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Family Meals - Respectful of Traditional Culture and Family while Respecting what I Consume


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What do I do when I eat at a family's house or a family get together? My wife's family is Filipino and you might be aware of the fact that food is very important in Filipino, especially, American-Filipino families. It's going to hazard a guess that about 90% of the food we usually have at these get-togethers, is not Whole30 compliant. Additionally, there are often multiple stages of feasting at a single get-together.

My goal here is not to be rude. I am from a different, more reserved culture and it is important to me to eat whatever they offer me as a sign of my willingness to engage in another, foreign culture.

I am certain they will impose food on me; they will make it difficult for me to pass on food. It doesn't help that I am male either: if I was female, they might be more understanding of dietary preference, but there's a stigma in our country that men can eat anything; to consciously avoid food is an action that lacks masculinity.

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  • 3 months later...


I think we all deal with this in some way or another, and I know you feel especially constricted by what you perceive as the cultural and gender expectations. My guess is, part of your problem right now is that you don't know them all that well yet. And if you have known them for a long time, it's time to start connecting about other things.

My family is PUSHY with food, and they get personally offended if I don't eat something I used to eat, and they hold onto it for multiple holidays, they keep bringing it up, they talk about me and my 'diet' all the time like it's the primary thing about me. But I realized that food is a superficial placeholder for the relationship. Because it's not about the food, actually. It's about me differentiating myself from them, which to them feels like a betrayal, and that's always been a part of my whole family dynamic. I moved away, I chose a different kind of life, etc. etc., and what they really want is for me to just be one of them, and act like I enjoy the whole thing for once in my life. If it's not one thing, it's something else. When they watch me eat, and say, "I thought you didn't eat dumplings!" I just say, "I thought you mighta found something better to obsess over." And they like that. They just want me to talk to them the way they talk, not reserved and separate.

So this isn't your nuclear family, and it's going to be hard to find the 'right' way to interact around food. But it's not really about the food. Go extra in other areas, spend as much time with them as possible, wash dishes with aunties, open up and be sincere, and communicate really well with your partner because you'll need her as your ally. You don't want to seem like you're unwilling to engage in their culture--what you need to do is talk to them. It will take time, and sometimes you won't eat as 'well' as you'd like to, and they'll think you're a very strange person, but they'll come around. And if they don't, you'll all have to put up with each other anyway.

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