Friday, July 2, 2010

Dining Dilemma ~ by Lauren

I'm sitting at my boyfriend's parents' house staring at a meal of mostly meat. I assume this is common in most households. While most mouths would water (and mine certainly wasn't repulsed) for a big hot pan of bubbly fresh (meat) lasagna, which unfortunately for me appears homemade, my eyes scan for the side dishes - salad and bread. That works for me! That is, until my nagging manners and pressing concern for others' feelings kick in.

My thoughts return to a dinner table on my Kazakhstan trip years ago when the meat prepared was a "very special" Ukrainian meat, made of pure fat and love, a dish served in honor of my arrival. If I could "swallow" that with a smile on my face, I could certainly handle lasagna...OR I could turn it down because, after all, this was not a meal made to reach out a hospitable welcome. No implications here, right? No slaving in the kitchen to watch your guests smile as they savor your dish? Wrong. At least in my mind.

In many cultures food is tied to love, fellowship, hospitality, pride, and peace between people. Food is more than food. Food is a symbol. And with that, rejection of food prepared for you can be considered more than rude. Rejection of food can even be equivalent to rejection of friendship.

So I'm kind of stuck. I've thought about avoiding dining in others' homes altogether, but that's not possible if I want to have relationships. I know, I know. I should probably just get over it, be myself, and stop worrying about offending others, but I want to be sensitive, grateful, and kind, especially to people of different backgrounds who are trying to share a piece of their culture with me.

Any ideas?