Provocations

by Daniel A. Kaufman

Last month, while preparing for our big Thanksgiving feast for over a dozen guests, the following item from Vox caught my eye.

How to host Thanksgiving dinner when everyone has a dietary restriction

by Julia Belluz

On holidays like Thanksgiving, we bring our weight loss diets, health issues, aversions, religious beliefs, and world-changing agendas to the dinner table with us. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s evidence of a growing awareness about where our food comes from and what it can do to our bodies. But it does mean hosts are left panicking over how to accommodate everyone’s needs and preferences.

This challenging new reality was all too familiar to many of you who wrote in. Elie Challita described a dinner in which one person had celiac disease, another was allergic to garlic, a third was pescatarian, and a fourth couldn’t eat anything spicy.

“I hadn’t done that much research since getting my masters,” Challinta wrote.

_____

Now, I’ve had just about enough of everyone’s “growing awareness,” and the discovery that there is such a thing as a “pescatarian” threatens to bring on a sudden murderous rage, but really it’s the overall gist of the thing that’s got me wondering how things could have gone so horribly wrong.  Certainly, there are substantial duties involved in one’s role as a host, but there are equally many that apply when one is a guest (including not being a burden to your host and the other guests), so statements like “hosts are left panicking over how to accommodate everyone’s needs and preferences” suggest that at least this writer from Vox and her reader, “Ellie Challita” are terribly confused about some of the basics of human social interaction.

I recall, as a young child, failing to eat some vegetables that were on my plate.  My mother told me to eat them, explaining that they were “part of the meal,” and I did. I should emphasize that the point was not one of nutrition – no one thought about that in the 1970’s – but of manners and respect.  That my parents had spent their hard-earned money and my mother had put in a substantial amount of labor in shopping, prepping, and cooking the meal, were of far greater significance than my personal tastes – there was nothing wrong with the vegetables, I simply didn’t like them – and called for respect and deference on my part.

This was the beginning of an almost two decades long education in manners.  My parents are of a generation for whom virtue is self-effacing and never involves imposing oneself on others, a view that not only no longer holds sway, but is threatening to disappear altogether, in favor of its opposite, as people today are inclined not just to pursue their virtue at others’ expense, but their (always nebulously defined) “well-being” too.  Sometimes I find myself wondering why, at a time of unprecedented freedom, prosperity and long life, so many people are so pissed off so much of the time, and perhaps it’s because of stuff like this.  After all, who among us hasn’t found him or herself fuming with aggravation, in an endless snarl of traffic, only to discover that it’s all because of one lone jogger or cyclist, who thought it made perfect sense to make scores upon scores of people late to wherever they might be going, for the sake of his workout?

A story related by a close friend of mine comes to mind, regarding something that happened to him, when he was in China.  He was at a dinner, hosted by a family in their home in a rural village, and was dismayed when his hosts, with great pride, passed him a plate of roasted cicadas.  The prospect of eating them was beyond nauseating, and he considered refusing or disposing of his portion somehow, while his hosts weren’t looking.  But he could see how much it meant to them that they were able to share with a guest what they obviously considered a delicacy, and he ate the cicadas, which, as he expected, were among the vilest things he’d ever consumed.

Would he have been justified in refusing, had he been an ethical vegan?  I don’t think so.  Indeed, in my view, it would be worse to do so for that reason than out of disgust.  There is at least a kind of rugged honesty to the rudeness involved in rejecting something your host offers you at a dinner party, because you don’t like it, but to do so on the grounds that your virtue demands it represents an altogether different level of dickishness.

For one thing, what was supposed to be about everyone is suddenly all about you.  The host now has to figure out how to accommodate your food preferences.  Does he prepare you a separate meal?  If you bring your own food, will it need to be heated up, and will he have the oven or stovetop space to do so?  The host may have twenty guests coming, but now he’s exerting more energy on you than on all of them put together.

For another, you’ve just signaled to your host and fellow guests that they are unethical people.  After all, the reason why you have refused your host’s hospitality and insist on munching on kale, while everyone else tucks into their kibbeh and kebabs, is because you think that eating meat is a serious moral offense.  So what does that mean you think of your host and of your fellow guests?  Indeed, why are you even sitting with them at the table at all, given that in another context, you might very well be throwing blood at them or brandishing signs and screaming at them across a barricade?

Finally, however the tension is resolved, the result is the self-segregation of oneself from one’s host and one’s fellow guests, at what is supposed to be a social event.  Even the most considerate person, who brings his own meal, requiring no heating or other preparation, and makes every effort not to signal contempt for his host or fellow guests, is not fully participating in the event.  He is not fully accepting his host’s hospitality; not experiencing the culinary traditions of the host’s family and culture; and not sharing the experience with the other guests.

And all for what?  Eating one meal out of thousands you will consume will have absolutely zero effect on your weight-loss program, health, or the welfare of a single animal, but it will honor your hosts and make you a part of an important social, human experience that has for millennia signified the bond of friendship that might exist between all of us.  When we break bread together, we come together and become close in a way that we were not before.

It’s hard not to conclude that the person who refuses someone’s hospitality, whether for reasons of weight loss or general considerations of health or morality, beyond simply being boorish, is engaged in a kind of posturing and showing off that one normally associates with adolescents and not with morally serious, grown-ups.  “Look at me!” is essentially what such a person is saying.  “Look at how fit/healthy/moral I am!”  And it’s only in today’s weird cultural climate that anyone could confuse such narcissistic displays with virtue, moral or otherwise.

The public’s interest in your virtue and well-being has always been grounded in the fact that good character and health are supposed to make you less of an asshole to and burden on everyone else.  Today, unfortunately, they are just as likely to make you more of both.

Categories: Provocations

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83 Comments »

  1. Labnut: Thank you. I wouldn’t even say there’s an argument per se. And I did say in one of my replies to someone that clearly I wasn’t talking about people with serious diseases.

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  2. My parents almost never invited friends to dinner. Inter-family visits were usually “dropping in” for “afternoon tea”. We kids went and played in the “back yard” with other kids we barely knew. Food was not part of that social world.

    In my younger adulthood there was a phase in which “dinner parties” were the done thing. Usually three couples, often with children who were sent off the sleep somewhere or left at home with baby-sitters. Food, wine, coffee and conversation were all part of the occasion. Reciprocation was vaguely expected.

    Now I think we are in a different phase where often restaurants have become the place to meet. People don’t open their homes as much as they did. Their cooking talents or pretensions are less exposed.

    The at home event is likely to be a barbecue where food is not the focal point. The barbecue allows for bigger gatherings. Friends or family may bring a plate.

    The restaurant solves the problem of diverse tastes. And because the barbecue is basically a somewhat random collection of dishes, with meat added, it’s not hard to get around the problem of specialised tastes or needs.

    That’s my experience. Conversation, of whatever quality, is the thread running through all these forms and the main point of it all, I would suppose.

    Alan

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  3. Labnut

    “Do we agree that we are seeing
    1) increasing amounts ofmetastisized individualism and self-absorption?
    2) increasing amounts of narcissistic displays with virtue, moral properties?”

    That’s pretty much what Tom Wolfe said about the 70’s, the “Me Generation” and all that.

    But consider how an uncharitable person could turn this around.

    For example couldn’t Dan’s friend be considered to be virtue signalling? “Look at me, I’m so moral I am willing to endure eating vile tasting cicadas rather than upset my host”.

    Couldn’t an uncharitable person characterise Dan as asserting his own moral superiority over those pesky pescatarians?

    The same uncharitable person could say that I am virtue signalling too.

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  4. I’m not sure that we are seeing increased individualism and self-absorption and increased narcissistic displays with virtue, moral properties.

    We all have a tendency to idealize the good, old days: if we had a happy childhood (I didn’t), those of our childhood. If we finally felt good as a youthful university student and budding intellectual (I did), those of our university years. The idealization of the good old days and bemoaning that people aren’t what they used to be is as old as the Greeks and maybe older.

    The narcissistic displays of virtue have always been with us: except in my childhood the narcissistic puritanical moralists condemned all sex outside of heterosexual marriage, while now they condemn anyone who is in favor of restricting sex to heterosexual marriage. The same narcissistic displays, but with a different political color.

    The scarlet back then was A for “adultery”, now it’s S for “sexism”, but it’s the same puritanism at work.

    I grew up in the 1950’s and I just don’t recall all that great community spirit. People were self-absorbed and individualistic back then, but maybe more conventional in their individualism: that is, they all looked the same, dressed the same and had the same haircut (and even ate the same diet), but they had little interest in the well-being of others and almost no community spirit.

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  5. Anyway, from my point of view food is to be enjoyed, not endured in a spirit of self effacing virtue. I would not feel at all honoured by someone choking down my food for my sake, I would rather they didn’t eat it if they didn’t enjoy it.

    If I plan a dinner or a barbecue it is my intention that, if possible, everybody will enjoy the food and the company.

    If I invite a vegan to dinner I will ensure I have food there that a vegan can eat, if I wasn’t prepared to do that then I wouldn’t invite a vegan to dinner. That just seems common sense.

    I don’t find that a burden, I enjoy it. I normally make sure I have a range of food, meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes and that they are suitable for food allergies if I am aware that any intended guests have such allergies. I don’t see how that is even difficult, but if it was then guests are usually willing to chip in and contribute a dish or two.

    And I don’t see a vegan’s choices as somehow being a critique of me or as a way for him to feel superior.

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  6. Let me just say a few things more, by way of clarification:

    1. The piece was not about dining per se. It was about what seems to me a relatively new phenomenon. Not just that virtue and well-being can be obtained at the expense of others, but that people do so with a kind of relish. The point is to reinforce something I’ve raised in a number of other contexts, namely that virtue should be self-effacing. My friend in China, in doing the right thing and fully accepting his host’s hospitality, suffered in doing so. The burden of his virtue fell on him. By contrast, the burden of the cyclist’s well-being or the vegan’s virtue, falls on others. Those stuck in the cars behind the cyclist pay for his well-being. And the host, whose job has now become much more complicated — unless you’ve prepared a meal for dozens or even hundreds of people, as I have, many, many times, you have no idea just how much “special requests” fuck up everything — is bearing the burden of his vegan guest’s virtue.

    2. With respect to dining and hospitality, much of the pushback here strikes me as representing a kind of philistinism that in my view is almost as bad as the narcissistic conception of virtue and well-being indicated in (1). (Indeed, I am working on a much more substantial essay on philistinism and why I take it to be a serious problem, both for the individual philistine and for those around him.) Repeatedly, the point is made that the food is largely beside the point; that one goes to converse with one’s host and fellow guests, so everyone sitting with a tupperware full of their “preference” and eating in the same room is no different from sitting together and sharing a common meal that was cooked for you, by your host. That anyone could confuse these two entirely different activities or fail to understand the special and very intimate experience that arises from the relationship between the host who, with his own hands, cooks a meal for his guests, perhaps using recipes that not only tell the story of his own family, but of his people, demonstrates the degree of social and cultural disintegration that so many suffer in the modern, industrialized world. All that I can say is that while I understand that some for whatever reason either cannot understand or appreciate the distinction between the two and the significance of the latter, they should acknowledge that it is they and their experience that are impoverished as a result, rather than try to dismiss the significance of something that human beings across the globe, from every civilization, for millennia have understood perfectly well.

    3. With regard to Robin’s last point, its either obtuse or disingenuous. The ethical vegan — as opposed to, say, the person who is a vegan entirely for reasons of health — believes that *any* use of animal products is a profound moral crime. His is the most extreme of the spectrum of “ethical eating” positions. And this means that he thinks his host and fellow guests are behaving in a gravely immoral fashion, with every bite they take. Part of my work in this area has been to try and force these people to come out and say what they really think of everyone else and face the social consequences that come as a result. To say out of one side of your mouth that “meat is murder” and then hang out with your meat eating friend as if nothing was wrong is the very definition of two-facedness. You wouldn’t do this if the person next to you had killed another person and eaten him, yet the ethical vegan thinks that killing and eating animals is almost as bad, which makes every meat eater effectively a serial murderer. Hence my reference in other essays to kids eating bologna sandwiches and going on fishing trips with grandpa. You say you believe this stuff? Then tell the truth about what you think of other people.

    The really honest and self-aware ethical vegans realize this and accept it. Indeed, my department head, who not only is an ethical vegan, but has devoted her philosophical work to making the case for it, has admitted to me that her views are profoundly socially isolating and alienating. She has very few friends, and finds it very hard to socialize with others, precisely because she is honest enough to admit that by her strongly held moral code, they are all, essentially, monsters.

    Notice that her virtue *is* self-effacing. Its burden lands squarely on her.

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  7. Robin, you say

    If I plan a dinner…
    If I invite a vegan…
    I don’t find that a burden…
    And I don’t see a vegan’s choices

    Notice the dominant presence of the first person “I”? (this was Dan-K’s point)

    The form of your argument is:
    1) I do this;
    2) I am a reasonable person (by implication);
    3) Therefore a reasonable person does this.

    Now it happens that in law a great deal of use is made of the reasonable person argument.

    A phrase frequently used in tort and Criminal Law to denote a hypothetical person in society who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct and who serves as a comparative standard for determining liability.

    The decision whether an accused is guilty of a given offense might involve the application of an objective test in which the conduct of the accused is compared to that of a reasonable person under similar circumstances. In most cases, persons with greater than average skills, or with special duties to society, are held to a higher standard of care. For example, a physician who aids a person in distress is held to a higher standard of care than is an ordinary person.

    But in the law court it is never said, I behave thus and my behaviour is the measure of a reasonable person.

    That argument would never fly in a court of law since personal biases cannot be reliably generalised. Whose bias is the ruling bias?

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  8. Dan K.,

    You say that the lives of those who do not have your view that sharing common food with others is a special experience are impoverished and that we’re somehow philistines.

    How can you set up your own experience, which I in no way disparage, as a measure of all other human experience? Maybe we have and have had scores of rich experiences which you have not gone through (the day only has 24 hours) and I wouldn’t think
    of calling your life impoverished for that.

    I can see that we could get into a rather ridiculous competition of whose experiences are richer than others and I don’t want to go there.

    Do you want to go there?

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  9. I don’t really attach that much weight to tradition. I tend to be very liberal (in both senses of the word: the classic sense and the sense that it’s used in U.S. politics ) and you’re more conservative than I am.

    Traditions often just ratify power relationships that repress possibilities of flourishing.

    Asia and the Middle East, which you cite as references, contain some of the most repressive societies on the face of the earth.

    We’re both Jewish and I know that Israel is in the Middle East, but Israel contains all the political and cultural variety that the U.S. has. I just got together with a friend and his father who lives in Israell and I drank botelled water, the father drank tea and my friend drank coffee and we spent several hours conversing very pleasantly. Would our get-together have been more pleasant if we all had drank the same brew and shared a plate? I don’t see that.

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  10. I just got together with a friend and his father who lives in Israell and I drank botelled water, the father drank tea and my friend drank coffee and we spent several hours conversing very pleasantly. Would our get-together have been more pleasant if we all had drank the same brew and shared a plate? I don’t see that.

    = = =

    That’s because this is in no way analogous to someone cooking for you.

    Sorry you don’t see it. As for culinary and hospitality traditions, you are certainly missing out on quite an important part of the human experience.

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  11. Dan K.

    I don’t doubt that food sharing is an important experience for you. What amazes me is how you seem to look down (we have impoverished lives) on those who don’t place much weight on that experience.

    Have you ever participated in an underground political struggle against a vicious dictatorship, risked your life and then seen that dictatorship, through its own mistakes and through pressure of mass struggle, fall and then celebrated that fall with tens of thousands of others in the streets? I have and I bet that you haven’t. I could say that your life is impoverished because of that, but I don’t think that.

    Have you ever traveled the Amazon River from its sources in the Peruvian jungles in native transportation, no luxuries at all, to the mouth of the river in Brasil? I have and I bet that you haven’t. I could say that your life is impoverished because you haven’t, but I don’t think that.

    Have you ever experimented and had gay sex? I have and I somehow bet that you haven’t. I could say that your life is impoverished because you haven’t, but I don’t think that.

    That is, you’ve had special experiences and in fact, most of us have had them, but I don’t see why you consider that those who haven’t had your experiences have had impoverished lives. If you need to feel superior to some of us, fine, but that’s your hang-up, not a good argument.

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  12. I don’t really attach that much weight to tradition.

    Oh, but you do. Your life is infused with traditions to such an extent that you don’t recognise them.They become invisible because they are part of the normal fabric of life. You will deny it of course, but who cares? Instead enjoy my favourite scene from the Fiddler on the Roof.

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  13. Labnut

    Notice the dominant presence of the first person “I”? (this was Dan-K’s point)

    Do I understand you to be saying that my desire to see to it that all of my guests enjoy their meal is an example of the kind of self-absorption that Dan and you are talking about?

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  14. Dan,

    I hope you don’t mind I go off topic a bit. Just one small remark, when you write:

    “By contrast, the burden of the cyclist’s well-being or the vegan’s virtue, falls on others. Those stuck in the cars behind the cyclist pay for his well-being.”

    In the context of this rant, I agree with the sentiment – don’t make others pay for your virtue.
    But I think the metaphor is misguided. Most often a cyclist doesn’t want to put the burden of his well-being on the motorists stuck behind him. It’s no fun riding a bike and knowing that there’s a 2.5 ton piece of metal behind you, waiting for that split second to overtake you. I personally only do it when bad infrastructure leaves me no other reasonable option.

    I think I know where the comparison comes from: in the US riding a bike is much, much more a status marker than were I llive. But still I think it’s not a fair comparison with people who not only are strict vegans, but who also refuse to eat plants from the Solanum genus.
    (You won’t believe it, but yes they exist! I once had the honor to sit next to one, when a friend organized a dinner party for her 40th birthday. The food turned into ashen in my mouth.)

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  15. So there are three points.

    Firstly there is a claim that special diets are a burden on the host. They are a burden on the host if the host finds that a burden.

    As I have pointed out I don’t find that a burden at all and I expect that I am not alone in this.

    Yes I have cooked for dozens and even hundreds of people. It depends upon your approach. Food is about people so the first stage in planning any sort of meal is knowing who it is who will be eating it. These considerations are the first part of the process, not an afterthought.

    Of course it is a problem if you discover a food allergy at the last moment, but this is just one of the many glitches that can occur in the process. If I don’t know much about who will be eating the food then I try to have a range of dishes.

    You can’t please everybody. I once went to the trouble of ensuring there was a meat dish, prepared by a meat eater, at a party where there were people who didn’t like vegetarian diets. They turned their nose up at it and went out and bought a hamburger and chips and brought that back and ate it instead. So be it. The whole point was for people to enjoy their meal and they enjoyed their meal. My only beef, so to speak, was that a perfectly good dish went to waste, as the rest of us were vegetarians. But I didn’t invite them to any future meals.

    Sometimes it is not possible to cater for particular diets. When I am manning the barbecue at the surf club I can’t accommodate any vegetarians, because even if they have an egg sandwich, the egg is cooking on the same surface as the sausages and bacon and so the juices have been mixing. We can’t accommodate a gluten free diet because the gluten free stuff is more expensive and cuts into the fundraising.

    It comes back to this, if there is someone who is a vegan you can simply not invite them, or you can plan to have something they can eat. It just seems silly to knowingly invite a vegan to dinner and then expect them to eat meat, chicken, eggs or dairy products.

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  16. Daniel, I admire that you shared a rant of yours, and I wish more people interpreted it with charity. As I see it, you are suggesting that:

    1. An account of ‘wellbeing’ and virtue that is not grounded in a community is hollow.
    2. Hence sometimes, for example, at ritual functions, which primarily exist to bind the community, such as Thanksgiving, one may be expected to eat (at least a little) food which one would otherwise prefer not to or consider ‘vicious.’
    3. Rejecting food, under the cloak of virtue, at certain ritual functions, even when done skillfully, is a vice not a virtue. Especially given that food only influences us our wellbeing in the long term, and one meal at a ritual function does not death make. (Unless of course you have an allergy, but I know you mean’t this exception in spirit if not in letter.)

    Keep ranting Daniel, it creates both good ideas, and crazy comments. And the good ideas are worth some crazy comments.

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  17. Excellent. I too have a friend, who is in effect a practicing vegan, but not one in name. In other words, he eats like a vegan, but does not call himself one. He does not do it ‘for the animals.’ And he does not enjoy putting himself above others. He eats what he does because it makes him feel good. But still, he struggles with the same problem as your friend. He finds the way other people eat morally disgusting. Not intellectually, but at the level of an immediate intuitive feeling which he has confessed to me. I don’t blame him for it. I mean, if you get accustomed to some food, you will find other food disgusting. Isn’t this the point, even the goal of changing a diet, to have immediate negative intuitive feelings about food you don’t want? In a sense, we could laud him for achieving a real dietary change.

    But anyway, my friend occasionally eats off diet in special scenarios now, because he’s recognized that otherwise he does end up isolating and morally condemning others, if only through silence. It doesn’t bother him too much, because what’s one meal off diet compared to respecting others on a regular basis.

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  18. Wallerstein:

    I whole hardheartedly agree with the idea that no experience is more meaningful than someone elses’.

    I think, but I may be wrong, that Daniel was not trying to call people who eat differently philistines with spiritually empty customs and experiences.

    I think Daniel was saying that when there is a well known tradition of eating food(s) a certain way, that there are therefore social duties on how best to eat in that community.

    I don’t think Daniel was trying to privilege any particular way of eating well, just saying that when there are traditions of how to eat well, that we risk isolating ourselves and offending others by arguing that eating well is something best left decided by every individual.

    Thanksgiving is a useful example of how to resolve this moral issue because it is a highly visible tradition with certain ritual features that the average person is expected to be reasonably aware of.

    When you said: “Traditions often just ratify power relationships that repress possibilities of flourishing.” I would agree, but would also point out that only certain traditions (and ways of doing) them are the issue. For example, the language we use is a tradition too, and our ability to speak to each other can enhance our ability to flourish just as much as it can oppose it. Language is a meta tradition if you will, that lets us decide between other traditions. If we oppose all tradition in principle, we simple lose the ability to be social animals. And I for one, really like talking to other people, you in particular. I think you bring great comments to these blogs. 🙂

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  19. Secondly, lets talk about the sit down meal, where the everybody eats the same food hand prepared by the host.

    Since the discussion began with the Thanksgiving theme and I have never been at a Thanksgiving dinner I went and googled a few images to get an idea of what one might entail.

    They look pretty much like my sit down meals – there are a range of dishes laid out on the table and people take what they want from them. I recall Christmas dinners which are similar – there is a roast in the middle and someone carves it and places it on peoples’ plates, then they take what they want from the other dishes.

    All of these spreads look as though they might be enough to cater for a range of diets. So are these sit down meals inferior if some people don’t decide to partake of the roast or the turkey or some other dish on offer?

    My meals may represent part of family culture. Some of the best vegan and vegetarian meals I cook come unchanged from my mother or mother-in-law or my great aunts.

    So I don’t see how sharing a meal is any less of an important, intimate or bonding occasion if the host has prepared for different tastes.

    We don’t do thank you notes, but hopefully some of that sentiment is imparted in the parting hug.

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  20. Robin, if you are addressing me, I’ve already indicated that I’ve discussed this with you as much as I am inclined to. That we disagree is obvious and will not change, no matter how many more times I reply.

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  21. “Notice that her virtue *is* self-effacing. Its burden lands squarely on her”

    Perhaps, if she is a person who desires widespread social contact then this may be a burden. But if she has built a career on this then you could say it is working for her.

    Any ethical vegan has a burden on them if they are constantly desiring meat, egg and dairy products and denying it to themselves. I would hate that.

    Their burden doesn’t fall on me – I can whip up a good vegan meal without breaking a sweat and am happy to do it.

    If there are other hosts who find cooking a vegan meal a burden then they always have the rather simple recourse of not inviting any vegans to dinner. So no burden there.

    Any burden is therefore on the ethical vegan, if he really does like meat, fish, eggs, dairy products etc.

    And if there are vegans who think me guilty of some serious moral failing because I eat eggs and dairy products then that does not bother me any more than that there are people who think me guilty of a serious moral failing because I don’t eat meat.

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  22. “by her strongly held moral code, they are all, essentially, monsters”: this seems to me an important part of the concept of religious and cultural *tolerance*. If you are not an ethical relativist or skeptic, you will constantly rub against others with distasteful or evil beliefs – some kind of detachment (in every sense) is necessary. Most mainline christians in the West don’t have trouble being friendly to godless atheists, or even to women they are not married to. I think the concepts are no different from those stupid arguments about whether one should read the books of Heidegger, say.

    More generally, re food faddism and medical dietary restriction etc – we live in a wealthy society that can now support a degree of variation in likes and dislikes. I hadn’t eaten organ meat for many years until a recent visit to China – they don’t appear at our local supermarket very often because tastes have changed. If *I* decided to make such a dish for a barbecue, I would only expect a few people to be interested. *I* would be embarrassed if someone forced something down that they detest. This example of humouring your mentally impoverished hosts because they have no resources to understand cultural difference only goes so far. I can think of lots of things I’m not going to do just because my host likes it.

    As to religious dietary restrictions – I as host would try and respect these in the same way I respect nonreligious strictures,

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  23. If I were to have a serial murder friend and said “OK, I will go along with you on a murdering spree, but I won’t actually murder anyone myself because it is against my ethics to do so” then it would be safe to conclude that my objection to murdering couldn’t be particularly strong.

    So if a vegan accepts a dinner invitation from me then it is similarly safe to assume that his abhorrence of my dietary practices is mild at best. He can’t regard me as we would regard a murderer or a sadist or anything close to that.

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  24. Robin: You’ve just illustrated why I am very reluctant to have discussions with you. You don’t know when enough is enough.

    All: This has been discussed to death, and we now are in the phase of rapidly diminishing returns. I am closing comments.

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