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08 April 2010 @ 11:51 pm
relative food limitations  
So, while I was home (in Wyoming) for Xmas this winter, I noticed something that I've been pondering in the background ever since:

In Wyoming, no one is allergic to food. Or has food sensitivities. Or is vegetarian.

Okay, so, obviously this isn't true (except for the vegetarian thing), right? People must have food allergies or sensitivities, and I just don't know about it, but it's kind of remarkable that I'm having to dig around in my thinking to come up with anyone in Wyoming who has a particular food limitation. Even disregarding the vegetarians in my current social world and simply focusing on food allergies and sensitivities, I can't think of ANY group of six people I'd be likely to invite for a dinner party wherein not one of them has some fussy* food need.

But when I'm back home, we can have dozens of people at one party and there's nary a "Oh, no, I can't eat that, it has [ingredient]."

What gives? Do people with particular food needs gravitate toward urban areas? The east coast? Is there some personality characteristic I especially like that's correlated with food sensitivities? Do people who have food allergies in Wyoming hide it like a secret shame?

* No judgement is intended or implied with "fussy" here.
I'm feeling: sleepysleepy
lazyzlazyz on April 9th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
report from Wyoming
Actually we know plenty of allergic people, celiacs, crones, peanut, other nuts. We just wouldn't think of having them over for dinner. Just kidding...
ruthless compassion: laughteraroraborealis on April 9th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
Re: report from Wyoming
*rofl* OMG I love you
Re: report from Wyoming - contessagrrl on April 9th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: report from Wyoming - lazyz on April 9th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Will O'the Wispwotw on April 9th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, and without any theory to offer, I have two
large communities of friends and acquaintances. In the community
I share with you, there are many people with food restrictions.
In the other community, there appear to be none. Neither community
includes any substantial number of people from Wyoming.
Rowan: Springmzrowan on April 9th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
I think a lot of people just think that occasional cramping, or nausea, or reflux, or general logeyness is normal. rednikki is violently allergic to corn, but it took an elimination diet for her to figure out that it was the cause behind her random gastro-intestinal distress. As awareness of the phenomenon rises in a group, so does the number of people who realize they have an issue with something.

And yeah, I think part of it is shame about the symptoms. You doesn't pipe up in polite company about your gassy intestines, so you don't find out that it's *not* normal.
T Streich: avviesweetbaboo on April 9th, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Alternatively, a lot of people could be right.
(no subject) - miss_chance on April 9th, 2010 04:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
Chance: gator-deermiss_chance on April 9th, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Not that it's the whole story, but I remember back when I was having serious chemical-sensitivity issues reading that exposure to exhaust and other air-borne pollutants could really amp-up the immune-system in un-useful ways.

Also, I know that I only mention my food-allergies in this community. In other places I just keep it to myself and don't eat things I'm allergic to. I can get away with this because I don't have any allergies that will kill me or give me breathing troubles, just the kind that make my mouth itch or my stomach cramp, or give me headaches. So in communities where people don't talk about their food aversions, I can get away with not mentioning it and sometimes have to feed myself after a dinner-gathering. In communities where we talk about these things I do so that I can take part in the sharing of food.
(Deleted comment)
Scheherazade is my patron saint.a_kosmos on April 9th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
I heard a really interesting piece on This American Life about some people believing that hookworms alleviate allergies, asthma, MS, Crohn's, etc. It was interesting.
(no subject) - fanw on April 9th, 2010 11:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - signsoflife on April 11th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bluegargantua on April 9th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dbang on April 9th, 2010 09:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
our lady of perpetual amusement: smeesel_potlikkerdakotakym on April 9th, 2010 04:30 am (UTC)
If you should have the desire to nosh with someone more local than Wyoming who has no food sensitivities/restrictions (or at least a blatant disregard for such, if they exist), I'll enthusiastically volunteer!
ceelove on April 9th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
Or perhaps the environmental stressors of urban living combine to bring out more food allergies (and asthma, and allergies to pollen...)
The Hebrew Hammercockhammercock on April 9th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
In Wyoming, no one...is vegetarian.

Yeah, I noticed that when I was there. :-}
maebethmaebeth on April 9th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
When I was in kansas, they served the vegetarians chicken. Because, you know, its not meat.
(no subject) - harimad on April 10th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
vito_excalibur on April 9th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC)
One does wonder. Ô_o
The Dragonpoints on April 9th, 2010 05:16 am (UTC)
Well, from my time in Colorado and Wyoming, what I noticed wasn't so much that people didn't have food allergies, but rather that it seemed it was more something you just kept to yourself. We used to have large group Thanksgivings, and I'd notice patterns in what people tended to serve themselves, or what they'd bring regularly to share for that or other meals. If I outright -asked- someone, they'd usually tell me what they liked, didn't like, couldn't eat (for health or religious reasons)... but at no point did anyone every outright volunteer that - even when I'd request it via email invitations. There just seemed to be more of a 'I'll soldier on and likely find something I can eat.' Some people I knew there took it to a bit of extremes in trying to be too much of a good guest methinks.

Here... I find that we have people who take it well to the other extreme. So, perhaps it isn't entirely that Wyoming is populated and gifted with a perfect population of wholesome and hale GI tracts, but rather the vocal range and volume in which people broadcast that information runs on a different scale than what we take as 'accepted' here?
whynotkaywhynotkay on April 9th, 2010 05:21 am (UTC)
Perhaps all the Wyoming vegetarians are eaten by the omnivores?

I also agree with wotw that the food sensitivities (or at least public acknowledgment of them) seem to be clustered by community. I know very few climbers who claim sensitivities.
stephanie m. clarksonthespian on April 9th, 2010 06:07 am (UTC)
Also, much as this will get me in trouble...

People make shit up, because everyone else has *something*.

Consider how many people in the community have PEANUTS WILL GIVE ME THE DEATH allergies.

Then consider that the National Institute of Health tracks the actual diagnoses, and states: "Allergy to peanuts and tree nuts in the general population is, respectively, 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, with the rate in children under age 18 (0.8 percent and 0.2 percent) slightly different from adults (0.6 percent and 0.5 percent respectively)."

Now, this is not to at all devalue the fact that the people who are allergic to such things are absolutely in danger. And it's a good thing for us to make sure that they're safe by avoiding these things when we can.

That said, since we, as a community, make a concerted effort to provide for the people who are genuinely at risk, there are people who want...hrm. The words aren't right...my instinct was to type 'the attention', but that's not what I mean. I think to some extent, they want the *attentiveness*. To feel someone is making a little effort for you.

It is, oddly, sort of the inverse of the Tragedy of the Commons: since we're already being solicitous of the people with the genuine food allergies, it doesn't damage the community for some people to appear to give themselves less of an advantage (as opposed to the actual TotC, where it does damage the community for someone to take more of an advantage over common areas, in this case, say, the food at potlucks).
harimad on April 9th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
I am of split mind about the subject. On the one hand I'd love it if, just once, I had a dinner party composed entirely of Wyomingians. Further I know plenty of people who claim allergy when what really was going on was that ze didn't like a food.

OTOH, people used to end up dead or malnourished.

More commonly, for convenience people say "allergy" for all sorts of serious dangers. They also say "allergy" when what they have is a food sensitivity - which is someone you can just shut up and deal with, if you're of a mind to. (Personal observation: I wish more people were of a mind to. OTOH I do sometimes enjoy the challenge ... for my friends.)

Michael Ruhlman, a food journalist, had a blog post that was a polite version of "What the heck is up with all these food sensitivities? I mean really - allergic to salt?!? Give me a break." The responses were fascinating. For example the real problem with salt was iodine.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - crouchback on April 9th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Blue Gargantuabluegargantua on April 9th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC)

Oh come on, we both know why people from Wyoming (and Nebraska and other High Plains states) don't get allergies.

We're better than everyone else. :)

Jadiajadia on April 9th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I've noticed something similar in NJ vs Boston. I think here, we think peoples' allergies are the responsibility of the hosts of dinner parties. There, we think that peoples' allergies are their own responsibilities. So if people are sensitive to food they show up to potlucks with a thing they can eat and maybe or maybe not eat anything else. Or they show up to dinner parties and eat only things they can eat and nothing else, making whatever compromises they can to be partaking in the social activity of eating.

Whereas I feel like here, if you're throwing a dinner party, we expect people not to come if they can't eat things, or we don't feel like we can invite people who can't eat things unless we set aside something for them to eat.

I was with my parents when we were having dinner with their friends and their friends' daughter, who is vegetarian. We were eating at a restaurant, a chinese restaurant, so there's really nothing vegetarian for real - the vegetables were cooked in pork fat and had bits of pork in it. She ate it anyway, and everyone else expected her to, though they made sure not to give her the meat dishes. I was the only person who was shocked. The feeling was kind of like she shouldn't make too much of a fuss about her food and compromise to work with everyone else's tastes.
DancingWolfGrrldancingwolfgrrl on April 9th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
I concur with people who suggest that there are cultural or attitudinal (I love that word) things in our social circle that support being difficult to feed :)

I would probably never have even found out my sensitivities -- which are obscure enough to be difficult to derive from observation -- if I hadn't eventually arrived at the attitude that my relatively mild symptoms are something I shouldn't have to deal with. My friends largely agree, at least to the extent that they find it reasonable believe that if I say a food is a problem, it's a big enough problem that they should inconvenience themselves to avoid giving it to me.

I also think that our social circle has a culture around food that highly values giving people food they enjoy -- possibly because so many of us really love food! This means that if I don't mention something and then choose not to eat something I'm offered, the person doing the offering is often sadder than I am, while simultaneously agreeing that it makes sense for me to decline. I think either an "you'll eat what you're offered" attitude or a stronger social penalty on fussiness would make this work differently for either the offerer or the offer-ee!