DEAR MISS MANNERS: For three holidays a year, my mother’s extended family gets together for dinner. My mother prepares most of the meal, and my aunts contribute a few dishes to ease the burden.
Over the past few years, some new foods have appeared at these dinners. Typically my mother prepares a vegetarian alternative, as I’ve been vegetarian for more than 15 years.
My aunt’s boyfriend started joining the dinners here and there a few years ago, and my aunt brings a meat lasagna for him. Recently my uncle requested kielbasa because he has a new affinity for it.
Most of us don’t have a problem with the new foods but my mother gets very annoyed and seems to enjoy complaining about it.
I am now concerned about her offering a vegetarian alternative for me at these holidays. I think it is wonderful, but I would never demand it of a host.
Is it rude of me to have this vegetarian alternative at a holiday meal? Is it rude of my aunt to prepare a special meal for her boyfriend? Is it rude for my uncle to request a special food? Or is my mother blowing this out of proportion?
GENTLE READER: Doesn’t your mother realize that this now IS the traditional American holiday dinner?
It is true that the prevailing intense, individualistic focus on food has killed the nightly family dinner, the social dinner party, pleasant conversation and friendly relations among those who disagree about nutritional or ethical values. But apparently many consider those sacrifices worthwhile as long as they don’t have to face anything they can’t stomach.
Thanksgiving, however, is already associated with a surplus of dishes. Why not include ones that please the various tastes of the guests?
A legitimate answer is that it makes more work for the host. Miss Manners doubts that your mother would be mollified by depriving you, while others are accommodated.
It would be of more assistance to her for you to offer substantial help in preparing the meal than to incite your relatives to open rebellion.