I was at a buffet recently and a Somali Muslim man was asking the staff what foods have pork in them. It started when he was looking at some marinated chicken and it was a little hard to tell what the meat was. The labels aren’t always right at that restaurant either, so it is better to ask. He finally was able to get a cook to come out and tell him what to avoid. Even going vegetarian isn’t safe if you can’t eat pork. This is the South. Vegetables are just a vehicle for pork here.
I was thinking about how hard it is for him to figure out what is OK for him to eat. There is a language barrier to deal with. There is the fact that he is in an area that isn’t always hip to other cultures. I wonder if he has the same problem I have when I’m trying to get something that doesn’t have peppers in it. I’m allergic to peppers, but no matter how I ask, I still get food with peppers in it. I’ve decided it is just flat out ignorance or indifference. The waiter just doesn’t know what is in all the dishes, or just doesn’t care. He doesn’t think to ask the chef because he doesn’t understand how serious the situation is. Nothing ruins a nice evening out like getting really sick.
If you are asking for religious reasons, do you feel the same way I do, or differently? I’m sad and frustrated when I keep getting served food with peppers even though I was assured it is pepper-free. Sometimes I pick out the offending bits. Sometimes I can’t pick the bits out because they are too small and I have to send the dish back. Sometimes I am just so tired of it all that I send it back anyway to show I’m not kidding.
There are no forbidden foods in mainline Christianity. You can eat anything you want, and many do, to the point that they get to meet their Maker sooner than they planned. So if you are in a predominately Christian area and you ask for no pork or no shellfish, and you get it anyway, do you take it personally? Do you see it as religious discrimination? Do you think they are attacking your faith?
If waiters are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that will make them sick or kill them, they are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that is religiously forbidden. It won’t kill you if you eat pork or shellfish. God won’t strike you down if you accidentally eat a forbidden food. It is the intentional consumption that is the problem. In an ideal world, waiters and chefs would take every food concern seriously. Until then, we have to either assume they are just clueless or we have to eat at home all the time.