Adventures with Ham-Fried Rice and Respect for Others

My CEO wanted to have lunch with each project manager on the team, so I planned out our lunch appointment carefully. I outlined two successes that my team had experienced and two things I thought our team could be doing better. I even thought carefully about what to order at lunch since my CEO had chosen an Asian restaurant close by, and my CEO is Jewish. I usually ordered the pad thai at that restaurant, but I thought it might be disrespectful to eat pad thai with shellfish included. So I had planned ahead to eat the tangerine chicken instead.

What I didn’t count on was that I’d have to choose sides that weren’t offered with my usual order, and choosing rice proved to be a little sticky. “White, brown, or ham-fried?” the server asked me. Without even thinking, I said, “ham-fried.” Then it hit. Seriously? I couldn’t believe myself. I knew enough to plan out nearly everything, but then in a moment of being off-guard, I go ahead and order pork in my rice.

It turned out fine. My boss is not really judgmental of what we Gentiles choose to put in our bodies. And, it’s not the last time I ate something that went against someone else’s food ethic. Yesterday I went out to eat with one of my vegetarian friends, and I ordered a turkey avocado sandwich. She ordered a butter-cream chocolate Halloween brownie for dessert, and I’m on a diet, so I called it even.

But I do worry about this issue sometimes. I think about whether or not I am I giving offense when I order an entre with meat when eating with vegetarians. It’s because I’m the kind of person who is torn by not wanting to give offense but also has a hard time being anybody but herself (see well-intentioned ham-fried rice accident above). I personally am a picky eater, and I don’t really care for eggplant or pasta or tofu or a variety of veggie options, which is why I am not a vegetarian. Nine times out of ten or even more, I would never choose to order what a vegetarian has ordered. My favorite food to order is filet mignon wrapped in bacon.

The plus side is that I don’t easily get offended either. I entertain clients quite a bit, and so I am used to paying for wine, coffee, or other beverages that I don’t drink. In fact, I have to select and buy coffee quite often when preparing for client visits. I wouldn’t want my clients to feel like they had to ask my permission to consume these things in my presence. I know most people drink coffee, so it’s not news to me that my clients probably drink it too.

So while I personally wouldn’t ask someone to change these behaviors or habits around me, I have heard of other LDS folks doing so. We had a neighbor who belonged to another Christian church who liked to mow his lawn on Sunday. The LDS neighbors asked him not to, telling him that the sound of the mower interfered with their ability to enjoy a quiet Sabbath at home. The neighbor obliged. In seminary, we were taught to ask others not to use the Lord’s name in vain. And I know that often when a friend of mine has left or gone “less active” in the Church, their family members will tell them what they can or cannot do around them (drink coffee at a restaurant, mention another church they attend, hold hands with their same-sex partner, etc.).

I certainly think there’s a part of charity that does not deliberately seek out contention. I also do not usually like to make people uncomfortable “for their own good.” I don’t like to agitate “just because.” However, Christ certainly made people feel uncomfortable, particularly the hypocritical and those who preyed on the disenfranchised and outcast. I have been an instructor at the college level for eight years, and I believe that education requires a little bit of discomfort, so any great teacher will automatically agitate a little with a purpose in mind. Where I draw the line is how and when I bring these issues up. If students sign up for my class, I believe they want to be challenged and learn. Similarly, when people come to a feminist Mormon blog like the Exponent, I believe that they want to be exposed to ideas about Mormon feminism.

So I guess what I am admitting to is that we all have our limits to what we allow in ourselves and what we allow others with whom we share parts of our lives.

What I would like to hear from you is, Where do you draw the line in your own life? How far do you moderate your behavior to match the code, practice, or beliefs of the people around you? How much do you expect people to change their behavior based on your personal beliefs in return?


Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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15 Responses

  1. MJK says:

    I have rarely come across people who have theological or philosophical dietary restrictions who are harsh on others who do not make their choices. I say nothing when people drink alcohol in front of me. My vegan friends host barbeques at their houses as long as we carnivores bring our own meat products. My Jewish friends only ask that the foods at pot lucks which are kosher are labeled as such so they know what’s good to eat.

    For some reason the only people I’m having issues with are my friends on the Paleo diet who won’t shut the hell up about how the rest of us are “poisoning our bodies” with sugar. But misery loves company; I try not to get into Word of Wisdom arguments with them.

  2. Diane says:

    When I am hosting a dinner at my host, I really don’t put limits on anything I serve. I figure if I plan my menu accordingly hopefully, I will have enough of a variety of food that people can pick and choose for themselves. On the other-hand, if I am serving a dinner for one or two, I will ask if there are certain things that people are absolutely allergic to. In addition, I have a few friends that are vegetarians so, if I invite them, I either accommodate them by making something they can eat and enjoy, otherwise I order pizza, and call it a day. In an effort to expand my cooking skills I have been attending classes on vegetarian cooking, last weekend we made an Asian slaw, which was great, and I said I thought it would be great on an Asian style burger, No one was offended.

  3. EM says:

    If something is truly offensive to me, such as foul language or dirty/racial jokes, then I will speak up, otherwise it’s not worth it. Everyone is entitled to eat, say or do whatever as long as it doesn’t infringe on my sensibilities. Having said that, if it’s a family member, then I speak up, but not in an accusatory way. I think there should be some limits as to what people say and do – it’s just plain manners for the most part.

  4. I think there’s a big difference between quietly (and privately) asking someone to change a potentially offensive or annoying behaviors and directly telling others that they must conform to your behaviors if they want to breathe the same air as you.

    Those I know of with dietary restrictions don’t tend to even care what others around them are having. It’s part of being in a culture that is not your own. They aren’t looking at what you have and wishing they could have it too any more than you’re gazing longingly at their glass of wine and wishing you could have just a sip.

  5. Miri says:

    It can be hard to find, but there is definitely a line between asking for respect and trying to make others behave the way you think they should. I think it’s probably something that has to be decided individually, according to specific situations.

    I like Frank’s comment. If swearing bothers you, I think asking friends or co-workers to refrain around you (respectfully and quietly) is okay; language is communication, and communication should be respectful of everyone who is participating.

    I think it’s mostly obnoxious to ask your neighbor not to mow their lawn on Sunday, or a family member to not drink coffee or do any of those other things you mentioned. Those are strictly personal behaviors that are not anyone else’s business.

    It’s important to be kind if you’re on the other end, too, and you know that your behavior bothers your family members–after all, no one has the right to tell them that they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean they have the right to control your behavior.

    • Diane says:


      I think your on the right track. I was thinking about this when I was walking my dog this afternoon. As you stated no one has the right to control your behavior. I believe in our exchange with others we need to be careful that we don’t say things like,”Your being weak minded if you let such and such bother you.” To me this comes across as bullying. I am not making this an issue of bullying, but, to me this is exactly how it starts, And it doesn’t even have to be a loud exchange, it can be subtle thing that’s occurs over time.

  6. Jessawhy says:

    This discussion becomes more complicated within marriage.
    I have a friend who is less-active than her husband and she is a social drinker and her husband isn’t comfortable with that.
    She tells me that he is upset with her for drinking in a way that he wouldn’t be upset with a friend, because she’s made a different choice regarding the Word of Wisdom than he has.
    I’m not sure what to tell her because it’s a tricky situation, one that’s complicated by a host of belief issues.

    • spunky says:

      That is a hard one. My ex was a social drinker and I was not. I disliked his more-than-1 drink nights; but it wasn’t about the WoW, it was about me: I didn’t like being the designated driver for him (and others who found I wasn’t drinking so assumed I wanted to drive them home as well) and I found the conversation with him was limited when he was drinking. So for me, going out with him when he was drinking was a dull night where I felt like the parent sitting in the corner just waiting to take everyone home.

      In similar situations with friends, I felt like I had more control over who I spent time with, and could leave the conversation or situation if it was uninteresting to me. It is a lot harder to make an exit like that when you are in a relationship. So, it could have less to do with the consumption of alcohol and more to do with the non-drinker (or drinker) really just being lonely in a crowd.

  7. spunky says:

    This is interesting. I guess DH and just go with the flow. That is to say, in our home, we ask people not to smoke (they can go outside) and we don’t have binge drinking parties. We occassionally will serve wine with a meal, if the guests are drinkers, but if not, we don’t. If people ask to bring something, we generally ask them to bring drinks that they would enjoy. If we have dinner at an LDS person’s home, we usually bring drinks that comply with our dietary needs, same as when we go to a non-LDS home. We have some Muslim friends, so I am familiar with where to purchase halal meats, or go vegitarian when we have them for dinner. I don’t think people are generally bothered at other’s choices at a resturant, I think it is more of an issue when you host that you want to ensure that everyone is comfortable.

    • Quimby says:

      We’re the same – largely because the only people we have over for dinner regularly, who are wine drinkers, are very picky about their wine, and I’m an idiot when it comes to selecting wine, so it’s just easier to say, “This is what we’re serving, these are the drinks we’ll have on-hand, if you want something else feel free to bring it.”

      My Muslim BIL got offended when we ate non-halal food in front of him – but he also got offended when we tried to make halal food for him – there’s just no pleasing some people, so we please ourselves and don’t have anything to do with him anymore. He’s a weird one anyway; he thinks the CIA planted termites in his house as part of some global plot to destroy the property of Muslims everywhere; so life is easier if we just give him a wide berth.

  8. alex w. says:

    I have a lot of acquaintances who are either on the Paleo diet or are vegetarians (I know, right?) and I’m often concerned about what I’d do if I had them over for dinner, but so far they all seem to be really laid-back and friendly about the whole thing, so if I have people over for dinner or whatever, I think they’d be fairly understanding and helpful. What a relief!

    Now that I think more about it, everyone I’ve had meals with since moving to Ohio has asked my husband and I if we have any dietary restrictions. I think you get used to that when the local crowd is such a mixed group, food-wise.

    Personally, I’ve never really cared about what people eat around me, as long as it’s not something utterly frightening. 😉

    When it comes to smoking, I either excuse myself or stand in a non-downwind position because I have awful asthma. Luckily, pretty much every smoker I’ve come in contact with only smokes outside. I worry about this more than any other social setting because I really don’t want to say “Hey you’re giving me serious problems here” because smokers get a lot of flak from society as it is. So I just quietly re-position, or address my health problems if/when offered any.

    • stacer says:

      Honestly, I think smokers deserve to get a lot of flack from society. Most of the smokers I’ve met really don’t care whether they’re giving their neighbor an asthma attack (most recent example, the guy in my building who didn’t want to go out in the rain yesterday, so he smoked in the doorway, which is both illegal and filled the whole hall in front of the elevator with smoke, making it impossible for me to be in that hallway the rest of the day; between the rain and the smoke I had several asthma attacks the rest of the day).

      But I admit I have a personal grudge when it comes to liking breathing. It took me literally stopping breathing for my parents to take my requests for them to stop smoking around them seriously enough to take me to the doctor; even then they didn’t stop breathing because the medicine was supposed to “take care of it.” No, it just meant that now in my adult life I’m on the strongest steroids possible, have a messed-up thyroid, and still have regular serious asthma attacks just walking down the street in New York.

      But when it comes to food: who cares what I eat in the presence of my Jewish friends who keep Kosher? (not all do) They certainly don’t, and I’m not going to be offended if they drink coffee. The only time this matters is when my Orthodox friend is part of the group when we go to eat out (we need to make sure we go to a place that’s strictly Kosher) or when I’m hosting and wanting ensure my vegetarian friends have something to eat and/or my friends with food allergies don’t die. In the case of the latter, it’s always a good idea not to eat at Five Guys with my friend who has the peanut allergy. It’s just common sense.

      • stacer says:

        Ugh. Typos galore; it’s been one of those days. My parents didn’t stop breathing. They also didn’t stop smoking. Around me, not them.

    • Miri says:

      I kind of agree with stacer about smokers, although I wouldn’t give them flak about it. But I think it should be understood that you just never smoke around non-smokers, and if that means you have to leave for a while, then that’s that. This isn’t a matter of courtesy, like not swearing or drinking–smoking hurts everyone who breathes it, and it’s not okay to inflict that on people who didn’t make that choice themselves. And while I wouldn’t give them flak about it, I would also not hesitate to ask them to move somewhere else (depending on the circumstances, of course. If it were only the two of us, or if I was outnumbered by the smokers, I’d be just as likely to move myself).

  9. Kristin says:

    Ordering food and drink at a restaurant and serving food and drink within your home are much different things. I don’t think there is a concern about eating (or drinking) something at a restaurant that might offend another, or vice versa, as long as there is choice for all parties.

    However, a home is different. My friends who drink know that no alcohol will be served in my home. We might have to drive to town if they want a cup of coffee in the morning. I express this is about respect I have for my family in observing the WofW in our home.

    There is also a big difference between expressing discomfort and trying to control someone’s behavior. If someone’s language offends you it is possible to respectfully and privately let him or her know that you want to hear what they have to say, but you feel uncomfortable with profanity or hearing the Lord’s name in vain.

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