DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm a U.S. diplomat who has developed several severe food intolerances in middle age. I've consulted with a gastroenterologist, and while these issues don't affect my health per se, they do severely limit what I can eat.
I developed these intolerances while posted to a European country where they were relatively common, so managing my diet was fairly easy. But now I'm facing an assignment to a country where I'll be extremely limited in my dietary choices, but my obligation to entertain and be entertained will remain.
Are there any rules or points of etiquette that can help me navigate this situation?
GENTLE READER: Why the stomach must be so involved in politics as well as diplomacy, Miss Manners has never understood. But so it is. Relishing the local cuisine is considered a crucial gauge of likability, if not of honor. Love me, love the peculiar-looking thing I call a delicacy.
But Miss Manners does not want to ruin your career. So she has written you a little speech to give when dining out, or when featuring the local dishes as a host, even though you cannot eat them.
"Do you know the hardest thing about this post?" you will ask (and keep asking, as this situation arises). "The food looks and smells so wonderful -- especially the (peculiar thing of the moment) -- but I have a painful condition that won't let me enjoy it. I've argued with my doctor, and he sympathizes, but absolutely forbids me even to taste it, no matter how tempted I am."
And so on. You get the idea; you are a diplomat.