I was lucky enough to spend this weekend in Verbier celebrating the marriage of two fabulous people amongst mountains, cows and alpine horns. As with all great parties, we also got to enjoy some great food. Having identified some dietary triggers long before my diagnosis, I have become an expert in being the troublesome one at the table. So if you are newly diagnosed with anything that impacts what you can and can't eat, and you are nervous about navigating the world of dietary requirements, take this advice from a seasoned pro:
1. Don't be embarrassed: This is absolutely the most important point of all! If you have dietary requirements then it is 100% reasonable, let alone necessary, to have these considered when your food is being made. Us British are famously hopeless when it comes to speaking up about pretty much anything. The fear of being 'too much trouble' often means people don't want to mention that they are unable to eat certain things; the truth is that whoever is cooking wants you to enjoy yourself. They don't want you to be panicking the entire way through that there is something lurking in your bowl that is going to cause you untold distress before pudding even arrives.
2. Be prepared to explain your condition to your hosts: I know it can be a deeply personal story, often with embarrassing symptoms, but explaining your symptoms to the person who is making alterations for you ensures they understand why it is important that they accommodate your requirements. I have done this so many times that I now have a brief synopsis of my life-story that I know by rote!
3. Pick your battles: This weekend I was acutely aware that Switzerland is a country built on cheese! Cheese is a migraine trigger for me and so I prioritised this on communicating my dietary requirements. If you have an allergy or intolerance then make sure this is top of your agenda when requesting a change to the menu. People can become overwhelmed if you give them a long list of foods to exclude, and may end up making mistakes. Minimise this by only listing foods that will actually make you unwell, and don't mix these in with foods you simply don't like. I have actually discovered many new ways of cooking with ingredients I never thought I liked after eating them as an alternative to something I couldn't!
4. Haters gonna hate: Sigh. The most frustrating point of all. It hasn't happened often but occasionally people have been downright mean about what I am eating. Ranging from unnecessary observations such as "that looks disgusting" or "God, I prefer mine" to the ultimate annoyance of faux-comradery "I use to think I couldn't eat [whatever] either, but then I just got over it/saw a homeopath/cut out refined sugar*". It's frustrating and often upsetting, but it is one way to channel that British repression we spoke of earlier. Smile and bear it. Or give an acerbic comeback. I have definitely done my fair share of both.
*delete as applicable.
Happy eating everybody!