posted by Pendragon at 3:03 PM on August 7 [71 favorites]


I don't find this hard to believe in the least.

My sister has multiple sclerosis, which is exacerbated by heat. It can be bad enough that she can't go to work. My mother knows that. As you may have noticed, we are having the HOTTEST SUMMER EVER. Well, my sister had to move in with my mother, due to circumstances beyond her control. My mother has detested my sister literally since she gave birth to her, and, while she's happy to scam take my sister's money, she is not happy about having to share her house with her.

So, she turns the air conditioning off in her house and claims it isn't working. If she sees my sister trying to make it work, she yells. When my mother leaves the house, my sisters starts the air conditioning again. When my mother gets home, she shuts it off and claims it doesn't work. Over and over again.

My mother is so full of spite for her own child that she wants to make her suffer physically. Families. Just... families.
posted by LindsayIrene at 3:06 PM on August 7 [57 favorites]


It must be illegal to serve food to someone that you have reason to believe will harm them without informing them, right?

Even apart from criminal prosecution, you'd think this is something where the health insurance company would just loooooove to subrogate the shit out of it at the offending parties. And the health insurance company doesn't give a fuck about your family dynamics; they just wanna get paid.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:12 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


I feel so much better about my family and my spouse's family now.
posted by bz at 3:13 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


It’s really something how people will go way out of their way to make someone else’s problem a burden to them when it doesn’t need to be, just to try and make the other person feel bad. It’s some tendency to kick someone who’s already down.
posted by sallybrown at 3:13 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


although i don't particularly like it when (for example) people who don't have celiac or a related condition insist on gluten-free meals, i think it is incumbent upon us all to always respect the food preferences of others, even if we may find those food preferences precious or babylike or annoying. if the person has an allergy that can cause them discomfort or pain or produce serious medical events, we are being decent and good to them if we respect their condition, and unforgivably monstrous if we don't. if a person believes they have an allergy that they don't, and we respect their food preferences, we are being decent and good to them if we respect their condition, and petty children if we don't. in all case, respect for the other person's food requests is the right thing to do. we don't have to ask questions, we don't have to perform tests, we don't have to analyze the correctness of the person asking for respect. all we have to do is show respect.

most religious traditions place great emphasis on the importance of being a good host — especially those religious traditions (for example, the abrahamic religions) that came out of geographical areas where travelers absolutely depended on the good graces of hosts in order to survive their trip. failing to respect the food preferences of one's guests, family, friends and comrades is shameful. it's a fuckin' shanda, is what it is. don't do it.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:14 PM on August 7 [86 favorites]


Is this sort of sneering about allergies a modern invention, or has this been the case for as long as allergies existed?

I think humans in general are hardwired to dislike weakness. If you can’t thrive, off the cliff with ‘ya, survival of the fittest, law of the jungle, life is cruel, etc. While that might have been acceptable in caveman days, that doesn’t fly in modern society where there are resources to go around. That said, some people can’t wrap their minds around the fact or simply don’t care to know that a life sustaining foodstuff can make someone essentially self-destruct in its presence.
posted by dr_dank at 3:16 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


Simple rule: If someone claims at the table they can't eat something because they have a "sensitivity" diagnosed by a:

a.) Homeopath
b.) Naturopath
c.) Chiropractor

...it's cool to tell them to pound sand and eat what's in front of them or not because they are participating in a fraud.

If, however, someone tells you they have a diagnosed food allergy, that's when you take it seriously.

"Alternative medicine" and pseudoscience are making it extremely hard for people with bona fide food allergies to be taken seriously.

What your naturopath told you is a "sensitivity" that you don't even have is a far cry from what anaphylactic shock really looks like.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:19 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


Most of the time, though, if you’re just a bystander at the table, who cares what someone claims to be allergic to? Let them be. “Oh no I can’t eat the yellow cherry tomatoes, only the red!!” Ok...do your thing!
posted by sallybrown at 3:21 PM on August 7 [49 favorites]


This best part is this is totally a classic Ask Metafilter question.

However, here, Ask Polly gets to go off on a cathartic WTF response rant which most of us from that esteemed forum are looking longingly and wistfully upon.
posted by jeremias at 3:22 PM on August 7 [35 favorites]


...it's cool to tell them to pound sand and eat what's in front of them or not because they are participating in a fraud.

how about: fuck this, if someone tells you they can't eat something you respect them enough as a human being not to fucking feed it to them regardless of your opinion on how valid their preference is.
posted by JimBennett at 3:24 PM on August 7 [181 favorites]


Have they been watching Louis CK: "Maybe if touching a nut kills you, you’re supposed to die."
posted by greenhornet at 3:25 PM on August 7


> Simple rule: If someone claims at the table they can't eat something because they have a "sensitivity" diagnosed by a:

a.) Homeopath
b.) Naturopath
c.) Chiropractor

...it's cool to tell them to pound sand and eat what's in front of them or not because they are participating in a fraud.


let's disagree on this. it seems to be an excuse to be a bad host, and moreover an ineffective way to pry people away from woo. nazis can't eat at my table and if by some fluke a nazi showed up at my table i wouldn't respect their food preference. but people doing cleanses get respect, even if i don't agree with their reasoning. if they want to ask me questions about what i think about their cleanses, then i'll respectfully give my thoughts.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:25 PM on August 7 [33 favorites]


When I was on school board there was this one parent who had an absolute fucking meltdown when told his daughter couldn't have PB&J sandwiches for lunch, because there were THREE children with anaphylactic peanut allergies in the lunchroom that year. (Now, first of all, she could have had FREE school lunch because it was a community eligibility school so lunch is free for everyone, but I digress.) So this guy works himself up into a frenzy and comes to many many school board meetings to shout about how she NEEDS PB&J and CANNOT EAT ANYTHING BUT PB&J and NO she will NOT eat sunbutter and we'd say "I'm sorry, these other children need to NOT DIE" and he'd send her to school with PB&J and the teachers would inspect her lunch every day and she'd have to go eat in the office and wash her hands under nurse supervision before returning to class and he'd come to another school board meeting and shout about how WE WERE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST HIS CHILD and SHAMING HER by MAKING HER EAT IN THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE and ACTING LIKE SHE'S DIRTY by MAKING HER WASH HER HANDS and YOU'RE SO WILLING TO MAKE THE SCHOOL PEANUT FREE BUT WHAT ABOUT MY CHILD'S FREEDOM TO EAT PEANUTS, HUH? WHAT ABOUT HER FREEDOM, YOU FUCKING FASCISTS???? (which he really thought was a checkmate argument, that we couldn't enforce one kids' "right" to be free of peanuts without having also required that we allow other kids to freely eat peanuts because it was a public school, like peanut vs. non-peanut was some kind of religious orientation where everyone gets accommodated under the First Amendment.)

So after a couple months of this he's worked himself into believing that peanut allergies aren't real, because after all, his daughter has been bringing peanut butter sandwiches to school for lunch for two or three months and NOBODY HAS DIED FROM IT, so he gets up, and at the top of his lungs, tells us he's going to expose those kids to peanuts and prove their fake allergies don't exist and since we keep the sandwiches quarantined he's going to put peanut butter INTO A HAND LOTION BOTTLE and send his daughter to school with peanut butter lotion with instructions to put some in the allergic kids' classrooms.

At which point we had to take out a restraining order forbidding him from campus and banning him from sending PB&J anymore, and then there was a sit-down with not one but two police departments and the state's attorney's office informing him that if he EVER sent peanut butter to school again he would be prosecuted for recklessly endangering children, and if any child had an allergic reaction there would be battery charges and if he ever threatened to send peanut butter again they would charge him with felony intimidation, and they laid out for him how many years he could spend in jail for any of these tricks, how much evidence they already had from his repeated insane behavior, and that child protective services would be notified, and he would end up with a criminal record and a child abuse indication.

After that, he stopped, and his daughter happily ate turkey sandwiches with no evidence of distaste or discomfort, and since he wasn't allowed to rant about peanuts anymore he would rant about the school board being the enemy of freedom and behaving abusively towards children by refusing them food, but whatever, par for the crazy-person course.

Pretty sure he still doesn't believe in peanut allergies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:25 PM on August 7 [185 favorites]


I'm pretty uncomfortable with an article about a person's deadly food allergies turning into a reason to rant about people whose food allergies aren't "real."

I mean, yes, people who claim to have allergies when they don't are a problem. Sometimes they are deliberately lying, and sometimes they have been misled. But the level of hostility toward these people is not so easily contained to them alone; people are not nearly as good at telling if people are "faking it" as they think they are. Similar issues exist for service animals, and people who legitimately need them are grilled on whether they meet the criteria for legitimate use by strangers whose business it really isn't.

If someone believes that a certain food is bad for them, it's a jerk move to try to feed it to them regardless of whether their belief is "correct" or not. Here's an example: I know people with migraines who believe that certain foods are migraine triggers. It's not an allergy! In some cases, it's been suggested by an "alternative medicine" quack. It might be a real trigger and that quack does have some knowledge of common triggers because of how many people they see. It might be confirmation bias. I don't really have a way to know!

But if I do think they're being taken advantage of by a quack then trying to get them to eat a food they think will make them sick is exactly the wrong way to go about addressing it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:33 PM on August 7 [53 favorites]


My dad's girlfriend claims to be allergic to cilantro and we just spent the weekend with a young man who claimed to be allergic to potatoes when boiled, but not when fried.

Jesus, the world is full of fucking babies.


WOW. Those are both actual things.

Immune systems are fucking weird. Gluten and oats are a big problem for me, but in the smallest amounts — like, eating an eel roll or something — the symptoms are subtly inflammatory: I get hay fevery / flu-y way before the GI stuff becomes noticeable. (“Noticeable” because there is other GI stuff almost always going on, so there’s a lot of noise in that signal.) if I were to eat a gluteny cookie or something it would be...dramatic...but you know what? Feeling hay fevery and sick fucking sucks and I don’t want to do it.

Once, on vacation, I had a severe allergic reaction. Like face swelled up, needed a dexamethasone shot from the emergency clinic. Nobody knew what I reacted to, but I suspected it was a supplement I took. When I got back to the states I went to an allergist who did one of those massive skin poke tests with everything he could think of, including the liquid from the supplement gel caps. I had no reactions — to anything, even though I’ve had seasonal allergies for years — and he declared me allergy free.

I went home and took the supplement again, just to see. Low and behold, trip number two to the ER, and I got a prescription for epi pens.

The allergist’s exact response was: “huh. Yeah, sometimes it’s weird.” His best guess was that I had to ingest or inhale various things for my body to freak out. (Although years later I did have a reaction to something topical in skin so soft; no idea what ingredient.)

Immune systems are fucking complicated. Allergies are ducking complicated and weird. We do not understand everything about the human body, which should not be news to anybody. If your reaction to someone telling you they have an allergy is skepticism and contempt, you are being an ignorant asshole.

Just fucking believe people when they tell you what their deal is. It is actually not that hard not to be a jerk.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:36 PM on August 7 [125 favorites]


"Why do we humans hate one another so much, so often? What did we do?"

You know exactly what we did.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:38 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


Also? The risk of anaphylaxis is not required for an allergy to be something you should respect. Like, just...wow.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:38 PM on August 7 [72 favorites]


Yeah, how about this: I'm neither a doctor or your doctor. Whatever dietary restrictions you report, that's what I'm working with. And there's a reason why I and many other people ask for "dietary restrictions" rather than "allergies", because it ain't my beeswax why you can't eat whatever. Just take people's words for their preferences, it's not that difficult. And if you do have a friend who has a thousand restrictions and it's difficult for them to have other people cook for them? They a) probably already know and feel bad about it and b) get together with them over minigolf or something if you are unable to provide food for them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:45 PM on August 7 [55 favorites]


But if I do think they're being taken advantage of by a quack then trying to get them to eat a food they think will make them sick is exactly the wrong way to go about addressing it.

That's an uncharitable reading. I'm not suggesting that anyone should coerce someone or slip food to someone who doesn't want to eat it.

I was obtusely (and poorly - I'm sorry) addressing this part of the piece, and I totally shit the bed on framing it right:

But who even cares? The important thing to know about your in-laws is that they’re literally trying to kill you. I mean, mushroom powder? Who’s even heard of such a thing? How is it possible that they’re all engaged in this charade of loving the ever-living hell out of mushrooms out of nowhere, in spite of the fact that they know you could die if you eat one? What on God’s green Earth is going on with these people?

[...]

So what should you do about it? I guess you could get a doctor to write a letter explaining that mushrooms have almost killed you a few times already. Maybe the doctor could describe in graphic detail exactly what would happen to your body if you were to eat mushrooms by accident. And if the doctor would also explain, in no uncertain terms, exactly what kinds of deeply ignorant, wildly passive-aggressive human beings would repeatedly attempt to present a known allergen to someone who should not come anywhere near said allergen, that would at least be gratifying and maybe even a little entertaining.


I think this kind of encapsulates it for someone who's trying to get across the problem their allergy poses, and being met with: "There's a lot of preferences out there" when it's not a choice -- it's a physiological imperative, which can be lots of different things - gastrointestinal reactions, migraines, weird swellings, and, yeah, all the way up to seizures and anaphylaxis, and being very annoyed with the way that certain woo makes that hard to get across.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:52 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I mean, yes, people who claim to have allergies when they don't are a problem.

Yes. And blaming the people who are angry at people who claim to have allergies but don't is misdirecting your anger.

Sometimes they are deliberately lying, and sometimes they have been misled. But the level of hostility toward these people is not so easily contained to them alone; people are not nearly as good at telling if people are "faking it" as they think they are.

"I have an allergy" when there isn't an actual allergy present has been often presented in "lifehacker" kind of spaces as a way to get better service, fresher food, and other entitled accommodations.

Let's not get into the pseudoscience quackery around a lot of 'food sensitivity' claims.

Similar issues exist for service animals, and people who legitimately need them are grilled on whether they meet the criteria for legitimate use by strangers whose business it really isn't.

Because people who believe that they should be entitled to the company of their pet at all times have co-opted the 'service animal' label to circumvent policies against pets.

Because people who have "service dogs" that aren't actual trained service dogs often place people around them in uncomfortable or dangerous positions. Actual service dogs are trained to be non-responsive to things that can excite or arouse untrained dogs, and there have been many reports of untrained "service dogs" biting people, urinating and defecating on planes, and otherwise NOT ACTING LIKE SERVICE DOGS.
posted by hanov3r at 3:54 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


peanut butter for those who can eat it, minigolf for those who like to play it.

i’d put that in front of “metafilter:” but we’re gonna have to become a kinder and better site to warrant that.

oh what the heck, at least aspirationally:

metafilter: peanut butter for those who can eat it, minigolf for those who like to play it
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:54 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


Note: with the above comment, I am trying to discuss the reason people react harshly to "i have an allergy" and "this is my service dog" claims. I am not trying to dismiss allergies or service dog needs, and I generally think that, if someone claims a food allergy, you should try to accommodate them. But the lashback against those claims is real.
posted by hanov3r at 3:56 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


it’s sort of delightful that this thread started with people saying “oh my god how could anyone do that,” and has developed into a demonstration of the line of reasoning that would inspire someone to do that.

humans, man. humans. we’re a messy bunch of apes is what we are.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:56 PM on August 7 [76 favorites]


Public service announcement for anyone who does not believe that gluten sensitivity is a real thing if it is not tied to a celiac diagnosis! I am saying this on behalf of all the people who are not comfortable explaining their symptoms to you: I have a condition called interstitial cystitis that makes me feel like I have a urinary tract infection if I eat gluten. Is it life-threatening? Not in the sense that I will stop breathing. But feeling like my urethra is on fire for a few weeks, feeling like I can barely walk from the pain for an indeterminate amount of time destroys my quality of life. I’m never sure how quickly it will resolve itself. The pain medications I take make me groggy and draggy and unable to drive. I wish that I did not have to follow a gluten-free diet. I tried hard to find any other dietary factor that could be causing it, but sadly, it seems to be wheat/barley.

If people say something vague like “I just feel better on a gluten free diet,” it might be because they are trying not to say something like, “I don’t want to deal with the Fiery Pee Hole of Endless Pain” (or something equally graphic) because they were raised to be polite.

Just...it’s ok if you respect someone’s boundaries without requiring a full forensic investigation.
posted by corey flood at 3:56 PM on August 7 [139 favorites]


I am trying to discuss the reason people react harshly to "i have an allergy" and "this is my service dog" claims

These are not remotely the same thing and equating them implies that people asking you to respect their boundaries about things that go in their bodies is somehow ...the equivalent of an untrained service dog? What?

No. The “lashback” against people who have allergies is not at all justified and is always about beating up on people, often for other reasons.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:02 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I just don't get why the hell you want to argue with someone on this crap. You WANT them to get sick?

Sure, there might be the occasional fibber, but isn't it better to err on the side of caution rather than get people sick? Assume they're telling you that they don't eat (insert common foodstuff here) NOT because they think it's fun to make you have to limit what food you can serve at dinner or that they like to inconvenience you. They're far more aware of the inconveniences of this shit than you are and deal with it more and I'm sure it's not fun for them either.

"it’s sort of delightful that this thread started with people saying “oh my god how could anyone do that,” and has developed into a demonstration of the line of reasoning that would inspire someone to do that. "

Yeah, THIS.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:02 PM on August 7 [27 favorites]


This best part is this is totally a classic Ask Metafilter question.

However, here, Ask Polly gets to go off on a cathartic WTF response rant which most of us from that esteemed forum are looking longingly and wistfully upon.


Yes this. I'm very glad this wasn't an askme because the letter writer got exactly what she needed without the noise. This isn't about ignorant people or uncharitable people or skeptical people, it's about a sick system and I really enjoyed how the writer broke down specifically how and why those develop and how hard they are to break or exit.

Personally while I fully understand the impulse to want to explain to them why they're being left and make them UNDERSTAND I wouldn't advise it as a course of action if it was askme, these folks are fully on the other side of reality and no amount of explanation will accomplish anything.
posted by bleep at 4:03 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


I mean this is the same flavor of bullshit directed at people with fibromyalgia or CFS or sometimes even lupus.

And I said “people” but it’s almost always women. Men tend to be believed. They even get sympathy.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:04 PM on August 7 [58 favorites]


Just a comment about cooking vs. noncooking. I get severe stomach upset from eggs from certain birds, not chickens. It does not matter whether I have cooked those eggs or baked them in a bread, I will vomit for hours. If you eat a cooked piece of meat with prions in it you will still get sick, the only way to sterilize against that protein is to actually destroy it, so I'm not sure how much good cooking does. However, as always, ymmv.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 4:05 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Absolutely respect boundaries- but conversely If you don't actually have an allergy for the love of god don't claim to have one. Say- it's a preference, I don't like fish. Say- I'm on a diet I'm not eating gluten. Say- I'm on a cleanse. Don't claim to have an allergy when you don't have one. Because people keep putting fucking whey in things because they think dairy intolerance is a "preference" and then I end up shitting my brains out because the waiter didn't think to tell me about the dairy in the food because to him I'm just a fad dieter.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:06 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


My husband has is a picky eater. One of the reasons why we get along so well is that I respect his bodily autonomy enough that if he doesn't want to try something, I don't try to wheedle him into this. That ought to be enough for anybody. If you say you're allergic and I find out that you just don't like it or you're using it to get special service or whatever, I might respect you a little less for it (and I might not go out to dinner with you again, frankly, and that's my right), but I'm not going to fucking poison you for it.

I am also the sort of person who will straight up just not eat something if I don't like it. True story: on a third (and final) date with someone who basically bullied me into eating sweet potato fries (sweet potatoes are one of my never ever ever foods), I just straight puked on his shoes. Lesson learned. No fourth date.
posted by honeybee413 at 4:08 PM on August 7 [32 favorites]


This family is vile. They’re possessed of a malevolent, pathological need to Not Be Told What To Do By The Outsider. The letter writer and her husband are fully correct to write them off, even if it is sad and painful... and oh man. It breaks my heart that she even thought for a moment that their hateful, murderous actions might have been in any way her fault. No, honey. They’re monsters.

As for sensitivities and such... cilantro tastes like soap to me. It fully ruins an entire dish, in sufficient quantities - hell, I can only eat salsa at all because chipotle peppers mask the taste. Gluten, if I eat too much of it, tends to lead to digestive distress of all kinds, headaches, and it even seems to tweak my depression over time. Also potatoes are nightshades, I am not at all surprised that someone might only be able to digest them when cooked a particular way.

It’s easy to not be an asshole about food and we could all work a little harder at it.
posted by angeline at 4:08 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


Good Christ, why was there even a THIRD date?
posted by uberchet at 4:09 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Being clear about food sensitivities is important. My friend is mildly allergic to crustaceans. Nothing medically serious yet, and she can pick out the shrimp and be OK. Myself, I'm sensitive to inulin, so I don't want to eat more than a schmear of sunchokes.

We've mentioned these issues occasionally for prix fixe food events when asked about food sensitivities in advance. Kitchen staff would come out to quiz us on the issues and we assure them that they don't need clean-room procedures and generally everything goes fine from there.

Many restaurants are very diligent about food sensitivities and you need to be very clear about the distinction between "can't have any trace of peanuts or I will need an epipen and an ambulance" and "I will be discomfited or have to pick around in my food, but there's no medical emergency here." It makes a huge difference in how they have to deal with food preparation. They should save the effort for those who really need it.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:15 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


respecting people’s food requests, even if they seem silly: a mitzvah

disrespecting a person’s food requests because they are woo: a shanda

disrespecting a person’s food request because you don’t like their religion: a shanda

disrespecting a person’s food request because you don’t like their religion, even if you think that religion is woo: a shanda

disrespecting people’s food request for any reason at all: a shanda

let’s all do less shanda and more mitzvot. and spare everyone the tsuris.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:16 PM on August 7 [94 favorites]


I think that one reason this seems so fraught to some and so intuitive to others is that there are a lot of subcultural differences in how allergies and service animal claims are handled.

I've spent a lot of time in a hippie-adjacent subculture where "allergies" were a constantly shifting, never diagnosed thing for a lot of people, and you'd get told that folks were allergic to something, go to a lot of trouble (because there were a lot of shared meals) and then a few months later they'd be eating that very thing because...they weren't actually allergic. Like, I've tried very hard to provide safe, appropriate food, worried about cross contamination, bought special stuff (coconut sugar, Not My Thing)...and then you get to the event and, hey, those were just suggestions, it doesn't really matter.

Similarly with service/support animals - large, poorly trained dogs that jump up and bark. (Often very nice dogs, admittedly. But I'm not scared of dogs.). When you're running public events, you encounter a lot of people who have had really scary experiences with dogs, and you end up triaging between people who really, really freak out around big, sociable dogs and people who bring that kind of dog as support animals, and then when you discover that they're just "makes me feel better but I can do without so I leave them at home regularly" dogs it's frustrating.

I think that a lot of folks aren't in this kind of environment - shared meals are more likely to be with small, predictable groups and/or in restaurants and big events are more likely to be run along very standardized lines and there's just generally a different approach to food and health, and so a lot of folks only encounter frustration with rhetoric around allergies or support animals where people are actively being assholes.

If you are in the right subculture, dietary change fads occur in waves - one year no one is allergic, the next year some big percentage of the same people (too big to make sense even with a generous interpretation of statistics) is allergic to nightshades and then the next year everyone has decided that they're not allergic after all.

Obviously, if people prefer not to eat tomatoes, I'm not going to give them tomatoes. But it's helpful to know the difference between someone who is avoiding soy at the macro level, like tofu and TVP and so on, but is okay with a recipe that has some chocolate in it that has soy lecithin and someone who can't have any soy at all ever.
posted by Frowner at 4:21 PM on August 7 [62 favorites]


let’s all do less shanda and more mitzvot. and spare everyone the tsuris.

Fair. The table is for everyone.

I'm in high dudgeon because I'm dealing with some family woo-loving in the context of cancer treatment of a family member (it's all going fine, so no worries) but JESUS STOP WITH THE DR OZ SAYS YOU NEED THIS or I will snap.

Also, the in-laws in the Ask Polly wound me up. They are indeed horrendous, no questions asked.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:27 PM on August 7 [14 favorites]


Uberchet: The first date was lovely. The second date, a little less so. The third date, he kept using my camera to take pictures of stuff (real film, dude!), and then the sweet potatoes. Blarf.
posted by honeybee413 at 4:27 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Don't claim to have an allergy when you don't have one. Because people keep putting fucking whey in things because they think dairy intolerance is a "preference"

Yeah no the reason I’m pushing back against this is that it’s the same flavor of justification for any number of terrible behaviors. The fact that some people somewhere might declare food allergies in ways one doesn’t think are valid does not excuse or justify being an asshole to anyone else who declares a food allergy. The asshole behavior is not the responsibility of anyone but the asshole doing it.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:33 PM on August 7 [30 favorites]


As a regular reader of advice columns, this is pretty common. There's the Dear Prudie linked earlier, there's (CW child death) the JUSTNOMIL coconut oil one, and my personal favourite the almond wedding one.
posted by jeather at 4:35 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


I’d go to their house, go to dinner, get a sample of the food - not eat it, - get the food tested and then have them arrested for attempted murder. I’m not even joking. Poisoning people is even funnier when you’re serving twenty years in the slammer.
posted by Jubey at 4:36 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


This calls to mind the scene from Freaks and Geeks where a bully sneaks peanuts into Bill's sandwich.

Bully (laughing): What happens next, Havichuck? Should we call an ambulance?
Bill (sighing): Yeah.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:41 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


DO NOT READ THE COCONUT ONE. like I hesitate to post this because it might make some people more likely to read it rather than less likely, but please, don’t read it. it’s too much to be borne. I can’t even begin to put together a list of the content warnings for it, all I know is that reading it let me find out I’ve got a whole lot of triggers I didn’t realize I had. like:

cw: child death. gaslighting. neglect. a twin going from happy and vivacious to glum and inward-turning for the rest of her life after the death of her sister. a grandparent suffering from a total disconnect with reality. a family destroyed by one thoughtless act.

don’t read it don’t read it. go read something cheery and uplifting instead. I suggest jude the obscure. or never let me go. shit, go read old yeller again if you have to. but don’t read that story. That story is not a story of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated there… nothing valued is there. What is there is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger. That story is best shunned and left unread.

I would be perfectly happy if the mods nuked both the link to the coconut story and also this comment.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:45 PM on August 7 [64 favorites]


This reminds me of an incident that happened at my kids’ school earlier this year. One boy bought nuts to school (banned substance) and chased the kid with the deathly peanut allergy and tried to force the nuts on him. This is the second time he’s done this. The school refuses to reprimand him. The victim’s mother is beside herself. The bully’s mother doesn’t care.

The stinger in all of this? The bully is deathly allergic to meat, he knows exactly what the consequences of this is (because he’s been hospitalised himself) and this kid can be taken out himself with just a bite of a bacon sandwich. They’re both seven years old. Gah. I hate people.
posted by Jubey at 4:48 PM on August 7 [26 favorites]


The fact that some people somewhere might declare food allergies in ways one doesn’t think are valid does not excuse or justify being an asshole to anyone else who declares a food allergy.

Here's the problem. PEOPLE SUCK. Like I would never put anything in someones food that they didn't want ever. No pork? cool. No gluten? cool. But other people aren't so woke. So when you claim an allergy you don't have, and then your buddy who went out of his way for you sees you scarfing down that fish in a month- you aren't going to get hurt- but the next person he meets with a bone fide allergy will, because he's an imperfect human being who now believes allergies are bunk. And the person with the bone fide allergy CAN DIE. Like lets teach people to respect all food preferences but we do not live in that world yet, and in the meantime, lets not claim allergies/intolerances we don't have.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:53 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


I think, being charitable, that some people don't understand exposure therapy. They see something that says exposing someone to their allergy in extremely controlled conditions can reduce or eliminate said allergy.

Which under the right circumstances is science.

But if someone just reads the headlines, or doesn't understand the nuances, we get extremely bad scenes that result in trauma and or death.
posted by Jacen at 4:57 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


The coconut story is. DREADFUL. Absolutely dreadful. One of the responses to that story is something that took me years to learn:
The thing is: some people are gentle and loving and supportive and kind as long as they aren't, in their minds, crossed. And "crossing" them can consist of not following a script they wrote for you in their minds without ever telling you. And wrapped up in the kind of thinking that sets this sort of condition on love is an inability to see that writing scripts for other people's lives is not only arrogant but contrary to reality.
I believe there's an element of that going on with the family in TFA. Ma had a script, and her murderous mushroom bullshit is how she's expressing her anger with people (i.e. her son) for not following her script.
posted by droplet at 4:58 PM on August 7 [58 favorites]


When I was first married I went to a dinner at my sister-in-law's house. We told her before hand that my family has a genetic mutation where we lack a series of enzymes that allow us to digest milk fat, and I was having a bad reaction these days, so any diary had to be skim or fat free.

She told me to just take one of those lactose pills, and I carefully explained again that I wasn't lactose intolerant. I couldn't digest milk fats.

Come the dinner and every thing is good. Was told don't worry about the food she took care of it. Stomach started feeling weird and I asked what had dairy in it. Turns out she put a whole block of cream cheese into the potatoes.

She was like, "See. You're fine."

Then the farting started. Like something rotting had been washed in sewage and dried with slices of head cheese and feet.

Then I took over the guest bathroom for two and a half hours. When I wasn't explosively shitting, I was projectile vomiting. And I was so mad, just spitting furious, I didn't even bother aiming.

They had that room professionally cleaned by the kind of team that cleans a hoarder's house after the junk crew empties it.

Never tried that on me again.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:01 PM on August 7 [180 favorites]


> When I wasn't explosively shitting, I was projectile vomiting. And I was so mad, just spitting furious, I didn't even bother aiming.

you know that seems like exactly the sort of thing that 80 cats in a dog suit would do.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:05 PM on August 7 [88 favorites]


um... what's the name of that rare genetic mutation, because lactose pills also don't work on me and your symptoms sound familiar...
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:08 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


I love shellfish, and I know tons of people who refuse to eat shellfish. If I make food that I know I will serve them, you know what I don't put in it? Shellfish.

I completely understand that annoying, attention-seeking people are aggravating AF. But you don't deal with that by forcing them to eat something unknowingly. That is batshit insane behavior. Would you pee in their food, or hand them a glass of Drano? If not, then don't do it with things that are technically edible, either.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:08 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


If, however, someone tells you they have a diagnosed food allergy, that's when you take it seriously.

For many people, "diagnosed" food allergies are never going to happen; knowing that you have headaches and fever and maybe vomiting after eating shrimp or tomatoes or MSG or white pepper, doesn't justify a trip to the doctor, a bunch of expensive tests, to get an official piece of paper that says "Don't eat this food; it causes headaches and nausea."

It's not like there are Official Allergy Cards that you can show your skeptical relatives. It's not like those skeptical relatives would even believe a note from a doctor.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:12 PM on August 7 [53 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis, I don't know the scientific name off the top of my head. My sister the nurse might. I just know the ramble of lack a series of enzymes thing. It runs on my mom's side through my grandpa, and hit half his kids and pretty much every grandkid. Then I passed it to my son.

I'll text my sister. If I don't reply in 2 days, nudge me in memail.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:16 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


So. Just got married. Twice, actually (west coast and east coast celebrations.) Lotta guests. Whole lotta food restrictions, not the least from my wife, who has a very serious allergy to chicken (at least, probably all poultry but she's cautious enough not to experiment there) that always takes some convincing because generally folks haven't heard about people being allergic to chicken.

One of these weddings was a weekend out in the woods in Oregon, and involved a lot of our friends and family cooking us meals, which meant months of preparation and our wheedling and doing the shopping ourselves to make sure that everyone was actually respecting the food restrictions of our various guests and at least cooking alternative versions of things where one deemed-crucial ingredient (like, say, garlic or nightshades) was a no-go for one or two guests.

And you know what? People did it, though it was more exasperating than it should have been to get all of our chefs on board (which I somewhat understand. Vegetarian wedding with lots of other no-nos and a bunch of non-vegetarian chefs lending their talents to cook for a hundred people, I fully get the frustrations.) But they came through.

And then, in the lines, I would still hear guests scoffing at the alternative versions of meals that were put out, because, well, they didn't need them. And what the fuck is the point of that? And these were our guests, generally people I like, and when I would respond with, "Oh, there's really somebody who can't have any garlic here." they'd inevitably just revert to "oh, cool, okay," and it's like, what the hell did you think was going on here? Why did the mere presence of a variety of something that met needs that aren't your own irritate you?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:18 PM on August 7 [34 favorites]


The thing is: some people are gentle and loving and supportive and kind as long as they aren't, in their minds, crossed. And "crossing" them can consist of not following a script they wrote for you in their minds without ever telling you. And wrapped up in the kind of thinking that sets this sort of condition on love is an inability to see that writing scripts for other people's lives is not only arrogant but contrary to reality.

This quote really resonated with me - I have never seen this described this way but boy is it common and sad and hard to diagnose and understand.
posted by bleep at 5:18 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


Note: the coconut story is fiction.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:19 PM on August 7 [16 favorites]


Like lets teach people to respect all food preferences but we do not live in that world yet, and in the meantime, lets not claim allergies/intolerances we don't have.

But no one is saying to claim allergies that you don't have, at least not in this thread! I'm saying that I'm uncomfortable a discussion about people not taking allergies seriously has shifted to a discussion about how some people's allergies are fake. Both are problems! Faking allergies does indeed undermine people who have real allergies!

But it's not as easy to tell when someone's allergy or sensitivity is "legitimate" as many people seem think, and the exact same anger directed at people who falsely claim allergies often hits the wrong fucking target.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:20 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


Thanks 80 Cats in a Dog Suit, whatever I have has so leveled up from lactose intolerance, it would be nice to have a potential diagnosis to hand my doctor. since she's so wildly incompetent unless I do her job for her
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:21 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


humans, man. humans. we’re a messy bunch of apes is what we are.

More like Non-reclusive Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, am I right?
posted by tobascodagama at 5:23 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


I met a new friend at dinner recently. When it came time to order, they pulled out this absolutely ingenious business card to give to the waiter to pass on the chef. It had a list - with little emoji-type pictures - of their allergies and a note about where to find the epi-pen on their person and their doctor's name and phone number. It was succinct and easily understood and the waiter seemed delighted to have such an easy reference.
posted by minervous at 5:30 PM on August 7 [37 favorites]


And then, in the lines, I would still hear guests scoffing at the alternative versions of meals that were put out, because, well, they didn't need them. And what the fuck is the point of that? And these were our guests, generally people I like, and when I would respond with, "Oh, there's really somebody who can't have any garlic here." they'd inevitably just revert to "oh, cool, okay," and it's like, what the hell did you think was going on here? Why did the mere presence of a variety of something that met needs that aren't your own irritate you?

My own gut feeling is these are people who feel like no one would (or does) take that kind of special care for them, and so seeing that kind of care be given to others makes them feel bitter.
posted by sallybrown at 5:31 PM on August 7 [24 favorites]


> Note: the coconut story is fiction.

oh thank god. fuck the person who wrote it. i’m the guy who wrote that scat scene in GR and the coconut story is too much for me even.

> More like Non-reclusive Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, am I right?

pah, what a hack. he’s almost as bad as that salinger *
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:33 PM on August 7 [20 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis, understood. I caught my sister on break with the text and she blanked but will look it up.

Told me to mention to you that it also makes your stomach sensitive to beef in general, like a lead sinker feeling in your gut. I forgot because I pretty much stick to fish and chicken.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:37 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


You can inwardly roll your eyes at someone's suspected woo-llergy and still just do what they ask (or stop eating with them and go the minigolf route). I was in a cooperative kitchen arrangement in college with a person who was on the wackiest elimination diet I have ever encountered. I strongly suspected naturopathy and chiropractic was involved. But if she was only permitted to eat bananas and rice for the next 48 hours, I wasn't going to invite her over for lentil soup and pita bread and try to force her to eat it. You bring a banana, I'll cook up some plain rice that I can add beans to for my portion, we'll smoke a bowl and have a nice time.

I'm vegetarian and I have periodically used the religious excuse to cut off a federal case being made of it. I mean, I am Buddhist but I was vegetarian long before that and vegetarianism isn't a requirement for lay Buddhists in most traditions, but the people I'm talking to don't know that. That is kind of the philosophical equivalent of "I don't want to have to explain to you the details of what will happen in my colon if I eat this, but you aren't going to take my needs seriously unless you think I could actually die of it, so I'm going just go with that." Like, I don't want to spend 20 minutes explaining my thoughts on sustainability and animal sentience to get you to stop putting bacon in the salad dressing, so can we just go with because Buddha said I'll go to dog if I eat meat?
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:41 PM on August 7 [29 favorites]


I don't know if this has been mentioned but the reason for this behavior, primarily, is that there is a really terrible, toxic notion that women lie about their health for attention or to stand out that is still very much alive today. Or that they're overstating their health issues. That's it.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:41 PM on August 7 [52 favorites]


"always takes some convincing because generally folks haven't heard about people being allergic to chicken."

There was totally an episode of Everwood about this!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:42 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I stole this from smarter, nicer friends, but everytime I bring a dish to any sort of potluck or group food event, I make a little paper sign saying what it is and what the ingredients are.
posted by Jacen at 5:48 PM on August 7 [35 favorites]


I'm always a little envious of the commenters who think letters like this can't be real. They haven't met my family.

In my case, I don't think my mom wants to hurt anyone. She's just so self centered that she can't conceive of the idea that other people aren't just like her. And that's why she's the grandma we don't see.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:51 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


I recommend being allergic to something few people have strong feelings about -- no one really cares if I eat kiwi or not. (That said, my mother is also allergic, and my paternal grandmother used to buy fruit plates with kiwi for all family parties until I too developed an allergy. She didn't hide the kiwi, it was sitting right there on the plate, and she never served it except when she bought large premade fruit plates for parties.)
posted by jeather at 5:51 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Last time I took a flight there was an announcement right at the beginning, before we took off, explaining that one of the passengers had an extremely severe peanut allergy. As such, no peanuts would be served on that flight, as ambient peanut dust in recycled airplane air would be enough to set it off.

I thought oh, ok, put my headphones on, and spent the rest of the flight listening to music, thinking selfishly and mournfully about the packet of peanuts I had in my bag, which I had fully intended to scarf over the duration of the flight. Obviously (or not as the case may be, given the OP) I did not, in the event, dare touch them.

It was a good thing I had happened to hear that announcement and had not, as many other passengers had, simply sat down and put headphones on immediately.
posted by motty at 5:52 PM on August 7 [14 favorites]


"I recommend being allergic to something few people have strong feelings about -- no one really cares if I eat kiwi or not. "

Are you also allergic to latex? I'm allergic to latex and they told me to limit kiwi, banana, chestnut, and a couple other things. (Banana peels are the only thing I react to so far -- I get a rash -- but apparently it's cumulative.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:07 PM on August 7


fuck this, if someone tells you they can't eat something you respect them enough as a human being not to fucking feed it to them regardless of your opinion on how valid their preference is.
THIS PLEASE. My mother, God rest her soul, loved to cook and would make meals for us. She didn't usually make special meals based on dietary needs, she made what she liked. But if my wife didn't eat the bread because she's gluten intolerant, or I didn't eat the strawberries because I was allergic, or my kid didn't eat the cake because he didn't like cake, she'd politely offer us something else instead. She wasn't offended and didn't need a note from a doctor to prove any of it.

Good people just enjoy company and who eats what doesn't matter. We need more good people.
And I said “people” but it’s almost always women. Men tend to be believed. They even get sympathy.
Not to derail, but I'm a man and I grew up with asthma, have been on meds for it most of my life, have been hospitalized a couple of times. And YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE how many people have told me to just snap out of it because asthma is all in my head.

I'm sure women do have it worse, but people are universally terrible.

We need more good people.
posted by mmoncur at 6:07 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


My intention wasn't to disregard the similar experiences of men or to downplay the complexities surrounding power and food that are also at play here.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:09 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I am not allergic to any of the common things that go with kiwi, which is nice, because I eat a lot of bananas. (Neither is my mother.)
posted by jeather at 6:10 PM on August 7


I have some relatives...

Two kids who have PKU, a rare but very real genetic condition which means normal foods can give them brain damage similar to lead poisoning

One of whom also has a severe peanut allergy that required an ambulance ride when she was 15 months old

A cousin who was diagnosed with Celiac disease after getting a blood transfusion for anemia and really has to avoid ALL gluten, like, ALL of it

A sister who avoids gluten but knows she does not have Celiac's disease. She just says she feels better when she avoids gluten. But she sometimes cheats

A husband who is an extremely picky eater and a supertaster, maybe

A self who is mostly vegetarian for animal welfare reasons (& because my kids can't eat meat anyway) but sometimes cheats

A mom who believes in all the woo, diagnoses herself with a new food sensitivity every year, and thinks everyone else's dietary issues are the same as hers, such that she really resents having to cook so many special meals and is passive aggressive about it.

We've started bringing our own food when we go over for family meals. It's the easiest solution. I am really pissed at all the woo peddlers who lie to my mom, and mildly pissed at her for believing them. But though she grumbles, she still accommodates us.

And despite my resentfulness toward people who misreprsent their own dietary restrictions, I do not violate them. People get what they say they can have.

I am super careful about distinguishing between PKU and allergies, between my vegetarian preferences and my kids vegetarian medical needs, between my cousin's celiac disease and my sister's undiagnosed gluten sensitivity (which I am careful to respect.) I also don't offer donuts to people on a weight loss diet.

I explain all of these conditions IN DETAIL to anyone who will be serving food to my family, and I don't care if they want to hear it. I don't really want to get into private medical stuff either, to be honest, but it's important, and if I can make the effort to explain, other people can make the effort to understand. And if they refuse to make that effort, THAT'S what I get mad about.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:10 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted; this doesn't need to become some kind of contest about who to believe -- there can be a thing that happens to women often, and that doesn't detract from its happening to men too.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:11 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


My sister won't eat food with onions in it.

Well, let's be more specific. She loves food with onions in it. Onion powder, onion juice, onions cooked long enough to dissolve or fully caramelize, onions chopped up in a burger, onions in a canned soup, onions that she doesn't realize are there, she loves. But when someone in my family is cooking something she expects to be eating, she insists that she cannot stand them and will not tolerate them in her food. She is very loud about this. When she was still living with us, if she came out of her room and found that someone was making something with onions in it - even if it wasn't for her - she would get furious. Onions couldn't be at the table. She used to say she couldn't, that she was allergic, but now she just says she won't eat them under any circumstance - unless, again, she's already started to eat and visibly enjoy something before she realizes that there's onions in it.

Recently, she's added pork and beef to the list. For a while, when she was younger, mushrooms were on it, but that's been phased out.

When she's not eating with us? Like when she spent a year and a half in Korea? Loads of onions. It's not about the food, not the flavor, not the texture, not an allergen or sensitivity or anything of the sort. It's about the power. It's about knowing that, if she demands that we all skip out on onions, we will. I'm past the point where I kowtow to this.

I have a sensitivity of some kind of parmesan cheese. No, I haven't been able to track it down in diagnosis, that's too expensive. I don't have any problem with it at the table or other people using it, but eating it - even when nobody knew it was there, like a frozen lasagna - will trigger a migraine for me. It's not an MSG thing. So, I avoid it. It's very difficult to get my family to take that seriously, or at least, to not equate "my health" to "her power play".

I am very respectful of dietary requirements and restrictions. I've got one. And the parents in this article are murderous loons. But sometimes, for manipulative people, it's just about making you do it to see you do it. And, to address a point above, the time to object is before the food is laid out at the table and everyone's starting to eat.
posted by kafziel at 6:27 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Because people who have "service dogs" that aren't actual trained service dogs often place people around them in uncomfortable or dangerous positions. Actual service dogs are trained to be non-responsive to things that can excite or arouse untrained dogs, and there have been many reports of untrained "service dogs" biting people, urinating and defecating on planes, and otherwise NOT ACTING LIKE SERVICE DOGS.

Oh yay I get to take part in this too!

Here is a helpful tip: there is no such thing as an "actual service dog" in the sense that you are thinking, in the sense of a dividing line between shockingly expensive service dogs that are yes, often very very nonreactive in many circumstances, and other expensive service dogs that are less well trained. It has nothing to do with someone's disability whatsoever, which is the actual point of a service dog. It is entirely class-based, in terms of who gets to afford a 30K dog, and who doesn't have 30K or their insurance won't pay 30K for the dog.

Similarly, the people who can afford to get a trained allergist to diagnose the precise degree and type of their allergy are not somehow more worthy than people who can't afford and are having to try to guess or self-diagnose.
posted by corb at 6:37 PM on August 7 [40 favorites]


I have a friend who's allergic to capsicum (or as Americans know it, peppers). It's not just that she can't eat spicy food - she can't eat anything from that family or anything that's derived from that family. Paprika's out. It's tricky, but there are other herbs. It's also very rare, and it's close enough to a white person being a wuss about heat that she sometimes gets this reaction.

There's certainly an element of feeling held back by other's food preferences. I will be accommodating if I can - I have another friend who has a host of serious food allergies, including celiac, and another who's vegetarian, and it's a struggle to both address their requirements and also have it taste Good, but I also don't want to make my friends sick. I have another friend who doesn't like the texture of eggplant or fresh tomato, and that's weird but I'll give it a go. But god help me, I can't handle picky eaters. I think part of it is that my friends have exclusion areas, and if I can find a creative solution for things that still taste nice and avoid the things they can't eat, or leave on the plate, we can all be happy, but picky eaters tend to have white lists of acceptable foods. Part of it is definitely that I don't think their preferences are real and worth respecting, because it feels like I'm being burdened by their unwillingness to change.

Maybe that's why we're seeing a lot of this lately: everyone's feeling burdened by the need for change, and it feels like other people are the reason we can't live the way we want to.
posted by Merus at 6:40 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Here is a helpful tip: there is no such thing as an "actual service dog" in the sense that you are thinking, in the sense of a dividing line between shockingly expensive service dogs that are yes, often very very nonreactive in many circumstances, and other expensive service dogs that are less well trained.

(This is not universal: in Australia, for instance, there is an "official" assistance dog program that provides dogs free of charge to those with qualifying needs. There's a wait list. It's reasonable in countries like Australia, where assistance dogs are part of the health system, to expect assistance dogs to be well-behaved when they're working, and also that people shouldn't be barred from private property just because they have an assistance dog. That said, they're still dogs, and they can still make mistakes.)
posted by Merus at 6:53 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


Why are these in-laws so terrible?

I've had dietary restrictions for religious reasons my whole life. My friends would sometimes joke about what would happen if they put some pork in my food but we all knew they would never do it. Later when I cut meat out of my diet everyone rolled with that too. It definitely caused my mom distress because taking meat out of a Pakistani diet doesn't leave very much but she accommodates my restrictions. Family friends will always ask me "when will you start eating meat again?" but they'll make sure that when I come over I have something I can eat (and even if they didn't between the salad, naan, and dessert I'm still eating pretty well).

One of my friend's daughter has a bunch of allergies, with dairy being one of them. Last Thanksgiving they came over and I made a curry pie for her. I made sure the crust used only vegetable oil and that there wasn't any milk or butter anywhere. I showed my friend all of the ingredients of everything to make sure it was OK and he told me that the curry had caramel which was likely dairy. I was a bit sad that his daughter couldn't have the pie I made for her but I would've been a lot sadder if she'd had an allergic reaction to it. There was lots of other food she could eat just not that pie.

At my son's 5th birthday party one of his friends had an egg allergy. We usually do a game where the kids try to eat mini-donuts hanging on strings without using their hands but this time we adapted it to use (kosher) marshmallows instead and it was just as fun. My wife cut up a watermelon to look like a shark and that was the birthday "cake". We all still had a good time and the friend wasn't left out of anything. We were all at a different kid's birthday party a couple of weeks ago and they ended up doing the marshmallow game too, using vegan marshmallows. They had actual birthday cakes but gave the friend with the allergy a separate treat.

If you care about the people you are making food for then it shouldn't be too much of an imposition to work around their dietary preferences.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:04 PM on August 7 [21 favorites]


As a former vegan/vegetarian who has lots of current vegan/vegetarian friends/family, I don't see why it matters if its a "real" allergy or not. Would you intentionally feed meat/dairy/etc to a vegetarian?

Worst case their potentially-not-real allergy is a choice to not eat something, much like being vegetarian. And I hope people would still respect that.

(I think the only exception is some hyper-specific cases involving a close family member or something who is known for excessively manipulative behavior --- but in that case you probably should just not eat with them?)
posted by thefoxgod at 7:06 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


yeh, the sort of hyperspecialized eater who can only stomach exactly three things should just, like, eat those three things. if folks want to provide one or another of the three things when they come over, that’s a cool and nice thing to do, but also if you’re that specialized you’ve probably learned how to bring one or another of your three things to anywhere you’d be expected to eat.

then if they ever snap out of it and start eating more diverse types of food, everyone gets to low-key party about how they’re coming out of their shell.

i guess i’m on a “be excellent to each other” trip on this thread (well except for that salinger sumbitch, he can go straight to hell. phony hell), but really these sorts of problems can be solved by looking beyond whatever sort of other-people’s-behavior gets on one’s nerves, taking a deep breath, and then trying to be generally compassionate and accommodating of their needs. it’s emotional labor, but really it’s not that difficult as far as emotional labor goes. it’s emotional labor like using the right pronouns for people is emotional labor. it’s way easier than most other kinds of emotional labor — shit, it’s about one-onethousandth of the amount of emotional labor that waitresses have to perform every shift.

anyway, life’s a hard enough thing without people getting in fights about food. let’s be excellent to each other. we’ll eat what we can, and if we can’t eat anything at all we’ll still get together to play minigolf anyway.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:18 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


... that is not what emotional labor means, and not misgendering people is not emotional labor.
posted by kafziel at 7:36 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


apologies
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:39 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I think that one reason this seems so fraught to some and so intuitive to others is that there are a lot of subcultural differences in how allergies and service animal claims are handled.

Eh. I also run in circles where people have lots of woo diets. I haven't ever found accommodating the food preferences of people I care about or people I care about being in community with onerous. It's a consent issue: it doesn't matter at all *why* someone doesn't want to or can't eat a certain food, trying to trick or coerce or shame or bully them into eating that food violates their consent.
posted by eviemath at 7:40 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


Okay, I've googled a bunch, done everything I could to research on my own, and can't find a single source that retutes that the JUSTNOMIL coconut oil story is fake. It's driving me up the wall now. Anyone know?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:43 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


> Okay, I've googled a bunch, done everything I could to research on my own, and can't find a single source that retutes that the JUSTNOMIL coconut oil story is fake. It's driving me up the wall now. Anyone know?

right now you are a member of a civilization in the year 22520 ce and you have discovered a strange barren area from the 21st century, and you've seen a bunch of strange grim markings about danger, and some weird triangles and someone recoiling away from them, and you are thinking "huh, i wonder what's in there. i wonder if it is a place of honor. i wonder if an esteemed deed is commemorated here. i bet there's something valued here. i'll just go closer to the center and get a look-see!"

just, turn around. turn around, and never think of this place again. it is abandoned for a reason. a good reason.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:14 PM on August 7 [17 favorites]


There's obviously a wide range of reasons why people want to eat what they do: extreme illness/death, sickness, deeply held choice, not being in the mood that day, or actively trying to mess with someone (like why the original family suddenly liked mushrooms with everything). There's also a wide range of impacts their choices make on other people.

I think that complex interplay prevents any easy answers. However, one thing that helps is when you're trying to understand someone's actions, make their story charitable. You have to fill in gaps to try and understand the world, but you choose how to fill it in. So if they say they're allergic to boiled but not fried potatoes, instead of thinking that they're just picky eaters who probably don't have any allergies, just go with it and assume they have a sort of allergy you haven't heard of.

If you're dealing with the same bad person a lot, eventually there's no more room for charity and you're stuck with the reality that they're just toxic. Also, sometimes people are intolerably bad the moment you meet. Reality is what it is. But when you go beyond that and try to model someone else, by assuming the best you'll increase your own grace, and increase your own perception of the amount of goodwill overall.
posted by netowl at 8:17 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


Eh. I also run in circles where people have lots of woo diets. I haven't ever found accommodating the food preferences of people I care about or people I care about being in community with onerous. It's a consent issue: it doesn't matter at all *why* someone doesn't want to or can't eat a certain food, trying to trick or coerce or shame or bully them into eating that food violates their consent.

It's onerous if you're providing food for a large group with a wide variety of dietary restrictions and the group has decided that all dishes should be edible by all people. I don't mind doing it, but it can be difficult to regularly prepare affordable, balanced main dishes that are simultaneously meat/soy/wheat/dairy/egg/nut/nightshade/allium-free, with the occasional wild-card like people who can't eat chickpeas or won't eat the the kind of coconut oil that's processed so it doesn't taste intensely coconutty. For me this is complicated because several of the things that are common substitutions (like coconut oil) are high in things (like saturated fat) that I try to avoid.

Things get much easier if you discover that the person who requested no soy can actually eat soy lecithin so you can bake with earth balance, or the person who "doesn't eat" nightshades actually eats potatoes but not tomatoes so you can make a potato dish, etc. And then, if someone is avoiding wheat but isn't celiac, you don't need to worry about finding a completely clean kitchen and buying only products that are guaranteed free of contamination, etc.

For a long time I did a lot of cooking for meetings and events and it did get pretty difficult and fatiguing. At first it was fun - I learned a bunch of gluten-free desserts, for instance. But it got harder and harder as the list of excluded things expanded, which was all right, except that I kept bumping up against situations where I'd been requested to do something that was patently unneeded. What was really, really frustrating was the time that I'd gone to a great deal of effort to comply with the list of restrictions and I got to the event and nobody else had complied and everyone was just eating the random food. I really felt like I'd been played, to be honest, and it wasn't the only time that I was requested to bring a complicated dish that wasn't needed.

Soy lecithin was a particular source of frustration for me because I would ask about soy and hear people say that they couldn't even eat soy lecithin, but then I'd see them eating prepared foods with soy lecithin because they didn't bother to read the labels, and then meanwhile I was reading all the labels. Like, I really tried on this stuff, I read the internet, I read labels and it just grew to suck.
posted by Frowner at 8:20 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


It was when people started talking about low-FODMAP being added in (so no cabbage or lentils or apples, etc) that I stepped back, IIRC. I felt at that point like I would be the only one who bothered.
posted by Frowner at 8:27 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Yes, I have known people who claimed allergies based on BS, but I can cook something without that thing. If you are sensitive to gluten, are strictly vegan, and hate most foods, I'll do my best. I reserve the right to roll my eyes, possibly in the kitchen, but no guarantees. If you claim to keep kosher, diss me for ordering non-kosher food, I will be silent, until you go out for lobster, you hypocritical asshat.

The husband in the story seemed to be pretty supportive. Feeding allergens to someone should be considered malicious, assault, actionable, attempted murder. Forget the doctor; I'd get a lawyer to write a cease & desist letter and maybe invite the lawyer to dinner to explain the consequences of causing harm intentionally, PowerPoint optional.

If you feed me dairy, make sure I sit next to you, as I will have incredibly foul gas in about 15 minutes, and probably painful inflammatory arthritis the next several days. I'm sorry my food issue is inconvenient, really, but you have no idea how much I miss sour cream. It hurts me more than it hurts you.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


Potlucks and aiming for everyone being able to eat a complete meal, not necessarily everyone being able to eat every dish do make the situation of lots of different food accommodations easier. But, like the story of the manipulative family member that someone else told above, none of this is germaine to the issue or original post about family members specifically making all or most dishes include the ingredient that someone has a potentially deadly allergy to. In your example, Frowner, it sounds like the problem issue in your group isn't the food allergies or diets, but the insistence by a significant number of group members that everything the group does has to be for or about them, personally. In the other example, if it weren't dietary restrictions, the manipulative family member would find something else - the food part of it is incidental.
posted by eviemath at 8:33 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Whew, this is so messed up. I'm not at all a hostess, but in the unhappy circumstance that I've ended up hosting someone...family or friend or frankly super-disliked acquaintance...you do your best? To be polite? And feed them as well as you can? Until you get rid of them? You can be perfectly polite to someone you don't like for up to 72 hours; I can do it so I know it isn't that hard.

I think the family doesn't like the wife, and they're showing it in a really dangerous way. For people who DON'T embrace misanthropy like me, sometimes there is a sense that they should participate in certain normal social niceties but punish people they don't like by mistreating them. That sucks! Open estrangement is more honest and less painful for everyone. Keep distant and they might eventually have found a way back together; this couple should never forgive the repeated attempted poisonings.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:40 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


I developed a allergy to anti-inflammatory medicines in my early 30s

Shit me too, specifically ibuprofen, usually with a couple other very specific triggers, one of which weirdly seems to be related to a yeast in freezer pizza dough. It's not pretty, but luckily people don't tend to sprinkle ibuprofen in food, and now that I've figured it out it's easy to avoid. Most of my other food sensitivities have gradually gone away with age, thankfully. So that's a thing that can happen, that I've experienced first hand (e.g when I accidentally ate a walnut and didn't swell up like I had the first 20 times before we figured out the trigger).

I don't care if it's an allergy, intolerance, or preference - if someone tells you they can't have something, don't give them that thing.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:12 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


I feel like a lot of us have that One Friend who has decided that imaginary allergies will make him or her special and different, who orders around restaurant staff and throws tantrums, who says they have celiac disease but then (this a real thing that my One Friend did) insists on going to the Olive Garden all the time and scarfing a dozen breadsticks and saying "it's okay because their breadsticks don't have gluten." (This is incorrect.)

I will meet ANYBODY'S dietary restrictions and I will go HAM to meet them; I have a very close friend who's recently vegan and when he comes for dinner it will be a three-course meal and every course will be vegan and there will be complete proteins and it will be filling and the eight omnivores at the dinner will not miss their meat and dairy because vegan food can be delicious and I am going to cook the crap out of that menu. If you have celiac disease (as my godfather does) I have an entire Thanksgiving menu that is gluten-free and everyone will have a gluten-free Thanksgiving and nobody will miss it, and if you are allergic to carrots I am going to make the shit out of that menu and it is going to be AMAZING. Not only will I got HAM in my own home but I will call around to local restaurants and find the ones that can accommodate various dietary needs so we can go out without drama. (My godfather was so excited by the pizza at once place we went than I then e-mailed the restaurant and said, "yo my godfather has celiac and loved your pizza, is it possible for him to get your crust recipe?" and they, indeed, sent their recipe.)

And when my One Friend is coming over (with my friend group which is why shes there), I am going to make a meal that hits all 8 bazillion of her various current claimed allergies and intolerances. But I also know that when I serve her dinner she is going to burst into tears and announce that she's allergic to squares and can only eat food served in circles and that I must have no respect for her medical needs. And the thing is, if she told me this before dinner, I would have gotten out my cookie cutters and turned all her food into circles. Like, that's dumb and not a real allergy, clearly, but if it's what she wants/needs, I am going to cater to that. But that's not actually what she wants; she wants me to fail so she can turn me into a bad person and she can complain about it for weeks until the next person hosts dinner and becomes her villain.

(When she hosts dinner, she just orders pepperoni pizza (she does not cook), and eats it, with her "celiac disease" and "nightshade allergy" and "lactose intolerance" and "sensitivity to nitrates.")

But yeah, I feel like it's really easy for well-meaning people to conflate their TOTALLY NORMAL friends with TOTALLY NORMAL dietary restrictions with that One Friend who is obviously making everything up. Because I definitely want to tell a billion stories about my One Friend and her TOTALLY NUTS IDEAS, and my vegan friend barely requires notice because he's super-chill and easy to cook for and if I happen to not be able to cook for him he just brings a sandwich.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 PM on August 7 [33 favorites]


I was in a cooperative kitchen arrangement in college with a person who was on the wackiest elimination diet I have ever encountered. I strongly suspected naturopathy and chiropractic was involved. But if she was only permitted to eat bananas and rice for the next 48 hours, I wasn't going to invite her over for lentil soup and pita bread and try to force her to eat it.

Bananas and rice is actually a very common elimination diet recommended to people who are experiencing gastro-intestinal issues. My dietician suggested I go on the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) a while back when I was having... problems. My Mother was put on the BRAT diet when she started experiencing sudden fecal incontinence. The possibility of fructans or gluten being a trigger might explain why a person would try eliminating applesauce and toast too, at least for a little while.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:01 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


Holy crap. Food allergies are nothing to mess with.Those in-laws are terrible people.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:02 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


This is a metaphor, right? No, I understand its a straight-up real life and death situation, but it sure reads like an allegory!

The in-laws know that something is anathema to you---it triggers bad reactions for an honest, documented reason. Instead of being considerate, they defensively take a liking to what they would have probably rejected themselves, in an earlier context, and suddenly become big fans of these..."mushrooms." At family gatherings it's impossible to avoid, in fact sometimes they bring out a big plate of it and hold it under your nose. Or, they stealthily try to mix it into a usually innocuous subject, like potatoes. Then when you draw a line they make you into the villain and blame you for your principled stand...
posted by TreeRooster at 10:09 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


My mom is allergic to all kinds of "natural" things - hay, down, grass, etc.. She used to crow about how she used synthetic everything and chemicals in this and that. "Just because it's 'natural' doesn't mean it's good for you!" She'd scoff at all this 'woo' about avoiding plastics. Unfortunately, now she's allergic to stuff in her cosmetics and had to start all over with shampoo and lotion and cosmetics and then her sister starting having massive issues that have never been completely diagnosed but following a celiac diet has helped quite a bit. When this first came on, my aunt and my mother were whining on about how all "those people" have fake gluten allergies but this is the real thing and, "OMG, what will she eat?!" I gently pointed out that the natural health food store in their town has a whole section of gluten free items and ingredients. I less charitably noted, "Good thing all those fakers have created a huge market that didn't exist before!" I separately sent my aunt a few recipe sites to get her started.

But seriously, people are *weird* about food and meals even without the allergy issues. I can accommodate one or two food restrictions or dislikes but, like, I wouldn't even know to ask about soy lecithin. But like, why not let someone with limitations bring their own food? Why is there so much ask/guess around communal meals. "I don't want to be rude and ask them to bring their own food." vs. "I don't want to be rude by not eating their food." Or, if someone says, "what can I cook for you?" then you should give them some ideas and not be afraid of putting them out. People can end up behaving so oddly in an effort to be polite or not make waves or to, even worse, not appear foolish. Nothing so terrible as getting punked apparently.

Let's go back to the main article, though, those people are being straight up assholes. Wafting a plate of mushrooms under her nose. WTF? I wish she would stop feeling guilty about it. I mean, damn, the husband drew the line that he wanted to draw. The only possible solution to that rift is like family counseling for the grandparents and the husband. Because he knows. He knows.
posted by amanda at 10:22 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


My wife, then girlfriend, was a vegetarian of 15 or so years when she met my grandparents for the first time. I had already explained it to them since their southern Alabama traditions / experience did not really account for such a thing.

But I get it, it ranged from Big Fat Greek Wedding level of “But she eats chicken right?” to the more nuanced comment from me saying, “No MawMaw you can’t put bacon in the green beans then take it out before you put her serving on her plate.” They seemed game to try and never knowingly violated her preferences, even if she couldn’t eat the main entrees nor various side dishes once the meal rolled around. My wife is a trooper so she just rolled with it.

Cue us being together for 5 or so years, with various family dinners and holidays in between, and we go over for a pre Christmas meal or something. Most of the things she can’t eat, see above, but the selection of food is diverse so she grabs some rice after being told it was vegetarian.

She has some and some more and half way through she asks my grandmother how the rice was special/good as it was the best she had ever had. The honest and completely oblivious reply was,

"Oh, we don't do anything special to it honey, you just pull it straight out of the chicken after it cooks and keep it warm in a pot on the stove."

*Picard facepalm*

My family never failed to embarrass me but, well, I'd never say it was malicious at least.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:08 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


I think it's great when people tell you in no uncertain terms how terrible they are, so that you can stop inviting them to things or going to things they invite you to. In my 48 years, I have one Aunt, a few previously good friends, an ex in-law and one entite family to which I was an acquaintance whom I have shut out of my life.

Here and there I get to hear about how horrible they continue to be to everyone else, and sometimes they tell horrible lies about me (which I find hilarious when they get back to me, nobody that matters believes they're true) and I've never ever regretted saying goodbye to them.

Meanwhile if you're at my house and you don't like eggs or cheese or anything else i'll make you something without eggs or cheese or anything else. No allergy qualification required. Life is too short for this drama.
posted by davejay at 11:09 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


I have no allergies to offer here...but being married to an #ASD person and raising possibly 2 #ASD children, their so called ” disability “ allowed me to understand I had a physical (biochemical?) response to certain things

For me all types of mustard feel like glugging gasoline, even if I have never done that , for any reason, tasting something with mustard (or wasabi) intensifies the scent of sucking on a car to horrific proportions- it actually feels like I am sucking directly from the tube!




If i have to bite on cured leather I vomit.....

The reason I bring in the #ASD Status of family members is that we are slowly getting better at acknowledging differences of people on the spectrum


So echoing the usual metafilter compassion, when someone tells you who they are




Believe them!
posted by Wilder at 11:16 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


I've got some food intolerances: certain foods have me groaning on the toilet pretty fast
My wife has a food allergy: certain food have sent her into an ambulance, swollen with breathing difficulties pretty fast.

That some people say "allergy" when they mean "intolerance" doesn't make allergies disappear.

Anyway, to the main point of this comment: Last week I learned that Bird's Custard, probably the main brand of custard powder in the UK, was created because Mr Bird's wife Elizabeth couldn't eat egg or yeast, in 1837.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:34 AM on August 8 [25 favorites]


People were like this about my severe allergy when I was a kid, in an era that mostly predated current 21st century weird diet phenomena. Like, threatening to sneak my allergy food into my lunch and stuff. So I don’t agree that “people being horrible to allergic people” is a side effect of “people faking allergies.” I think the horrible people would be horrible no matter what.

A little tip for my fellow allergic people: when I travel I wear an emergency medical bracelet, so I can point at it in restaurants when I’m telling the waiter about my allergy. It gets the person’s attention and makes them check with the kitchen. If I’m not wearing the bracelet, sometimes I take my Epipen out of my bag and use that as a visual aid — that works too.
posted by hungrytiger at 1:58 AM on August 8 [17 favorites]


Sharing food is a way of caring for one another. If you tell me something about your food needs and I object, what I am saying is that I don’t want to do the work of caring for you. If I just ignore them instead, I am saying that I don’t care about your boundaries and will violate them for my own convenience or pleasure.
posted by eirias at 2:26 AM on August 8 [16 favorites]


I've been celiac for a few years now.

I'd say one dividing line between "fake allergy for drama" and "real allergy," if there is a clear line, is the work people are willing to put in to eat. If you do have an allergy you think about it every time you eat and your lifestyle is designed around it. I know there are restaurants I could go to where there would be nothing for me to eat. Therefore I research, plan, prepare and (unhelpfully) get nervous about it. I put in the effort because I have to.

For me not being able to eat a dish is not a problem. If I'm going to a birthday party and there's a (gluten-containing) birthday cake I'm just not going to eat that. If I'm eating out with someone, of course they can have the bread, eat my portion. If I'm going to a pot-luck style dinner I'm happy to bring enough for me to eat myself and see what else is there.

What I do object to is being given gluten when I've told the person not to give me it. When the waiter brings me bread in a dish which they said they would remove. The situation is the question would be a nightmare for me. There's a slight additional problem that lots of people don't know what gluten is. But I'm happy to explain, work with people and don't expect to eat every dish.
posted by Erberus at 3:53 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


I just ... I can’t get past the urge to take a story about truly heinous people trying to cause real harm to a real person with a real allergy and veer the discussion toward “those fake allergies tho.” I am reminded of false reports of rape and welfare queens and all the other ruses we use to tell ourselves that it’s fine not to spend the energy caring for each other because some people, Those People, just don’t deserve our care.
posted by eirias at 4:39 AM on August 8 [42 favorites]


I have known a couple of people who didn't take allergies seriously because they didn't have allergies, and they acted like anyone talking about deadly allergies was just someone from the lunatic fringe. They seemed a bit like climate change deniers who wonder how global warming could be true if the kids are outside having a snowball fight right now. The evidence that will convince them will come too late.
posted by pracowity at 4:45 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I’m the one who brought up the coconut story as fake, and I can’t find the reference either. It came out about 4 months ago during the whole-sub shakeup, but those threads were long and I haven’t been able to pinpoint where I read it.

So let me amend: the coconut story is possibly fake, pending further investigation.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:03 AM on August 8


those fake allergies tho

People with real dietary restrictions are mad at people with fake dietary restrictions, for causing confusion.

Most cases of disrespect of dietary restrictions are not as clearly malicious as the FPP. They arise at least partly from sincere misunderstanding. That misunderstanding is fostered partly by ignorance but partly by lies.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:07 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I feel like a lot of us have that One Friend who has decided that imaginary allergies will make him or her special and different

So here's the thing: this has nothing to do with allergies. If it wasn't allergies, they would be doing something else to force people to make accommodations for them, because what they actually care about is not the food but the fact that they can make others do what they want.

If this is a person you spend time with, your options are:

(1) Politely tell them that you love spending time with them but their ever-shifting or challenging allergies make it too difficult to accommodate, so could they please bring something they can eat and you'll pop it in the oven and then everything will be fine.

OR

(2) Stop spending time with this clearly manipulative person who is seriously not your friend (which may be the result of attempting (1) because again it's not about food or allergies it's about control and manipulation).

Do you know what isn't on your list of options? "Decide that any discussion of actual allergies needs absolutely needs cannot be without comments about "ugh fake allergies"".
posted by tocts at 5:16 AM on August 8 [25 favorites]


I completely, totally understand being angry about people who are faking a medical condition to make it easier to obtain their preferences, but I guess I'm stuck on....in the moment, how do you know? If someone says "I have an allergy to x," you don't know, right? So why not just err on the side of caution? It irritates me, too, as a relative of someone with a life-threatening food allergy, but it's also not going to change how I treat someone who makes the claim of an allergy. I'd sure hate to assume and be wrong....

Anecdote time: My younger son is the pickier eater in the family. Typical kid stuff when he was younger, one week he will LOVE the chicken dish I made for dinner, the next week, he doesn't like chicken at all. But one thing he was adamant about was that he hated nuts (liked peanut butter, but that was it). In all forms. Well, that's easy enough to avoid, whatever. One night, we were having dinner at my parents, and they made a cashew chicken dish. They left the cashews out of one part for my kid, but we learned later that he had ingested about 1/4 of a cashew. We learned that AFTER we all watched him unexpectedly and suddenly go into anaphylactic shock. It was a vision I will have burned into me forever--even now, years later, just typing this out makes me feel physically ill.

Up until that moment, though, he was just a picky eater. Not allergic, as far as anyone knew, yet.

But here's the other thing--we can say he has a diagnosed, life threatening tree-nut allergy. We went in and did the panel, we have good insurance. But others don't. And others who went through what we did might say "well, we don't need to shell out $$$ to have a test that we just saw with our own eyes, let's just say he's allergic to all nuts, just to be safe." That may not be accurate, maybe they're only allergic to one type of nut, but, that's also not really faking it in my mind. I guess, I'm a pretty cynical person, but in this case my experiences have made me just want to trust people on this one, even if they are being disingenuous.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 5:32 AM on August 8 [36 favorites]


My kid has food allergies. The EpiPen-carrying, separate-table-at-the-school-cafeteria kind. We’ve been lucky that he hasn’t had an anaphylactic reaction yet (knock on wood). But because we haven’t experienced an emergency, I sometimes catch myself wishing it was a misdiagnosis, wondering what would happen if he just tried a tiny particle. I know better than to test that, but I kind of get the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality that drives these behaviors. They are abhorrent and inexcusable, but I see what drives them.

The thing that I didn’t consciously realize until he was diagnosed - and this is embarrassingly obvious, on the level of old Republican politicians not realizing women are human until they father one - is that oh my god food allergies absolutely fucking suck. Nobody WANTS them. And if someone is faking? There’s likely something going on with their physical or mental health that makes an allergy seem like an acceptable explanation or alternative.

I’m a little mad at myself for not really getting it until I had to think about it 24/7. It takes humans a lot more effort than we realize to believe and care about something that’s not in front of our faces.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:02 AM on August 8 [23 favorites]


Then the farting started. Like something rotting had been washed in sewage and dried with slices of head cheese and feet.
--
I've got some food intolerances: certain foods have me groaning on the toilet pretty fast.


Yeah, this is me with some of the brassica vegetables; broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, the big turnips, green cabbage. Generally, the woodier/tougher the part of the plant that you eat, the less likely I am able to eat it.

I've sensed some skepticism in the past because "oh, but broccoli gives everyone gas" and no, not like I do. This has become an especial annoyance because suddenly a lot of fast-casual takeout places, like Pret-a-Manger, are putting cauliflower in fucking everything. I had to stop after three bites of some mac and cheese I got at Pret for this very reason. (I even asked first whether the container I was holding had cauliflower and expressly said that it was because I had an intolerance; the clerk was unsure, but said they thought I'd be okay, and they were also fortunately contrite when I went back to them an hour later, wincing, and said "yeah, this does have cauliflower," and I think I got a refund.)

Fortunately, though, no one has yet deliberately tried to trick me into eating one of these no-go foods. And also, fortunately, if anyone did, I know that I would pretty much have my revenge on them an hour later by stinkbombing them out of their living room.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


There's a slight additional problem that lots of people don't know what gluten is.
posted by Erberus at 3:53 AM


And people think "gluten free" means allergy safe for everyone. My husband is allergic to eggs and has other food sensitivities. I can't count the number of times he's told a waiter he's allergic to eggs that they point out, "this dish is gluten-free!"
posted by vespabelle at 6:37 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


This is all making me think that the next time I'm involved in any kind of group meal planning for a big group, I'm going to suggest a [THING] bar where everyone commits to bringing a component and everyone assembles their own [THING]. While it wouldn't solve the problem for people with extremely serious allergies/sensitivities, it would take care of most other problems while having very clear chains of responsibility - one person brings rice, one person brings other grains; one person brings a legume; several different people bring vegetables and proteins; several people commit to bring sauces and dressings.

It would be easy to have some kind of DIY semi-pavlova dessert bar, too, with vegan and non-vegan meringue, fruits, compote and sauces or whipped toppings.
posted by Frowner at 6:44 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


My son has a few severe nut allergies - peanuts, pecans, and walnuts - and mild allergy to a couple of others, plus allergy to eggs that aren't baked (he's likely to outgrow that one). Diagnosed after his first ever taste of peanut butter at 5 months left his nose streaming snot for ten minutes before he projectile vomited all over the kitchen. Good times. We carry epi-pens.

But he also is on a very tightly controlled version of the ketogenic diet to help manage his severe epilepsy. No one quite knows *why* it works, but apparently maintaining a certain blood ketone level can help increase seizure thresholds. Each person's "correct" level is different. His is fairly high, so it's not like mainstream keto where you just don't eat carbs; we have to count every gram of protein, too, and maintain a particular ratio of fat to carbs and protein every time he eats. We literally end up syringing olive oil into his mouth sometimes. There are no cheat days; coming out of his therapeutic level of ketosis can kick off seizures.

So the funny thing is, his nut allergies are like the LEAST of our worries. We understand intellectually how severe they can be, but the epilepsy is what has given us so many ambulance rides and hospital stays so, y'know, priorities. But either way we care a LOT about what does and doesn't go into his mouth. Even when we go to friends' places and they offer to make food for him, they can't, unless they're following strict recipes weighing out every ingredient to the gram and scraping the bowl for every bit of fat left in it.

He can eat *some* nuts; we worked with his allergist to find the ones he *could* tolerate, because they're such a key part of a keto diet, so he can chow down on macadamia and brazil nuts without a care. But it's just easier to tell people he's allergic to all nuts, because explaining takes too long and I can't expect someone to keep track of which ones he can or can't have, and we can't afford to let someone think that picking brazil nuts out of a bag of mixed nuts is safe.

And with the diet itself, we make and bring all his food *everywhere*, because we can't rely on anyone else to come up to speed for weeks on how to manage his diet. So when we're out and a restaurant is like "oh does he want some ice cream" it's easiest to wave it away with "oh he has lots of food allergies, we've got stuff for him, thanks!" Because I don't want to explain how it's keto, but not THAT kind of keto, and it is because of his epilepsy, and yeah he could technically have that thing you're offering but then I'd have to shoot him up with a shitload of oil and I'd need you to show me the ingredient list so I could do the calculations correctly and weigh it out, and he can't really eat carbs but sometimes we do give him two grams of cheerios as a treat because he's a goddamn toddler and he loves them, blah blah blah. "Lots of food allergies" is a thing people understand. It's quick. It's easy. It's not totally inaccurate. But someone dismissing it could harm him several times over.
posted by olinerd at 6:47 AM on August 8 [29 favorites]


Good Ford, shame on that mushroom family. One of the children in my D&D home group has an allergy to milk, which makes it surprisingly hard to select a snack for the group (it turns out even vinegar and salt potato chips use powdered milk as an ingredient). But that means I use caution when shopping and don't buy things that list milk as an ingredient. (I'm thankful that most food packaging helpfully calls out potential allergens like milk, wheat, and nuts.)

I do so because I don't want to be responsible for a child getting sick, but let's face it, if I didn't, I also wouldn't have a home campaign, and rightly so. This family absolutely deserves to have all contact cut off from their son and his wife.
posted by Gelatin at 7:00 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


I'm allergic to most critters. Cats, dogs, horses, elephants, basically anything with fur or feathers will make me sneeze, break out in hives, or cause my throat to close up. Additionally, because reasons, I've developed an allergy to red wine and certain beers and liquors. My allergist cannot figure out what the factor is, so I just avoid them. We think it might be the oak barrels, but there's no easy test and my reactions are variable.

That said, I've had indoor cats and dogs for most of my adult life. I keep my house clean, take daily allergy meds, and I'm hypervigilent about washing my hands. Even with that, sometimes my own pets get me and I have an allergy attack. But without fail, going to someone's house with cats or dogs ALWAYS sets off my allergies. Cause I haven't built up an immunity to their pets' dander like I have with my own.

In college, I had an acquaintance (friend of my boyfriend) who thought my pet allergy thing was total bullshit. Like he could not wrap his head around the idea that I could be okay with my own pets, but not someone else's. I never insisted we not go over to his place, I just refused to spend the night or spend a ton of time there. It never stopped my boyfriend from spending all night playing 40k, it just meant that I went home at a certain point.

One day, we're all over at his house and for some reason, I'm just non-stop sneezing. I can't figure out why. I'm talking it over with my boyfriend and trying to find out where the dog or cat got on me and how I didn't notice. Our buddy then sheepishly admits that he put the pillow that's on the couch next to me in the dog's bed last night to "test" if I was really allergic.

People are asshats.
posted by teleri025 at 7:06 AM on August 8 [30 favorites]


I am utterly unsurprised at stories like this, or any of the other anecdotal evidence folks are presenting: I have a very severe shellfish allergy, a (slightly less) severe general fish allergy and because I have good health insurance I get re-tested every few years to make sure nothing new crops up.

I've talked about it before, and I still have regularly encountered folks who didn't believe me about the seafood allergies, until I am literally breaking out in hives in their home and gobbling benadryl to try to slow down the reaction because "oh yea, I put a little fish sauce in the whole soup, it won't matter, it just adds some good umami flavor, you won't even notice it".

They are no longer people in whose home's I eat. They are lovely people but I do not tolerate folks who have actively tried to kill me. And that's what it is. an attempt on my life via sheer carelessness. (I have somewhat forgiven folks who use Worcestershire sauce (thanks mom for that ER trip) or commercial kimchi, cause most folks don't realize that both of those usually are made with anchovies or other fish products--BUT FISH SAUCE!!!! IT'S IN THE DAMN NAME)

I would like to state that this is rare, but it's happened to me twice with new friends.

Humanity is generally pretty awesome, but many humans just suck.
posted by larthegreat at 7:36 AM on August 8 [18 favorites]


Those in-laws are monsters, and her husband is better off without them. That is some weapons-grade meanness, right there.

The whole idea of allergies was theoretical to me until I saw a woman react to someone walking by, wearing lavender scent. I thought she might choke on her own tongue, which was sticking out of her mouth because of the swelling. We were all about to call 911, but her husband was nearby and gave her some liquid Benadryl, which pulled her out of it. Well, I wouldn't have given someone something they said they were allergic to before, but after that? I'd throw myself in front of an allergen for anyone.* That was horrifying.

*except a few politicians who spring to mind.
posted by corvikate at 8:19 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


(What's the source for the Almond Wedding story, supra?)
posted by uberchet at 8:29 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Would you intentionally feed meat/dairy/etc to a vegetarian?

Lots of people definitely DO feed meet/dairy/etc to vegetarians and vegans, on purpose, while lying about the contents of the food, to "show" them that meat/dairy/etc aren't so bad. People are the worst.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:34 AM on August 8 [16 favorites]


> This is all making me think that the next time I'm involved in any kind of group meal planning for a big group, I'm going to suggest a [THING] bar where everyone commits to bringing a component and everyone assembles their own [THING].

Walking Tacos. That's what my Girl Scout troop eats our first night camping. We need to have options that are: gluten-free, lactose-free, egg-free, appropriate for vegetarians, appropriate for picky eaters, and cost less than $5 per person (including fuel). Walking Tacos.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:38 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Many years ago I spent a few months wondering if my husband was trying to poison me. It happened like this. We were a married couple with three kids, all of which were a handful. I was working nights, he was working days, a couple of the kids were in daycare to cover the gaps left by people needing to sleep. It was a rough time and the spouse and I were getting more frustrated and hurt and emotionally separating from each other the longer the situation went on.

At one point we had a conversation when I told him that he needed to do more caretaking - not just of the kids, but also of me, because the constant caretaking I was doing was depleting me and he was the only person around who could fill the need. But caretaking was not something he did instinctively so he asked me for examples. One of the things I suggested was that he could make me a cup of tea from time to time.

Soon after that he got into a routine of doing stuff in the kitchen during the morning before I got up. I was coming home from a shift that ended at two A.M. so the extra time sleeping in was precious to me. He fixed porridge for the two smallest and a bottle of warm milk cocoa for the youngest who was theoretically too old for bottles but was also too unsocialized to make any effort to prevent spills. Sippy cups only help if there is someone to stand them upright as soon as they tip and there wasn't. She would have taken a sippy cup into the next room and left it on its side and wasn't ready for them yet.

Anyway, spouse started bringing me a cup of tea in the morning when I was blearily trying to sit up and get awake enough to stand up and stagger. And the cup of tea he brought me one morning taste... odd.

Now when you are working with someone who is sensitive to criticism and has limited kitchen skills and executive abilities sometimes there are glitches but you don't put them on the defensive. Maybe, I thought, something had gone bad in the bottom of the cup and he had unintentionally used a dirty cup. So I didn't drink the tea. I just put it down until I was cleaning up and then poured it out.

The next day the same thing happened. Also the next. Roughly six or eight months later our routines changed and he stopped bringing me a cup of tea every morning for which I would thank him but never drink. Funny thing was, if I was in the kitchen and asked him to make me a cup of tea while I was working and covertly watching, it tasted fine and looked fine - one tea bag, boiling water, take the teabag out, one spoonful of sugar, enough milk to make it almost tepid so nobody would get scalded when a kid ricocheted through it. He knew what I wanted and hoped for... and yet, every morning for months that cup of tea was weird.

A year or two later when I figured he'd either have run over me with the car if he wanted to kill me, or I'd have woken up to find a pillow pressed firmly over my face, I decided enough time had gone by that asking what was going on would not cause him to flee the kitchen and never fix anything for me ever again. Reader, he was putting a spoonful of hot chocolate powder into my tea in lieu of sugar. Since he was fixing milky cocoa for the youngest and putting a spoonful of that into warmed milk to sweeten it, it was easiest for him to put a spoonful of hot chocolate mix into my tea as well.

I still eat what he cooks, but if something tastes funny I will probably ask him much sooner.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:40 AM on August 8 [24 favorites]


This is all making me think that the next time I'm involved in any kind of group meal planning for a big group, I'm going to suggest a [THING] bar where everyone commits to bringing a component and everyone assembles their own [THING]. While it wouldn't solve the problem for people with extremely serious allergies/sensitivities, it would take care of most other problems while having very clear chains of responsibility - one person brings rice, one person brings other grains; one person brings a legume; several different people bring vegetables and proteins; several people commit to bring sauces and dressings.

This isn't a bad idea, but speaking as someone who's done a lot of "food for groups" situations where there were a whole host of different food things happening (not all of them allergies, some were just sensitivities and some were religious stuff and some were just plain old "I just don't like peas" or whatever), there's another approach that could also work.

Think "buffet", and also try to pick dishes such that each person with each kind of potential food issue can eat at least three things from that buffet. So: say you're going Cajun, and that you have one pescatarian, one person who's gluten-free, one vegan and a dude who just doesn't like shrimp but is otherwise good along with a handful of "Heck, I'll eat anything, it's all good" guests. So here's what you do:

* There's a gumbo recipe, gumbo z'herbes, that is all vegetable-based. Make a big batch of that; that's one thing that the pescetarian, the vegan, and the gluten-free person can eat (just make sure you thicken the gumbo with file instead of a roux). Check with the gluten-free person about whether the rice you'd serve that over would be okay, though.
* Corn maque choux is another all-veggie recipe for those folks, or something with stewed okra and tomato.
* Shrimp etouffe would probably make the pescetarian all happy.
* Conversely, if you make jambalaya, just make sure you don't use shrimp, and that'd make the dude who doesn't like shrimp happy.
* Bread and salad can be used to round out everyone's meal. The gluten-free person can't eat the bread, but they've still got the gumbo z'herbes, the corn maque choux, the shrimp etouffe, and maybe the jambalaya. Or, if you want to throw in some rice fritters, they could eat that.
* Present a couple of different desert options - a cake, bananas foster, or some pralines. The gluten-free person won't be able to go with the cake, but can have the bananas foster and the pralines; the vegan may not be into the cake either, and may want to forgo the ice cream part of bananas foster but could still try it plain in a dish.

Then you just lay all that out and let people pick what they want. No one has to go through a big song-and-dance about what they can and can't eat, they just pick what they can eat and ignore what they can't, and still they've got a good selection of things so they're not stuck just eating salad. And save for one single accommodation that is WELL within the norm (the file in the gumbo instead of a roux), you're doing a pretty straight-up menu. Maybe try to go double on the dishes that are going to be catering to people with special diets (sure as heck the non-vegetarians are going to be dipping into the vegetable stuff as well).

Sure you may end up with leftovers. Either send people home with stuff or enjoy the spoils yourself. (The above was my exact spread at a birthday bash I threw, and I had leftover stewed okra and gumbo z'herbes; I threw them both together, doled them out into smaller containers and froze them as a "gumbo base" which I then used to make quick-and-dirty gumbos by throwing in leftover meat and heating up now and then.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


The only way I can explain people like the in-laws in the post is that they are raging narcissists. Narcissists, being attention-seekers, project their own pathology on people with allergies - suspecting them of doing just what they would have done (if they'd thought of it) - faking a 'deathly' allergy for attention. They want nothing more than to tear other people down - in this case, by 'proving' their allergies aren't real. Case in point is the narcissist mother (by all the evidence) of Chris Watts, the heinous family killer. "‘Your mommy doesn’t know what she is talking about’: Watts told friend that in-laws repeatedly tried to feed daughter nuts despite severe allergy"
posted by Transl3y at 8:59 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


Teleri05, I too got "princess and the pea"'d by an asshole friend in high school for similar reasons.

Friend: I know you normally can't come over because you're allergic to my 3 cats, but we're having a sleepover at Julie's house in Denton. She has a barn and we can play with a Ouija board there!

Me: Okay cool, sounds fun.

Friend: Hey Julie, when Unicorn gets here, give her THIS pillow to sleep on. It's the pillow from my house my cats sleep on, I just took the case off so you'll need to replace it.

*fast forward 4 hours*

Me: Oh cool, thanks for this pillow! No animals have touched it, right?

Julie: *smirks* no way man, we know you're allergic.

*1.5 hours later*

I wake up, wheezing uncontrollably and realize my eyes have swollen completely shut. I cannot see. I can barely breathe and know I'm going into severe anaphylactic shock. I crawl, unseeing, until I make it out the front door by feel and lose consciousness halfway in and out of Julie's front door.

Julie, Friend: HOLY SHIT, UNICORN! We thought you were just being sensitive or didn't like cats. Oh my god, OHMYGODOHMYGODohmygod. *calls 911*

It took me 3 days to feel "normal" again. Julie & Friend thought anyone who "didn't like" animals was weird and untrustworthy. They apparently didn't hear me when I said I can't be around them because I was hospitalized and intubated at age 3 after my throat swelled shut within 30 minutes of direct exposure to cats at my aunt's house.

You know what? Years later, I overheard someone telling their kids at the library that they should believe their friends who say they're allergic to peanuts. Because one time, she and a friend played a trick on a girl in high school who almost died because of a cat pillow.

I turned around and it was Julie. At least she learned her lesson at my expense... anyway, just chiming in to say that animal allergies will kill you just like food allergies will. And in my experience, people are MUCH less likely to believe or respect you can't be around a bunch of cuddly adorable kittens and puppies than they are, say, a peanut allergy.

They'll judge you for it and call you a bad person, even though you'd lowkey give up several healthy years of life not to have an allergy to the cutest creatures alive.

It makes the whole "service animals on planes" discussion go terribly for me, also. I've sat on more than one plane, slowly watching hives spread across my ENTIRE BODY, wheezing audibly and praying I deplane in time to avoid another intubation.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:04 AM on August 8 [45 favorites]


I know my MIL hates me because she hated my husband’s former roommate so much she would send chicken home with him constantly knowing that she (roommate) was allergic and couldn’t eat it. Then I moved in. Then she started being SUPER BFFs with Roommate on FB. Anyway we’re married now, I win, and SHE IS TRAPPED IN HERE WITH ME as the quote (kinda) goes.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:10 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I am absolutely on team "make food that accommodates the claimed dietary restrictions and preferences of your guests." This is just part of being a gracious host.

I am also on team "don't invite someone back (or don't invite them back very often) if their claimed dietary restrictions and preferences are too burdensome for whatever reason." This is just part of being gracious to yourself.

I am very much NOT on team "ignore someone's claimed dietary restrictions and preferences if they are burdensome." This is incredibly ungracious and can be dangerous.
posted by slkinsey at 9:18 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


I used to get random headaches. They got worse when I worked at an Italian restaurant. Eventually, I made the connection between exposure to parmesan cheese and the headaches. It sucked, because I liked putting it on my spaghetti. But I started to avoid eating parmesan cheese, and told people I had an allergy.

Some people refused to believe me, and just thought I was being a picky eater. I developed a guilt complex about it, and just didn't tell people if I could. I basically stopped eating Italian food.

Then, years later, I was doing an interview with a migraine doctor who had written a book. He told me about migraine triggers, and said, "I've seen all kinds of weird ones, like country ham and parmesan cheese."

I exclaimed, "Holy crap! I get headaches when I eat parmesan cheese!"

He said, "You're a migrainer, then."

Since then, I still feel weird about telling people, but I can say "It gives me migraine headaches", and people seem to respond better to that. Maybe because it's a specific symptom I can point to.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:26 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


It really shouldn’t be that hard (though obviously it sometimes is!). If you have a dietary restriction, tell people about it who might cook for you. If you are cooking for someone, tell them what’s in it - and if you can, tell them in advance whether you’ll be able to provide food that meets their dietary requirements.

The person cooking gets to decide what to cook and whether to include restricted ingredients. The person with the restriction gets to decide whether or not to show up and whether or not to eat the food.

This solves just about all the potential issues. You’re willing to avoid cooking with onions for one friend because you believe she’s allergic, but don’t want to avoid cooking with dairy because you think the friend who avoids it is faking his allergy? Fine, just let them both know what ingredients are in what items; your dairy free friend can bring his own food, risk eating what you made anyway, not show up to specific events, or decide that he doesn’t want to be your friend. Willing to cook gluten free but not able to fully avoid cross contamination? Fine, just let your gluten-avoiding friends know. Want to put kiwi in literally every dish you cook? You’re weird, but as long as you let your allergic-to-kiwi friends know that it’s a kiwi-focused menu they can respond appropriately.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:43 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Apart from the widespread misunderstanding involved in the "tell them" part of the plan above, though, there's one another complication. Allowing everyone to being their own food means some people will bring things with stuff that other people are allergic to. And some allergies can be triggered by contact or even vapor.

So often conscientious hosts (like my kids' daycare) often ban anyone from bringing in "outside food." As a peanut-allergy parent, I get it.

Unfortunately for people who have non-allergy restrictions (like my kids with PKU) this may mean there is nothing they can eat, and they can't bring food!
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:11 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


I don't know, when I'm hosting I want to make sure there's stuff my guests want to eat and if that means cooking without specific ingredients or making something additional for them, I can do that. This is equally true for allergies and for "I don't like spam." They're my guests and I don't want them to go hungry or to feel pressured to eat something they don't want to eat.

I mean obviously especially don't serve something that's going to make somebody sick or worse, but also it doesn't especially matter why they don't want to eat something. Their not wanting to eat it is enough of a reason not to serve it.

Of course, I'm diabetic and can't tell you how many of my friends want me to eat stuff I can't eat because "surely it won't hurt."
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:14 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


If you care about the people you are making food for then it shouldn't be too much of an imposition to work around their dietary preferences.

I think - this isn't always true, but I think that what you can do is say "I am accomodating this far, and I am sorry that I can't accomodate further, perhaps you can bring your own food which is totally fine?"

I've been in the situation of cooking food for large groups of people with very diverse dietary needs and it is /really hard/. Staggeringly, mind-numbingly hard. (For example, vegan kosher keto, even before you bring allergies into it)

I think also, one thing I'm realizing while thinking about it, is that I think a lot of this stuff is also somewhat class-based. I think - everyone agrees that they don't want to give food to people who might die from it. But when it gets to stuff like 'causes diarrhea, or headaches', it gets class-complicated, especially if the things you can eat are more expensive than the things you can't eat. Because a lot of people also have those things probably, but just don't even begin to think that them being mildly ill by food is a reason not to eat it.

And then you also get cultural weirdness where it is both on the host to try to accomodate the guests and also on the guests to eat whatever is cooked, which sometimes leads to feelings of unhappiness when someone tries really hard and then the guest doesn't eat it for non-fatal reasons.

Like - I'm lactose intolerant but I eat other people's milk products and don't talk about my needs when I'm out because food is a communal experience, even though if it's me, I always ask about people's food needs and preferences.

Like - I think there's kind of something in the difference between whether you're announcing your needs or being asked them? And it may be that some people take offense when asked but enjoy figuring it out or asking?
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


I've tried so, so, so hard the last 15 years of my life to live by the mantra: Compassion is free. You can give it away forever and you will never run out. When I feel myself tightening up or getting all judgy in my own mind, I try to remind myself that compassion is free. And what would I do if I could give away free compassion right now. You know what, it's generally realizing that you can just allow people to be as they are and you don't have to judge them. Then you can stop using your excess energy to think about whether people you don't know are getting too much welfare, or whether so-and-so has a "real" allergy or is just a pain in the ass, or whether that mom is being way too uptight about X... you can just feel compassionate and then see if there's an action you can do which can be as simple as not sharing your judgement with others or, if called to do so, pointing out that there may be some aspect that we don't understand about that person's life. We do a SNAP program at our farmers market and very occasionally people get snippy because, you know, those people. I have pointed out, "You know, what so wonderful about our program that a lot of people don't know is that so many of our customers who use SNAP have children at home. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to bring home some of this amazing produce for your kids? It's just so great." I have never not received a kind of dumbfounded stare back. Selfishly, compassion does the most good for me. But I do try so hard, bird-by-bird style, to put it out there when I can.
posted by amanda at 10:52 AM on August 8 [33 favorites]


(I want to add to my recent comment - I almost always bring something that I can safely eat to any given gathering because that way I don't put anyone out and in case there's nothing I'm able to eat. For my own health and habits, that's best practice. I acknowledge bringing my own food has pissed off some of my hosts)
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:01 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


the only way to sterilize against that protein is to actually destroy it, so I'm not sure how much good cooking does

To expand on this in case other people are wondering: basically, proteins are not all the same. There are some proteins that are not very stable and will deform when cooked, and there are others that are extremely stable even when, say, boiled. Antibodies recognize a bit of the shape of a protein called an "epitope," so for lots of less-stable proteins, cooking will change their shape enough that the immune system will no longer react to them. This is how you get oral allergies, which make your mouth feel inflamed but don't usually cause any really bad symptoms like anaphylaxis (like heating, stomach acid will also denature lots of less stable proteins), and which can usually be avoided by cooking the fruit or vegetable you're allergic to. A lot of people get that type of allergy in their late 20s or 30s -- it's often a cross-reaction to existing pollen allergies.

The problem is that things like gluten and the seed-storage proteins you find in nuts tend to be really, really stable, so cooking doesn't do anything for most wheat or nut allergies. Same for prions: these spread by causing other proteins to change shape, usually into one that is actually more stable because it forms big sticky aggregates. (This also means that if you have a pollen cross-reaction allergy to nuts or seeds, it tends to be a little more dangerous.)

I'll also say that if you get a new allergy, it can be really difficult to track down exactly what the problem is, which can be scary and exhausting. Skin tests and blood tests both have their own problems with false positives (and sometimes false negatives); the gold standard is actually narrowing it down to something specific (often with the help of elimination diets) and doing a food challenge in a doctor's office. So I have a lot of sympathy for people who are trying to figure out what exactly is making their mouth get itchy and sore.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:13 AM on August 8 [30 favorites]


And just to clarify, oral allergies are "true" IgE-mediated allergies (i.e., the mechanism is the same as more serious food allergies), not food intolerances.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Oh, that Oral Allergy thing makes a lot of sense out of something weird that happened to me like a month ago. I ate a fresh roll my partner made from some greens and herbs in our porch garden, and my mouth and throat got a really itchy feeling. My breathing was still fine, surprisingly, even though I have asthma that has been triggered by allergies before. A couple of days later, we ate a different meal with some herbs out of the garden and it happened again.

The strange part was that everything from the garden was something that I had eaten before to no ill effect. However, at the time, the trees surrounding the garden were letting out a truly disgusting degree of pollen. I take asthma medication and a nasal inhaler, so I wasn't reacting in the usual hay fever-y ways, but apparently enough was left after rinsing to turn my throat and mouth into cotton.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:29 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


> his is how you get oral allergies, which make your mouth feel inflamed but don't usually cause any really bad symptoms like anaphylaxis (like heating, stomach acid will also denature lots of less stable proteins), and which can usually be avoided by cooking the fruit or vegetable you're allergic to.

Or freezing! When my OAS symptoms are acting up the relevant fruit bothers me when it's fresh, but not when it was frozen and thawed. (I don't know if that's a protein thing; just a tip for my fellow my-mouth-is-on-fire-but-I'm-OK people.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:35 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


It's onerous if you're providing food for a large group with a wide variety of dietary restrictions and the group has decided that all dishes should be edible by all people.

Sorry to multi-post here but I think the second part of this sentence is actually the most problematic. In the vegetarian co-op I was in there was an "allergy sheet" with all of the things people couldn't eat, and some people did have really intense elimination diets etc. But the understanding was not that everyone would be able to eat every dish, it was that 1. everything would be well-labeled and 2. there would always be something nutritious for everyone, even if it wasn't super exciting. As a person with some dietary restrictions, I think it is a giant and unfair burden to make the person cooking dream up a menu that is compatible with the superset of every dietary restriction that someone in a large party does or might have.

Of course, all of this is very far on the conscientiousness/narcissism scales away from the story in the FPP. As soon as words like "life-threatening" or "anaphylaxis" get brought out, if you are not being careful, you are being negligent. And the family in the FPP is not just being negligent, they're actively trying to provoke a deadly reaction. Based on my personal experiences I think Transl3y's appraisal is, unfortunately, bang on the money.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:53 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]




I ate a fresh roll my partner made from some greens and herbs in our porch garden, and my mouth and throat got a really itchy feeling.

This is still one of my favorite AskMe answers, to the question "what do people incorrectly believe to be univeral?"
posted by hanov3r at 12:15 PM on August 8 [8 favorites]


I think it is a giant and unfair burden to make the person cooking dream up a menu that is compatible with the superset of every dietary restriction that someone in a large party does or might have.

YES SAME and every time I see an askme that's like "how do i cook for this group of ppl who have [exhaustive list of different food issues]" I want to cry when I see the answers are 99% advising the op to find a single dish that meets all of the needs instead of making a few different things so everyone has at least one thing to eat.

The extremely brief and horrible time in my life when I had to try a very low salt diet for medical reasons was absolute fucking agony and the thought of subjecting other people to it is too much, even for a monster like me. If I found out that someone hosting me for a meal in a group of people had decided to force low-salt cooking on everyone in that group I would hurl myself into an active volcano, and so would everyone else because low-salt cooking is horrible, it is a crime. In conclusion collective punishment is in direct and severe violation of the geneva conventions so make separate dishes.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:35 PM on August 8 [17 favorites]


soren_lorensen And there's a reason why I and many other people ask for "dietary restrictions" rather than "allergies", because it ain't my beeswax why you can't eat whatever.

While that seems reasonable on the surface, it really is a significant difference.

I don't like bell peppers, it's a preference. If I eat something that's been cooked on the same surface as a bell pepper or cut on a cutting board a bell pepper was cut on, nothing happens.

If someone is allergic to bell peppers and they eat a veggie that was cut on the same cutting board and with the same knife as a bell pepper they could die.

Allergies require serious scrubbing down of all gear that might otherwise not be scrubbed down in some circumstances. If I'm making a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches I don't wash the skillet between each sandwich. But if there's someone with a butter allergy, as opposed to disliking butter, I'd need to scrub the skillet before making their sandwich, or make theirs first.

So just asking about restrictions isn't really enough, and fortunately people with allergies (like me nephew-in-law who is peanut allergic) learn quickly to interrogate their food and be very specific that they've got an allergy not just a preference.

Which is one reason to be annoyed at people who lie about preferences and claim they're allergies: it really does cause more work and requires interrupting cooking cycles. WHich is totally fine and no problem in the case of people with allergies, but can be annoying when you've gone to the trouble to keep gluten out of food and the "gluten allergic" person tells you it's OK if they eat a regular cookie.

Allergy fakers make life more difficult for people with actual allergies. And, as others have noted some communities (especially on the liberal and left side of things) are infested with people who acquire fad allergies until they get bored with them or the new fad arrives. I know an otherwise wonderful person who seemingly picks a new allergy to fake every few months, then abandons it when she wants to eat whatever it was she claimed to be allergic to the last month. If she'd just say "I don't want to eat X" that'd be fine. But claiming its an allergy when it isn't causes unnecessary stress and effort for non-consenting third parties.
posted by sotonohito at 12:59 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]




Upon reading the stuff from Lifehacker and the articles on dating someone with a food allergy, I have a third thought: If someone likes you enough/is into you/whatever, something like that isn't going to be a dealbreaker and the person will deal with it in order to have you in their life. Same goes for say, having shitty ass parents who hate you as an in-law, I suppose.

Of course, in this original article, the opposite occurred....
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:41 PM on August 8


Allergy fakers make life more difficult for people with actual allergies.

This is only true because of people who are more concerned with not being "fooled" than they are concerned with the literal lives of other human beings. I'm not saying people who lie about allergies aren't assholes, but the kind of person who would take the fact that someone might be lying about an allergy as license to not take allergies seriously is a significantly bigger asshole, and given that you're never going to stop people from lying (and also, your ability to detect a lie is on average pretty terrible), it feels like a much better place to spend our effort to focus on people taking allergies seriously no matter what.

And yeah, if you're in food service that's a challenge, but frankly that's part of the fucking job.
posted by tocts at 2:45 PM on August 8 [28 favorites]


I don't get why people get so outraged by picky eaters. I'm a picky eater, I always have been. Part of this is because I genuinely have an allergy/intolerance to some things, and part of it is because some foods just aren't foods to me. I assure you, the VAST majority of picky eaters wish they weren't. It's a pain in the ass and embarrassing to say "no thank you" and then be forced to explain, yet again, that you simply can't eat something. If I were trapped on a desert island with only bananas to eat, I would die. I am not kidding, I am not exaggerating. I would die. Bananas are no more "food" to me than dog shit is. I get sweaty and nauseated even by the smell of them. Many picky eaters feel this way about the foods they won't eat. There are some foods I don't like but will eat, and there are some I genuinely cannot bring myself to eat. Cannot. Not "will not". Is it psychological? Probably. But so what? It IS what it is. And it's depressing as hell that people who are otherwise compassionate and kind are so awful about this issue because it pushes their buttons. How about respecting that what someone tells you about themselves is true?

This person's in laws are the sort of people (other examples of which have posted in this very thread) who think that they know better than you do what you can eat. That it's "attention seeking" or "power seeking" or other such bullshit. Is it REALLY that hard to respect someone else? Even if you think their preferences/needs/wants are stupid? Really? Eat mushrooms some other time (that said, I actually love mushrooms, but I'd respect that someone else didn't, even if they weren't allergic to them).
posted by biscotti at 2:45 PM on August 8 [30 favorites]


If you care about the people you are making food for then it shouldn't be too much of an imposition to work around their dietary preferences.

As mentioned above, in some groups this can complicated. But the crowd we hang out with doesn't have too many conflicting restrictions, so I sometimes have fun figuring out what to make when we have a group over. I generally try to have most of the dishes be safe for everyone, and will highlight if there's an app or side that has the restricted food.

Everyone's also generally pretty open about what's going on. One friend avoids onions because enough of them will cause some GI problems, and if she lets that go on long enough then it takes weeks to get everything back in order. But if she hasn't had any recent exposure, a little bit will be ok. So when I made cottage pie without onion and then see her having one (and only one) of my potato and onion pierogi I know that 1)she probably hasn't had any recent exposure, so she feels safe having one and 2)she really likes my pierogi which makes me 3) happy I tweaked my main dish recipe so she could have both.

and also, your ability to detect a lie is on average pretty terrible

I do wonder how often people, especially food service workers, with their brief exposure to the diner, know some one was lying via the 'princess and the pea' method, but in reality just didn't hear about the consequences if they weren't deadly/nearly deadly. If my husband gets exposed to his allergen he just pops some benedryl. My sister just spends a miserable night (or more) on the toilet because 'maybe it was something else' that caused her reaction.
posted by ghost phoneme at 3:05 PM on August 8 [9 favorites]


I really do think it's a form of narcissism. Some people don't see other people as independent individuals, but as extensions of themselves. When friends, etc., say they have some requirement or dislike that they don't share, their identification with that person is threatened and the only way to resolve the internal conflict is to disbelieve.

I think this is especially common for narcissists and family members who have allergies because

a) allergies are imperfections
b) My family member is an extension of myself
c) I am perfect
d) therefore, the allergy does not exist
e) family member expressing their needs are a form of aggression against me.
posted by bq at 3:58 PM on August 8 [22 favorites]


I have two children with severe food allergies, so I feel for the letter writer. We also have had to deal with family members who don't understand what "food allergy" means, and think they are just being picky. I have lots of feedlings about this subject.

Here is what life is like, with kids who have food allergies.
-we read labels on everything. And I mean *everything* - not just food, but cosmetics, hair products, anything that could touch their skin and cause a reaction. My kids know more about what is inside food than most. We pick something up that isn't made by me, and we read the label. Do you know what is infuriating? A "safe" food (meaning allergy-free) will change up its formula, so even if something was allergy free before, a newer reiteration of the same food will have allergies. Our lives are Professor Moody: CONSTANT VIGILANCE

-we always bring our own food to events - birthday parties, reunions, anything that could have homemade food there. My kids are the ones at birthday parties who bring their own food, so they can have a special treat. Does it suck for them? Yes. My older son went to camp with his school in fifth grade. He later told us he cried himself to sleep because he never could eat any of the desserts they had out.

-one of my kids has an avocado allergy. My husband, his own father, did not believe it when I brought it up "I think Son is allergic to avocados". We don't eat a lot of avocados, so it wasn't that huge of an issue, until he got older and got into sushi. Then it became VERY APPARENT that eating avocados caused major digestional distress. Once we started eating sushi with no avocado for a few outings, my husband finally got it. We are lucky in that Son doesn't need an epi-pen to deal with that particular allergy, but it is still an issue (someone made brownies that had avocado oil in them; he can't use some lotions such as Cetaphil lotion).

-Do you know how many people disbelievingly tell us "I've never hear of an avocado allergy"? Pretty much everyone we meet when it comes up. Why the hell would we lie about that? Ok, so you haven't heard of it? OH NO STOP THE WORLD YOU DON'T KNOW SOMETHING, which means that obviously we're lying, because you don't know about it.

-One of my sons has a tree nut allergy. specifically, he's allergic to almonds and walnuts. He is ok with cashews. He has another friend, also a tree nut allergy. His friend is allergic to pistachios. He's ok with almonds. When you have a tree nut allergy, it's kind of an umbrella term and the allergist just tell you to avoid all tree nuts, but my son is allergic to specific tree nuts. So we read a ton of labels because lots of things have almonds in them (Honey Nut Cheerios use almond flavoring; a lot of lotions also use almond oil.) His friend, who is allergic to pistachios, doesn't have to be as vigilant. They both have epi-pens, but due to the difference in their reactions to different tree nuts they can react to different things.

-Going out to eat is a huge chore. We've gone to places, and walked right back out after reading the menu and talking to the staff. We have a list of "safe" restaurants that are nearby to us, but going on vacation, etc. is a huge chore just trying to find safe places to feed my children. We do a lot of condos or hotels with small kitchenettes, because it's so much easier to just buy groceries and make meals, than deal with not being able to find a restaurant to feed the kids.

-Here is main difference between a picky person who feels they can't eat food, vs. an allergic people, who cannot eat the food. PP (picky person) and AP (allergic person) are fed some sort of mash/bar/whatever they cannot identify what the particular food came from. PP can eat it and still be ok. AP will *die* from it. We went to a daycamp who recently banned tree nuts and peanuts for the safety of campers. A group of other parents went up in arms about how their "picky eater" will only eat PB&J and how dare the camp not let their child eat. Listen. Your child will survive six hours without their favorite PB&J. If your child smears it on my child, my child will die. I don't care about your child's pickiness. I care about my child's life.
posted by alathia at 4:05 PM on August 8 [23 favorites]


Jesus, the world is full of fucking babies.

So true, but it’s not the folks with allergies nor the folks with food preferences.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:41 PM on August 8 [23 favorites]


Side note to those talking about the random out of the blue allergic reaction to foods that don’t bother them individually, my allergist did point out that many of my red wine/fancy beer reactions happened in the fall. My seasonal allergies fly through the roof during the fall and my allergist theorized that when my allergy tolerance is maxed out due to mold and ragweed’s devil ways, the random shit in red wine that normally doesn’t bother me, hits my overloaded immune system and boom! Wheezing, sneezing, and turning bright red. In the dead of winter, at a non-pet owner’s home, a glass of red wine is no threat.

A lot of times people just don’t realize they are piling more and more allergens on their system and eventually it will break. Unfortunately, once your system breaks at a point, that’s a weak place where it will break with less and less strain every time.
posted by teleri025 at 6:01 PM on August 8 [12 favorites]


While that seems reasonable on the surface, it really is a significant difference.

Sure, but asking about "dietary restrictions" opens the door in a nonjudgmental way for folks with serious allergies to explain their needs in whatever detail is necessary.
posted by eviemath at 6:07 PM on August 8 [13 favorites]


FFS.

So lately I'm on a diet that is basically "everything veggie raw + beans + nuts + chicken breasts & asparagus & broccoli I bake myself + whatever damn sauce I feel like + maybe some bacon or sausage if I want meat cucumbers later in the week + raw fish & shellfish but no crustaceans + garlic/onions/olives/pickles on everything". I feel like this is what I'll be eating forever.

Where'd I get it? Who cares? Years of attention to what makes me feel good, what I gravitate towards, what doesn't cause me stomach upset, and what's easy to cook and wash, and a lot of reading nutrition labels and recipes, and also shrimp and crabs squick me out because of the eyes and prying their bug bodies apart, ew. No it's not paleo, although I guess it's paleo-adjacent? It's supposed to be cheap + widely available (beef in India/pork in Muslim countries/mutton in Western countries, what the fuck with all the tax-exempt ungulate-abstention clubs, why is this even a thing, I'm just gonna eat birds) + easy prep + low-fat & carbs + scalable nutritional elements depending on workout goals. Stop asking. STOP. Well then don't cook for me, I didn't ask you to! Sure I'll still come hang out. Want some hummus? I make it fresh every week, I even bake the tahini myself, 'cause you know I get them sesame seeds & chickpeas in bulk yo.

It baffles people, and the one explanation I've found that works is - I don't like talking about it until I know you're not one of those people who gets all territorial about food preferences. Are you? Then you, sir, are unwelcome at my table. Damn right I purged friends over this.

I am so, so sick and tired of people who use food preferences as some sort of social cudgel. If the point is to meet and hang out and do stuff and be together, let's find a way to do that, or gtfo out of my life.
posted by saysthis at 4:59 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


> I get sweaty and nauseated even by the smell of them.

I had to walk past a display of ripe cantaloupes to get into the grocery store yesterday, and I got angry about it. Like, sudden wave of anger, then I realized it was because of the smell (and then I laughed at myself).
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:07 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Allergy fakers make life more difficult for people with actual allergies.

This is only true because of people who are more concerned with not being "fooled" than they are concerned with the literal lives of other human beings.


No, this is true because people who are faking allergies to mask preferences are asking other people to put forth special effort for them rather than take on the responsibility and discomfort involved in dealing with their preferences.

A former partner of mine hated eggs and onions. These were not allergies; they were just preferences. When we cooked, we did not use those ingredients. When we were out, she asked if those things were present *and chose items that did not include those things*, rather than asking the chef to make special versions for her without those things.

People who take up space because they have a preference make life difficult for people who need to be in that space for health reasons. It's entitled bullshit, it happens, and it makes other people wary and reactive.
posted by hanov3r at 10:14 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


Also, I want to thank this thread for making it clear to me that something that *I* have been calling an allergy is an intolerance. I am generally OK with dairy products, but sour cream leaves me in significant intestinal distress for hours after ingestion. I had always assumed that this was an actual allergy, possibly to something related to the culturing of sour cream, but it's obviously not and I should stop using that word.
posted by hanov3r at 10:47 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


the more I think about the comment above by keith talent, ending with "Jesus, the world is full of fucking babies.", the more upset I get.

Yes, my children were fucking babies when they got diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. Did you know, when you bring your child into the ER when they're not even two year olds not breathing because their throat swelled in the 15 mins it took you to get to the hospital, you get admitted right away? I mean, right away. they take your baby, and they do paperwork while they intubate and give them adrenaline and all sorts of things to calm them down and help them breathe. My babies couldn't even talk to tell them what was wrong. Do you know the amount of excruciating guilt I felt when they were troubleshooting what could have triggered my baby's hives and subsequent full anaphylaxsis reaction, and realized it was because I was rubbing lotion on him that contained almond oil?

Do you know how often people tell my kids when they were littler and not as upfront with adults, oh, a little taste won't hurt you? Because people only saw / heard "food allergy" and thought "picky eater".

So yes, the world is full of fucking babies. Babies who could die by food allergies.
posted by alathia at 11:07 AM on August 9 [23 favorites]


It sure seemed to me like Keith Talent was calling folks who claim allergies where none exist babies, not people with legit sensitivities.

Granted, he also went off the rails suggesting (bizarrely) that a cilantro allergy was bullshit, but his failure there doesn't make the target of his babies comment less clear to me.
posted by uberchet at 1:00 PM on August 9


Given that the comment called a real allergy fake, I think that changes the actual target of the babies comment - it includes everyone with allergies that the commenter believes doesn't exist, regardless of whether or not they're real allergies.
posted by photoelectric at 3:05 PM on August 9 [11 favorites]


[A couple deleted. We've had several conversations recently about comparing $thing to $muchworsething to make a point, and it's almost never well-received and frequently comes across as minimizing or exploiting people who have actually suffered from the $muchworsething to score rhetorical points, so please try to avoid that.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:51 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


I missed that discussion, apologies. I can re-phrase without the comparison.

Coming into a thread about people going out of their way to put other people at risk of death and complaining about people who may be confused about or overstating their own personal risk levels is shitty. The two behaviors have vastly different potential consequences, and given the broader cultural ignorance about the risk-of-death topic, there's no way to bring up the unrelated topic without coming across as disbelieving some people who are at risk of death, thereby contributing to the problem that was the original subject of the post.

Additionally, the majority of people who are at risk of death due to allergies in this thread have been saying that they are not worried about or feel personally harmed by the people who are confused about the definition of allergies versus sensitivities or (for whatever reason) inflating their risk levels; the majority of people in this thread who are at risk of death due to allergies have instead expressed concern about the people they've encountered who will go out of their way to expose allergy sufferers to their potentially deadly allergen (in violation of their bodily autonomy and consent). So bringing up the topic of people inflating their risk levels is doubly irrelevant to the thread.
posted by eviemath at 5:17 AM on August 10 [11 favorites]


Yes. As a person with a well-known allergy that’s landed me in multiple emergency rooms, let me say it one more time. The people who endanger me are the ones who keep reinvigorating the “fake allergy” meme. That emphatically includes every person in this thread who’s spoken that way.

If you care about people with allergies, STOP. TALKING. ABOUT. FAKE. ALLERGIES.
posted by hungrytiger at 12:04 PM on August 10 [17 favorites]


This question was also sent to Ask Amy. Interestingly, sending the same question to multiple advice columnists is a thing.
posted by Toddles at 8:13 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Food has a huge cultural significance. It's a big marker of who we are and what culture we come from. This means that people who have an instinctive hatred and hostility towards people from other cultures often get triggered by people who don't want to eat the same things they do. It's like an accent. If you talk with the wrong accent some people are going to feel kind of visceral disgust. You are not like me.

So if someone falls into the subset of people who hate Others and encounters someone who has different dietary practices than they do, it may trigger some very aggressive and malevolent impulses. It's much like how smelling curry or chili can make some people hostile. Those smells are the marker of different cultures.

Cultural lines are not always ethnic. A big one is between the liberals and the conservatives. This is so strong a thing that marketing often capitalizes on this. Years ago it was The Pepsi Challenge, more recently it's the memes about "I Love Bacon" Eating bacon may be an important cultural identifier - I like delicious food, I like traditional Western food, I dislike taking the advice of health experts, whom I don't trust. The counter culture to that are the vegans who do juice cleanses who sneer at the fat rednecks who eat bacon. There are, of course a lot of people who are in neither camp, but those are both tribes with dietary cultural markers that are identifiers to figure out who you feel superior too.

I think the people who deliberately try to trigger allergic reactions in other people both believe it and don't believe it. They wouldn't bother providing nuts if they thought that there was no such allergy and yet they provide them without believing that the consequence matters - on some level the belief is that anybody who is allergic to nuts deserves to die for not being one of us nut eaters. Years ago they were the kind of people who would force feed Jewish people pork. Either you eat what we eat, or we kill you, because your refusal to be like us means you are not of the tribe and are therefore a rival and a threat.

Of course people who do that kind of thing don't have much insight into their behaviour. They just feel anger and resentment of that other person who is in their territory. If they had insight to their hostility, and insight into the real world consequences they will suffer if they kill someone by sneaking peanuts into the chocolate cake they would have better control over what they are doing. They don't. There is a double think going on. Peanuts are harmless to all good people.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:36 PM on August 12 [8 favorites]


I'll be honest, in the past I've told people I was allergic to capsicum because it was easier than explaining how I didn't want any capsicum because I didn't like it. Now I don't mind eating capsicum. I suspect a lot of fakers say they are allergic to x simply because it's easier than explaining, without having any understanding of (or care about) the seriousness of real allergies.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:49 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


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