Daughter-in-law imposes fanaticism on holiday feast

Dear Carolyn:

I am in an OOD (Obsessive Organic Disagreement) with my daughter-in-law and her husband — my son. Three families are coming to my house for the holiday. The OOD couple decided not to join us if everyone didn’t contribute dishes made from foods labeled “organic.”

The OOD couple have three preschool children. They buy only organic foods, and dine at cafes of all-organic grocery stores. Otherwise, they bring organic food and beverages for the children. Letting them bring their own organic-labeled foods for holidays hasn’t worked well. My daughter-in-law brought so many vegetables for a cookout that she monopolized the entire grill cooking them. They proceeded to eat dinner as we had just gained access to the grill.

I was brought up that if someone invited you for dinner, you ate what you liked of what was served. You didn’t order the hostess to prepare foods specific to your family nor did you bring your own dinner to the “dinner.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety hotlines say all food sold in grocery stores is safe to eat. Would it poison the OOD family to eat one holiday meal that was “regular” food?

— OOD Grandmother

Being right doesn’t do you much good if you’re answering the wrong questions.

Of course these kids could safely eat one “regular” meal, no hotline confirmation required, oh my goodness.

And yes, etiquette tilts heavily toward gracious acceptance of whatever hosts choose to serve, although allergies and other intolerances can politely factor in.

And, organic? Sure. Their prerogative, though it’s an imprecise business at best.

But this isn’t about food or manners. It’s about fanaticism.

Your daughter-in-law — she’s the driver here, I gather, while your son is the passenger? — is an extremist. Extremism is psychological, not dietary.

This is also more of a hostage situation than a menu challenge. Your access to your son and grandchildren lies behind that “OOD” gate, which your daughter-in-law controls, and your son buys into (again, I gather).

So, sure, you can fulminate eternally over impure coffee about your daughter-in-law’s food sanctimony, with full justification and no doubt ample validation from those other families, your friends, and people like me — but your son and grandkids won’t be there. And that’s the thing you want, isn’t it? Not winning, but companionship?

If it’s winning, then that would explain what your son sees in your daughter-in-law. Righteousness as emotional comfort zone.

But if you do want your son and grandkids there, then you need to stop trying to reason with — or, perhaps more aptly, harrumph your way to triumph over — the fanatic. You just need to meet her terms.

Obviously that’s not ideal. It feels like (vegetable-dyed-chemical-free-leather) bootlicking.

It’s merely an extreme version of what we all have to do, though, always, to interact with other people. You don’t choose what other people believe or stand for or request of us. Nor does the FDA or Emily Post. We can only choose from the options we’re given. In this case: Fight your daughter-in-law over food, or celebrate with your son and grandkids.

Rarely is the grovel barrier so low as just cooking organic food. Seriously. This potato versus that potato. I say do it and zip it — before she raises the bar.

— Washington Post Writers Group

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