As much as Jews love their holiday feasting, big family meals can also bring up some anxiety. Maybe you keep more kosher than your parents. Maybe less. Maybe you used to be a vegetarian, but now you eat meat, but only if it’s sustainably raised. Navigating special food needs with loved ones is fraught because of the powerful symbolism of sharing (or not sharing) food. We know from our tradition of kashrut that the notion of “permitted” and “forbidden” foods plays a role in determining who sits together at the table. But what happens when we expressly want to eat together, just not eat the same food? This real email exchange (below), between a Jewish farming couple (Jon and Sherry — names changed for anonymity) and their family before a holiday visit, brings some of these questions to light (lightly!). Share your own family stories in the comments.
On Nov 22, 2011, at 5:01 PM, Sherry (Jon’s wife) wrote:
Hi Family, Looking forward to our upcoming family time! I wanted to share our current food restrictions. We are not expecting anyone to make things just for us or for everyone to eat like us! Just wanted to let you know… Jon eats most everything. I’m gluten- and dairy-free, allergic to cashews, pistachios, and hazelnuts, and I’m staying away from corn and soy. I am also avoiding sugar and sweet stuff in general and limiting fruit and starches. So please do not offer me gluten-free, dairy free desserts!!! THANK YOU! My whole body really appreciates it! Our boys are dairy- and egg-free until the weather warms in mid spring. So far this fall, we have saved three-and-a-half trees-worth of tissues by avoiding dairy, I kid you not. Eggs cause both boys to cough. The cough sets in about 36-48 hours after consuming eggs. For little Nathan, it’s really bad at night, to the point that he sometimes can hardly breathe until we get him into a steamy bathroom or outside into the fresh, cold air. PLEASE respect our knowing of our children’s needs by not offering them dairy or eggs. If they accidentally eat something containing a little dairy or a little egg, they probably won’t have a really bad reaction, so no need to panic. But please let us know so that we can keep track of how they respond. Sam will ask for fruit and starches all day long. He is a light eater. He loves vegetables. If we want him to eat protein, we have to limit carbs so he doesn’t fill up and get all his energy from them. So one dessert item a day AFTER meals is fine. Not too much fruit. Very limited white flour. THANKS! Thank you, thank you, thank you. And sorry for being so complicated. Love,
On 11/22/2011 5:29 PM, David (Sherry’s cousin) responds:
My own dietary needs are as follows:
Looking forward to seeing everyone this Friday!
- I only eat foods that begin with vowels.
- Notwithstanding the foregoing, I will make exceptions for foods that end with consonants that alternate as vowels.
- I do not eat food that originates within 100 miles of the Georgian border. Obviously, this refers to the central Asian republic, not the US State. The latter would just be silly.
- I will eat dairy (see second rule, above) on alternate evenings when the temperature is no higher than 65 degrees and no lower than 35 degrees.
- As regards the foregoing, whether or not the degrees in question are Fahrenheit or Celsius is contingent on my latitude at the time.
- I will eat bipeds and quadrupeds, but not bipeds that eat quadrupeds, or vice versa.
- Finally, I eat cranberries the way God intended: in gelatinous form, from a can.
- My boys only eat exactly the opposite of the foods set forth above.
On 11/22/2011 6:09 PM, Richard (Jon’s Dad) wrote:
Tricked was I as just a child
Eggs to love in any style.
Gobbled them up, fried or boiled.
Bolted them down, poached or broiled.
Swallowed them quick, soft or scrambled,
With post-nasal drip I thoughtlessly gambled.
Six decades since, oh how I sneeze,
And climbing stairs so makes me wheeze.
No fan I am of slow acting yolk.
Because on mucus still do I choke.
Destroy that egg! Today! Today!
Today I say!
Without delay! Richard
On 11/22/2011 7:59 PM, Rachel (Jon’s Mom) wrote:
Since you are examining all factors please consider the leaves falling.
All my kids were allergic to mold and mildew.
I am hoping David and Sam are not allergic to all the foods you mentioned. Rachel
On 11/22/2011 7:15 PM, Pam (Sherry’s aunt) wrote:
I am just going to put out a list of ingredients. Eater read or beware. L’chayim to food and family!”
Thank you to our friends at [Kayam Farm] for sharing this email exchange.
: http:// http://www.kayamfarm.org/