boxes

I’ve been reading a lot of food blogs lately.

They’re fun and interesting. I love the pantheon of personalities, from the paleo, cross-fitting obsessed to the family oriented, balance-seeking.

As different as they all are, they’re all similar in that they each have their own category that they fit in.

Paleo, gluten-free, SCD, GAPS. Everyone has their favorite diet type. And even if they don’t adhere to it 100% of the time, it’s what they strive for.

Categories are nice.

They help people define the world around them. Categories give context for new and strange things. For example, if a stranger is coming to your house for dinner and says “oh, I’m paleo,” you know that they won’t eat grains, refined sugar, or processed things. But eggs are okay. Grass-fed butter? Sure! Coconut? You betcha. If said stranger claims to be gluten-free, you know not to serve wheat, rye or barley. If you’re not sure what gluten-free means, just hop on over to your local supermarket and buy something that says ‘gluten-free’ on it. Whatever it is may not be that tasty, but your guest will be able to eat it. Say they’re SCD. You may not know what that is, but one short trip to Google and you’re advised as to what your guest will or will not eat.

Categories make life easy.

Generally when asked, I either say that I’m paleo or vegan plus meat. But both of those leave exposure to allergens. Saying paleo inevitably results in a pile of eggs or something doused in coconut oil. Vegan makes gluten a prominent risk. Neither say anything about the fact that I’m allergic to oranges.

There’s no simple way to describe what you eat and how you live when you have many food allergies.

Having a lot of restrictions is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s wonderful because it forces creativity and innovation. It’s a curse in that I can never eat a meal prepared by others without causing some sort of scene or worrying about being sick.

That’s part of why I’m generally in the kitchen alone. Being with someone either leads to a lot of sighs, questions, and ‘is all this really necessary?’s. Being with someone eliminate collaboration, and the fun of picking something that we both want to make and eat. It generally results in me shutting down everything they suggest, or making massive changes to it because of all the things in it that I can’t eat. It’s a horrible feeling, to shut down someone else’s creativity, or to squash it with my own restrictions.

I’m not sure how to deal with it yet.

While I was taking a business course on Lake Tahoe over the past month, I had the pleasure of meeting Roy Heffernan, who is the Chief Operating Optimist of the Life is Good company. He is an amazing human being and probably the most positive, optimistic person in the world. Spending two hours in a room was like drinking liquid happiness and optimism.

He reminded me that most people are innately good and want to make each other happy. We innately want to take care of each other, which is why food is a common offering for visitors. But food isn’t the only way we can connect; it just happens to be the most common. We can also connect through sharing jokes, stories, doing crafts, painting nails, watching movies, etc.

Just because we can’t always cook together doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy each other’s company. Talk is just as valuable.

I’m awfully thankful that we spent about a quarter of the time at Tahoe learning how to network and chat with strangers. Learning to talk and listen has provided a great way to deal with my food restrictions in a social setting.

Just because you don’t fit into a box doesn’t mean that you can’t blend in to the crowd sometimes.

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