A while back, I suggested that our new societal respect for justified dietary restrictions has lessened our tolerance for unjustified ones. These days you can say no to an ingredient for health or religious reasons, but not because you just don't like the taste. That will be read as evidence of immaturity (which has always been the case), or xenophobia (if it's not 'no Brussels sprouts' but 'no Senegalese restaurants'). Pickiness is also interpreted making light of the many real dietary obstacles others must contend with.
Which is why I'm amused that/confused as to why the Styles article about dinner guests with justified qualms got the title, "The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner." These eaters do not see themselves as "picky."
Writes Jessica Bruder,
Though medical conditions like celiac disease and severe allergies have long relegated a small percentage of diners to rigid diets, more and more eaters outside this group appear to be experimenting with self-imposed limits, taking a do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose approach to restricting what they consume.True enough. The difficulty is that these eaters, too, will present their restrictions as medical necessity. We might roll our eyes, from the privacy of our own homes, when Gwyneth Paltrow announces that she's found some doctor to agree that she's "sensitive to dairy, gluten, wheat, corn and oats," thinking, how convenient it is for her red-carpet build that she can't digest carbs. But if she were your friend, your dinner guest, you'd have to take it seriously.
Bruder makes a number of good observations, in particular that it's no longer done to be on a diet. So petty-bourgeois. Instead, "many contemporary eating styles speak directly to values and virtues, aiming to affirm your ethos rather than nuking your love handles." A diet is selfish, as it's about your body, and if you're in no way medically overweight, your vanity. A principled stand against factory farms,* however, is a noble reason to refuse a cheeseburger, an ice cream sundae. It allows you to maintain the illusion that you're effortlessly thin, or that whichever efforts contribute to your physique only indirectly.
*Anticipated counterargument: but factory farms are bad, and veganism is the best way to avoid supporting them! Jonathan Safran Foer told me so! My counter-counterargument, which is actually just clarification: the point isn't that factory farms are good, but that some decide to take up this particular banner out of a desire to be thin in the way that only abandoning cheese (god forbid) allows. If your vegan is indifferent to all other animal-rights issues (leather, fur, animal rescue, etc.), but hypervigilant about a shred of Parmesan...