For the longest time, I thought that my husband and I were the worst dinner guest in the world. When kind and unsuspecting people invite us into their home to have dinner, I feel an impending sense of dread. In my most trying-to-please tones, I attempt to explain myself to the potential hostess.
ME: Thanks, but we have a lot of dietary restrictions.
HOSTESS: Well that’s certainly not a problem.
ME: We don’t eat wheat, corn, oats, or soy. Oh, and no dairy. Neither of us eat any dairy.”
Now I’m off an running. My brain is screaming STOP – DON’T DO IT, but the editor between my brain and mouth is on a break, so I forge ahead.
ME: Garlic. We don’t eat garlic. And what kind of oil do you use? We try to eat only good fats, so that means avocado or olive oil only. No soy or canola. And also salt. My husband can’t have too much of it. It raises his blood pressure.
I tell her about my digestion, the kind of pain that I get in my body if I eat the aforementioned foods. As the hostesses’ eyes glaze over, I can see that she is searching for the nearest emergency exit. I try to lighten the moment.
ME: I found these wonderful tortillas that are made of almond flour, but not the ones that contain cassava, because I don’t do well with cassava.
The worst dinner guests. She looks at her watch.
HOSTESS: Sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late, I have to pick up my daughter at band practice.
One day I meet Susan. Susan is a natural foodie like me. We spend time together sipping tea and agreeing on the health benefits of lemon grass. Her list of forbidden foods is as long as mine. Conversations about rice bread and stevia follow as a strong bond is born amid the talk of green drinks and the enzymes.
ME: Would you like to come to dinner on Saturday night?
SUSAN: Ed and I would love to come. And let us bring something.
ME: You don’t have to bring anything.
SUSAN: I have this place where I get really good organic salmon. Let me bring the salmon.
ME: Okay, we can grill. It will be fun.
With a spring in my step and confidence in my heart, I prepare for Saturday night. A beautiful table is set. Flowers are arranged. Two vegetable sides and a salad are prepped. I make iced herbal tea.
6:30 – That ‘s the agreed upon time. I imagine us sitting on the deck, talking about the efficacy of various omega oils and the over-consumption of sugar in America.
7:00 – No Susan and Ed. Maybe they got caught up in traffic.
7:15 – Still no Susan and Ed. I try calling. No answer.
7:25 – A call from Susan. “We’re on our way,” she says cheerfully.
7:45 – Susan and Ed arrive. I’m irritable but trying not to show it. Husband is irritable. We take a deep breath and put on our best game faces.
Thrusting a cold white paper package into my hands, I stare at Susan blankly.
SUSAN: It’s the fish. It’s the most beautiful color. We spent a long time picking out just the right piece for all of us.
ME: It’s frozen.
SUSAN: It shouldn’t take long to thaw.
My husband takes the frozen salmon out of my hands and walks it to the grill. The sun is starting to set. We don’t have good night lighting on the deck. Husband whisper into my ear.
HUSBAND: I don’t know how to cook this.
ME: What do you mean, you grill fish all of the time?
HUSBAND: The fish is frozen. I don’t know how to cook it.
ME: Just put in the fish basket and throw it on the grill. My blood sugar has dropped I never eat this late. I’m cranky beyond belief. My new friend hasn’t even mentioned that she showed up an hour and fifteen minutes after the time we set.
Finally we settle down at the table. The fish has a strange spongy texture.
SUSAN: The salad is wonderful.
ME: Thank you.
The minutes tick by, fifteen, thirty an hour, oh my God an hour and a half, and Ed and Susan are still eating.
ME: Wow, you guys are really slow eaters.
Ed has barely said a word all evening now at 10:00 he swallows hard and shares.
ED: I believe that to get the most nutrition out of your food, you must chew thoroughly. My teacher told me to chew thirty-two times on each side, slowly. This has become a mindfulness practice for me.
Husband looks like he wants to fall face first into his plate. I want to leap the table and strangle Susan and then Ed who has just taken another bite of food and is chewing again.
A little after midnight they leave.
The next afternoon I drive to the grocery store where I buy a large chocolate cake and a block of cheese. We are no longer the worst dinner guests in the world.