There are so many diets being followed around here: vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, specific carbohydrate diet, lactose free, gluten free, paleo, organic only, local only, any combination of these, level five vegan, of course, and countless others, I'm sure. There's just so much conscientiousness going on.
I know, I know, I take a tongue-in-cheek tone, but it's only because I feel firmly rooted in both sides of this strangely divisive line in the sand. It seems with diets you're either in or you're out. I offer my ramblings, but please, take them with as little or as much consideration as you'd like.
First, I'd like to applaud everyone who has made a choice to be careful about the food they eat. It's important for so many reasons and I'd never hope to undermine your good work. For some, diet choices are a life and death issue, for others they may be a deeply important preference, and for still others they may be a way of creating sanity in an insane food environment. Rock on everyone.
I, as a member of this awesome club, however, will take a self-depricating tone when I offer to others not of my particular dietary persuasion that I can be rather persnickety about my food. Only, I'm extra persnickety compared to your average conscientivore because I'm (seemingly) constantly changing my mind about what's in and what's out. Also, I never seem to neatly fit a category and sometimes instead offer up "vegetarian" or "vegan" as a shorthand explanation to confused, curious and well-meaning folks.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but people want to know what we persnickety eaters eat because people like to share food. It's one of the most important ways that people connect with each other. So it behooves me and folks in my situation to a) try to make our preferences understood, when asked, and b) try to see beyond the facts about the food and focus instead on the symbolism of the shared food--awesomely, it usually means "I like you."
So, with that in mind, a few years ago, and as an irreverent vegan anyway (I was vegan except for In-N-Out Burger on road trips) I developed what I later termed "the hospitality clause," whereby I would accept and happily enjoy any home cooked meals offered to me regardless of their content. It really came out of a need for the terms of my diet to be more flexible. During my vegan days, I needed some way to be vegan and still enjoy my mom's food. It was important to both of us.
I call it the hospitality clause because often the terms we use to define our diets feel like a contract that we make with the world--if I say that I'm vegan, then everyone around me expects that of me and holds me to it. The hospitality clause is an addendum to this contract that lets me eat anything that a well-meaning host graciously offers. It preserves my ability to say to the offerer, "I like you too."