This Christmas, don't give us food issues

December 21, 2008|By kevin cowherd | kevin cowherd,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Is it too late to bring back the old days?

I ask because there was a time when people celebrated the holidays with full-throttle eating and drinking.

Now booze is a no-no and everyone seems to have a food issue of some sort, making holiday entertaining about as much fun as cocktails with Rod and Patti Blagojevich.

This year, for example, we're having a dozen family members over for Christmas dinner. Here is a partial list of the "concerns" that have been made known to us:

One person is on a low-sodium diet.

One is a vegetarian.

One is on a gluten-free diet.

One says she might be developing a nut allergy.

And that doesn't include the closeted weight-watchers, who tend to come out at the last minute, inquiring about the fat or carb content of everything just as it's being served.

Oh, this is going to be some dinner, all right.

Faced with this Rainbow Coalition of food issues, all we have to do is whip up 85 different dishes to make sure no one gets grossed out by meat or keels over with a breathing problem or has their metabolism go haywire.

Maybe we should eat at different tables, too.

We could put all the people with food issues at one table, a little dietary gulag where they could talk about their doctors and their conditions and all the foods they can't eat.

The rest of us would sit at another table and shovel ham and turkey and stuffing with pine nuts and crescent rolls with salted butter into our fat faces and talk about the Ravens or the appalling governor of Illinois and his wife.

Or we could talk about the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush and made him duck like one of those bartenders in the old Westerns when a brawl broke out and whiskey bottles were flying.

And here's the thing: These are not old-timers we're talking about, these people with food issues.

These are young and middle-aged people, for the most part, although you'd think you were at Edenwald when they get going about food.

If we make it through the main meal, things will only get worse when it's time for coffee and dessert. Because that's when even people without food issues get squirrelly.

I don't know what it is about coffee, but people always feel compelled to offer their personal coffee histories when it's served.

"I can't drink it, it keeps me up all night," someone always says.

And this triggers the usual recitation of what-coffee-does-to-me horror stories that range from "It makes me too jittery" to the ever-popular "It makes me run to the bathroom every 10 minutes."

Great. That's good to know.

"Who wants decaf?" I ask at that point, hoping to head off even more embarrassing details about what coffee does to, say, the digestive system.

But that doesn't work, either. Because then the anti-decaf people start arguing with the pro-decaf people about which is better for you.

You wouldn't think people could get that worked up about coffee. But they can.

When the pies and cakes are finally put out, the level of interrogation takes on Guantanamo detention-camp proportions.

"What's in the cake?" I had someone ask me last year, eyes narrowing suspiciously, at the exact same time that someone else asked "What's in the pie?"

This totally floored me.

What's in the cake and pie?! You mean the exact ingredients? How the hell do I know? Do you want some or not? Look, I understand the concern of the gluten-free people and the nut-allergy people about dessert.

I would not want to eat a piece of cake or pie and double over with cramps or stop breathing, either.

The stop-breathing part would particularly concern me, especially if it were to become permanent.

But the low-sodium people and the vegetarians and everyone else should just back off with the questions.

Especially the closeted weight-watchers. Just because they're trying to lose a few pounds, they don't have the right to be killjoys.

At times like this, I feel like delivering a quick lecture:

"Yes, people these are pies and cakes. They are loaded with calories and full of sugar and fat.

"What did you expect to have for dessert? A small garden salad with vinaigrette dressing? A rice cake with hummus?

"That's not how we roll in this house. We are cake and pie people, because life is too short not to be. Try a piece, it won't kill you.

"And, whatever you do, don't start with that I'll-just-have-a-sliver business. Because that one will really, really tick us off.

"Enjoy the rest of your meal."

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