I would like to preface this whole thing with the fact that I believe people should eat whatever they want. I’ve watched the videos from factory farm slaughterhouses, I believe in gluten intolerance, and I’m well read in Michael Pollan….And maybe, just maybe, I have a huge, impenetrable blind spot for Mallomars, Jif peanut butter, medium-rare steak, and Count Chocula.
Last weekend, I drove to the Jersey Shore with a “gluten-free pescatarian” – Basically, someone who eats fish and peanuts. It is a life without crusty banquettes, finger-sticking racks of ribs, and basically any Italian food. In fact, it pretty much excludes all of European cuisine- the Austrians and Germans would be without their Weiner Schnitzel, the Irish could no longer eat soda bread or drink Guinness, and the English would lose bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and Yorkshire pudding. Under the regime, sushi remains the only colorful cultural food experience left to enjoy.
But, people should eat how they want and do what makes them feel good. For me, that means hotdogs when I’m at a baseball game. For you it may mean frozen, organic entrees at Trader Joe’s. Whatever flips your pancake.
So, I was in the car for five hours (2.5 hours there and 2.5 hours back), trying to make conversation and fill the awkward, radio-less void. (I’m not sure why people don’t put on the radio when they’re with strangers in the car. I think it’s a common courtesy to those of us who only confidently carry conversations about Muppets or laminated dough.) We were delivering a gluten-free wedding cake to a venue in Jersey. I’d iced, decorated and was setting it up as a favor to a great, local, gluten-free bakery (Gluten-free pastries CAN be delicious. Come to Beacon and give them a try). Traveling into the misunderstood armpit of the East, I realized that I am an incredibly insensitive human when it comes to food preferences. Not only did I semi-absentmindedly suggest we get lunch at a BBQ dive (and then laugh that he couldn’t), but my inner foodie started flailing, leading to spasms of the mouth. I randomly interjected that I like Cheez Whiz (Although, Cheez Whiz IS vegetarian, it is not technically gluten-free. I didn’t know this at the time of my Tourette’s episode, but I was pretty sure no one who was socially or healthfully food mindful condones The Whiz).
Throughout our five hours on the road, I defended Texas, raved about the “addictive” qualities of Cheetos, and declared my love for regional fast-food chains. I was the worst sort of passenger, but in a frenzy of social awkwardness, defending my “friends” in hermetically sealed packaging, and having had one too many glasses of wine the night before, I couldn’t stop myself.
Dear Stranger in the Car, I apologize for my behavior. I have hope that in the future, we can bond over dried mango slices, chocolate covered ginger and hard cider.