Food & Lifestyle

Carolyn Hax: Tolerate food fanatic to visit son, grandkids – The Columbus Dispatch


Dear Carolyn: I am in an OOD (obsessive organic disagreement) with my daughter-in-law and her husband — my son.

Three families are due at my house for the holiday. The OOD couple doesn’t plan to join us unless everyone contributes dishes made of “organic”-labeled foods.

The OOD couple have three preschool children. They buy only organic foods and dine at cafes in all-organic grocery stores.

Letting them bring organic-labeled foods for holidays hasn’t worked well. My daughter-in-law brought so many vegetables for a cookout that she monopolized the grill cooking them. She and her family proceeded to eat when we’d had just gained access to the grill.

I was brought up that if someone invited you for dinner, you ate what you liked of what was served. You didn’t order the hostess to prepare foods specific to your family, nor did you bring your own dinner to the “dinner.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture food-safety hotlines say all food sold in grocery stores is safe to eat. Would it poison the OOD family to eat one holiday meal of “regular” food? — OOD Grandmother

Being right doesn’t do you much good if you’re answering the wrong questions.

Of course, this family could safely eat one “regular” meal.

And, yes, etiquette tilts heavily toward gracious acceptance of whatever hosts choose to serve, although allergies and other intolerances can politely factor in.

And organic? Sure. That their prerogative, although it’s an imprecise business at best.

The issue here isn’t food or manners; it’s fanaticism. Your daughter-in-law is an extremist. Extremism is psychological, not dietary.

This is also more of a hostage situation than a menu challenge. Your access to your son and grandkids lies behind that “OOD” gate, which your daughter-in-law controls and your son, seems to buy into.

You can fume about your daughter-in-law’s food sanctimony — with full justification — but your son and grandkids won’t be there. And that’s what you want, yes?

If you do want them there, you need to stop trying to reason with — or harrumph your way to triumph over — the fanatic. You just need to meet her terms.

Obviously that’s not ideal. It’s merely an extreme version of what we all must do to interact with others.

Write to Carolyn — whose column appears in The Dispatch on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays — at tellme@washpost.com.

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