Monday, April 27, 2009

When does it become rude?

Magazine (and internet) articles, diet books, and all manner of healthy eating guidelines offer a number of tips to make dining out easier, whether it's at someone else's house or a restaurant. Dressing to the side, nibble on the vegetable sticks, ask the chef to leave out the cheese, forego the wine, share a dessert. Lots of these ideas are great if you want to keep healthy without sacrificing a social life, but sometimes they involve stepping into social and commercial etiquette grey areas.

So, I've been wondering- when does keeping "healthy" become impolite? And, in a time where all the focus is on fighting the good ol' obesity epidemic, does "healthy" automatically provide a rudeness get out of jail free card?

This was prompted by a couple of things. The first was a fellow blogger doing a raw foods detox asking restaurants to create special salads for her. The other was hosting a brunch for friends on Saturday. I tried to keep it reasonably healthy as I knew one of our guests watches her weight very closely (for context, she's a size 6runner, not a size 26 type-2 diabetic), and made some "fancy Bircher", a platter of fruit and a batch of homemade brioche. Our guest brought her own lo-cal hot chocolate, and refused to even try the brioche, although luckily she ate some bircher. I felt a little slighted- first, because I had consciously tried to make healthy options (realising of course that brioche is hardly multigrain toast- but it's also hardly muffins or donuts), secondly, because her abstinence meant I felt like a big fat pig as I dug into my second warm brioche, and thirdly, because I felt as if as a host, I had let down my guests by failing to meet their needs (yes- me= oversensitive).

Now, I don't think our guest crossed the line into rude- it's just an example and she's certainly no worse than the bridesmaid who refused to eat anything but vege sticks at my hen's night. But where is the line, and when is it crossed? And does the line move depending on how overweight (or not) the guest/customer/whoever is?



Britt said...

Hm. I never really thought of this that way before. I tend to at least taste everything when I go to someone's house to eat because I don't want them to feel like their hard work was unnoticed, but at a restaurant I would feel more at ease asking them to make something different. I guess it's all the way you ask.

Cate Subrosa said...

Interesting topic. Personally I would have found your friend's behaviour rude. Unless for genuine health reasons, I think it's rude to refuse the food and drink that is offered when a friend invites you to an event centred around "breaking bread together." (I'm not a religious person, I use that term in a cultural sense.) A small piece of brioche would not have done your friend any harm, but her behaviour probably made not just her host but the other guests slightly uncomfortable. Honestly, when I have witnessed people behaving like this, I think it's just attention seeking, and that does irritate me rather.

Hope my comment didn't come across as mean, I appreciate it's your friend we're discussing here! Fascinating topic... might have to discuss this one more!

Aaron said...

Something along the lines of "when in Rome do as the romans do" comes to mind.

I agree with the comment bringing special food and carrying on is often, but not always, attention seeking.

Ronnica said...

I'm leaning more towards what Cate said. I think that unless it's a real health issue, you can usually have anything, just maybe not a full-size piece or whatever. (And not that it's rude to avoid one or two things when there are several, anyway.) I don't like the idea of bringing one's own food unless it's a health issue. You can always eat beforehand (or later)!