[author ]This article was contributed by Roula Marinos Papamihail, MA CHHC Founder of My Healthy Soma, a wellness consultant and health coach. She can be reached at www.myhealthysoma.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and appointments. www.myhealthysoma.com[/author]
Rewind a few years back –my husband and I were dating. I went to my then future mother-in-law’s house often and she offered food often. I usually refused. Being young, in love and oblivious to all other than my new found love, I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that I was saying no frequently to my mother-in-law’s offering. I refused constantly without a second thought. At that time, I was very particular with what I ate and the amount I ate; a precursor to my current health coaching business. After a few months and hundreds of “no’s” my future mother-in-law threw her hands up in the air one day and loudly yelled, “This girl never eats!” and walked off. At that moment, I realized how my constant refusing of food was not only frustrating her but was actually “eating away” at her!
Greek hospitality (i.e. food offering) is so ingrained within the Greek culture that the ancient Greeks had a name for it: xenia. While the concept of xenia included more than just the offering of food, as a guest, it was considered offensive to refuse this food from a host. Modern Greek culture has changed in many ways since then, but this ancient belief almost seems to continue to be pervasive among many, especially the older-generation Greeks. While more Americanized Greeks have been exposed to the prevalent belief system of “just say no” when it comes to food offered by a host in the Greek culture, this type of mentality can be interpreted as flat out rude by the host. It can even activate anxiety and defensive responses from the host, definitely not making for a pleasant visit.
As a guest saying no, you may initially shrug the whole interaction off and not think twice about it (like I used to) that is, if your host allows for it. Everyone has experienced the determined giagia (grandmother) or theia (aunt) or any other family member for that matter that offers us food in their home, and persists even after we politely refuse. As a result many guests end up feeling irritated, annoyed and sometimes flat out resentful to the point of avoidance due to this “badgering!”
So what’s a woman to do when she visits a loved one’s home and knows that she’ll be offered an offering that she might not want AND will be hounded if she refuses?
Read the suggestions listed below and enjoy your food!
- Offering hospitality (food) to guests equates to offering love and support for many hosts. While you might be viewing food as just nutrition and not comfort or anything else, the persistent host obviously views it as a lot more than that and as a guest I’ve come to the conclusion that this should be respected.
However, there are ways to graciously accept without deviating to far from your regular style of eating if the food offered is something you wouldn’t typically eat OR you don’t really want to eat.
- Chew slowly. Depending on how long you’ll be visiting, chewing slowly will allow you to leave food on your plate and not eat the whole thing. While this is not ideal (and may possible be perceived by your host as you not liking the food) you can just blame it on the fact that you’re a slow eater.
- Drink raw apple cider vinegar prior to visit. By drinking a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar diluted in about 6 ounces of water, prior to your visit, you’ll be setting up your gut (by raising hydrochloric acid in your stomach) so as to be able to fully assimilate and effectively digest the food you’ll be eating (if type of food served is the problem).
- Eat a small light breakfast or lunch or dinner, depending on the time of visit prior to visiting. This way you’re taking into account the additional calories that you’ll be consuming (if weight gain is your concern).
- Schedule in a work out for the day. Ideally work out prior to your visit. That way, your metabolism will be revved up and you’ll burn off the calories before they settle in your waist.
- Understand where they’re coming from and be ok with it. Remember, saying no to the food is like saying no to the love. Keeping this in mind will make you more empathic and allow you to be ok with succumbing.
- If you DO say no, explain why in detail. Your following a detox, diet or have a newly acquired food intolerance that “theia” just doesn’t get. “Gluten intolerance? What in the world is that?” as she places loukoumades (fried doughnuts drenched in honey) in front of you. If eating what is offered will truly put you in a bad spot both physically and or mentally, make sure to explain why in detail. There’s nothing worse than a gracious host wondering why you refused their food with negative thoughts predominating their mind the whole time you’re there!
Will I be offended a few years down the line when my sons bring home my future daughter-in-laws and they refuse my “offerings?” Probably not, but as I like to say, you never kseries (know). One thing I do know, though, is that everything I prepare in the kitchen today is made with love and offering food made with love is just one of the many ways that I express it.