Living in a multi racial and multi religious society is getting more complicated and even demanding of everyone to be extra sensitive to the needs and taboos of everyone. The special needs could now extend to people with medical or psychological conditions as well.
I will just confine to one specific factor of food and inviting people to a pig out or makan event, or a party, religious, cultural or just a simple wedding. The latter is of extra sensitive other than just an issue of food. Anyone who has been put through such an ordeal will know how difficult and sensitive is the invitation list as it could offend people for inviting and not inviting them, and serving them the right food. The vegetarians always felt shortchanged when others feasted on sumptious dishes and theirs were simply vegetables or glutens.
Putting that aside, let’s talk about an invitation to a Christmas Party. Not everyone is agreeable with the religion in the first place. That is another issue. Not everyone is agreeable with the food and the alcohol on offer. We have people who can’t take meat, some can’t take ham, some cannot consume alcohol, some can’t have sugar, some cannot take legume related products or nuts, some can only take vegetables and vegetables of certain types.
How is the host going to take care of all the prohibitions and cannot issue? To make sure that everyone is going to have what they want and nothing else is a tall order. The problem is with the host or organiser. If they want to invite people with special needs and sensitivity towards food, isn’t it their responsibility to make sure that the guest’s needs are met and be happy? To complicate problems, the numbers of guests with special needs may be so small, one may be diabetic, two may be vegetarians, and vegetarians also got different types, vegans and non vegans, one may not be able to take pork, a few may need food to be halal. And some cannot have fried food. So how?
One way is to go for the lowest common denominator whereby everyone can eat the same food and no one will be cheated. I can only think of a perfect menu, plain rice, porridge, bread, can have a few types, Swiss, English, French etc, and a spread of vegetables, and plenty of non alcoholic drinks, without sugar of course.
But if the host is rich and money is no issue, he could still have his cake and eat it, ask each guest to pick his own menu and engage an army of chefs to prepare anything under the sky.
Another option is to defer to the host, host priority. The guests will let the host decides what he wants to serve and eat whatever they can find suitable to them. I did that most of the time. I am vegetarians on 3 full days a week. And it is difficult to demand on my friends and host to prepare vegetarian food on the days that I am vegetarian. I don’t expect my friends or hosts to know that. So I make do with what is available. I pick on vegetarian dishes and may just stick to one dish and avoid the rest. Or if that is not possible, I will just take the vegetable and beans in a plate of meat food. But only I can do that, to accommodate the host and avoid making things difficult for them. I am my own boss and god when food is concerned. I decide. I choose to be vegetarian and no need to blame others.
Many people cannot decide as there is god and religion involved, there is also the doctor and his prescription for those with health issues. These make things that much more inflexible as to what can be eaten or not eaten is no longer a personal decision. The only thing left is plain water.
The issue I presented is tolerance of the host or tolerance of the guests. In the former, the guests make do with what is on the table, without putting any demands or pressure on the host. The latter, the host would have to bend backwards to meet the sensitivities of the guests.
I am not going to suggest that we go the Banquet way, where restaurants should all go halal. For the next step is, why just halal and not go for the lowest set of common denominator, vegetarian? When that be the case, then those deprived of their food preference would become the sensitive ones, making unyielding demands that their cravings for food must be satisfied.
It is tough to say who is being sensitive or insensitive to the needs of others when the issue is getting more complex, demanding and irritating when words like discrimination is hung on the front chests.