Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Sometimes dietary differences can become a relationship issue—and now you can find articles on the subject in two major newspapers.

In The New York Times, Kate Murphy's article "I Love You, but You Love Meat" initially seems like it should have been called "I Love You, but You Love Wheat." It starts with a case study of none other but Shauna "Gluten-Free Girl" Ahern:
"I went out with one guy who said I seemed really great but he liked bread too much to date me," said Ms. James, 41, a writer in Seattle who cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
As you might know, Ahern eventually met and married a chef who was more open-minded and positive about the diet.
"As a chef, it has given me the opportunity to experiment with new ingredients to create things she can eat," said Mr. Ahern, 39, who works at Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe in Seattle. Ms. James said she fell in love with him after he made her a gluten-free salad of frisée, poached egg and bacon. They married in September.

Since then, Mr. Ahern has given up eating bread at home, though he still eats it when he goes out. For her part, Ms. James has begun eating offal and foie gras, which were once anathema. "We’ve changed each other," she said.
The article also offers anecdotes about varied relationships between vegans and meat-eaters, vegetarians and meat-eaters, a vegetarian and someone who keeps kosher, and an omnivore and an extremely picky eater.

The article quotes psychiatrists Susan Jaffe and Kathryn Zerbe.
"There’s this feeling that if we eat the same thing then we are the same thing, and if we don’t, we’re no longer unified," Dr. Zerbe said. She and Dr. Jaffe said sharing food is an important ritual that enhances relationships. They advise interdietary couples to find meals they can both enjoy. "Or at least a side dish," Dr. Zerbe said.
In The San Francisco Chronicle, Stacy Finz offers the article "Odd couples: Culinarily mismatched mates achieve harmony in the kitchen." One of the case studies has to do with Elaine and Barry Taylor (pictured), founders of the Taylor Family Foundation who learned that Elaine had celiac disease 14 years into their marriage.
"I was so depressed when I got the diagnosis," recalled the 54-year-old. "I could never have another bagel. I could never have another beer. And I was pretty sure I could never eat out again."

She and her husband created separate cupboards for all their dry foods, marked their jams and butters so not to mix up hers with his (to prevent her from ingesting any lingering bread crumbs) and kept their newly remodeled kitchen as sterile as an operating room.

Barry Taylor, 69, lived in fear that he would somehow contaminate his wife's food. So they put red dots on all of Elaine's jars and packages and moved Barry's toaster into the butler's pantry. One Thanksgiving he accidentally stuffed her turkey with the regular dressing and felt like he had ruined the holiday.

But he was determined to make things work. To show support, he ate her gluten-free food.

"It took a lot of acting, because most of it didn't taste very good," he says.

The new diet was taking a toll on their love life to be sure.

"Food is in our top five loves," he says. "We really do live to eat. And a lot of what we were eating was truly awful."

"For awhile I felt extremely guilty," she says. "It came to the point where I'd have to tell him to take someone else to dinner."

But Elaine decided to take control of the situation. She got in the kitchen, rolled up her sleeves and experimented. She befriended gluten-free cooks and bakers, including Jacqueline Mallorca, San Francisco author of several cookbooks, including "The Wheat-Free Cook: Gluten-Free Recipes for Everyone" (William Morrow, 2007) and learned tricks for altering her favorite dishes without detracting from their flavor.

She also learned which restaurants could accommodate her diet, and frequents them often. Barry Taylor says he has become very assertive about explaining to servers how important it is that they avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Oddly enough, he says, the disease has brought them even closer together.

"It feels more like a partnership," he says.

"He really looks out for me," she adds.

Apparently the old adage holds true: Love means never having to say you're sorry - at least about the foods you eat.
And the quality of gluten-free foods continues to improve. That's a help, too!


Ellen said...

Not only our mates, but what about support from friends & other family members? Since my diagnosis over 5 years ago, I have been lucky enough to have hundreds of examples of the considerateness & kindness of others in regards to my dietary restrictions. From my sister-in-law picking up goodies for me at her nearby Trader Joe’s to my 9 year old niece baking me gluten-free brownies each time I visit! My brother is careful each Thanksgiving in making me a separate gluten-free turkey & gravy, while my other brother makes me a delicious rice stuffing. At my sister’s house there are always gluten free muffins & brownies in her freezer, while my brother-in-law reads every label to ascertain my food is safe. I have had friends buy rice, potato & tapioca flour and create gluten-free cakes just for me. Others are aware of the cross contamination issues and are incredibly careful in keeping food “safe” for me. And then there is the Celiac community itself, always sharing, always researching, and thankfully always blogging!

David Marc Fischer said...

Great points, Ellen. It definitely takes a village--or at least it helps a lot to have others looking out for you or at least not making things more difficult.

Shannon said...

As a single gal who is gluten free, I find that dining out has now become almost a filter for me. My dates have fallen into one of three catagories:

1) These Boots Are Made For Walking: the guy picks out the restaurant and, knowing I am gluten free, makes no attempt to ensure I will be able to eat there.

2) The Cautious Guy: He asks me to choose the restaurant so that I can make sure there is food I can eat. This guy could be considerate or he could be lazy. It usually takes a bit to figure this out. This is the largest group of dates.

3) The Keepers: These are the guys that go out of there way to do a little bit of research. They go online and pick up the phone to discover which restaurants have a gf menu or can accomodate my needs. I have found that these guys are usually the ones who have friends with Celiac or have dietary restrictions of their own (two have been vegetarian.) We like these guys!