I am taking a departure from my usual Tuesday Tasty Tip to make you aware of a travesty that not only continues to pervade our culture, but is published in a Reader’s Digest web article.
The first three words in the Reader’s Digest article, “13 Ways to Deal with Food Temptation,” are, “Let’s be Honest.” Too bad Meaghan Cameron of Reader’s Digest who wrote “New Ways to Just Say No to Dessert” lacked the integrity to encourage her readers to do likewise and encourage those trying to lose weight to simply have the spine to say, “No thank you, I am trying to lose weight.” Instead, she irresponsibly encouraged her readers to “shut people up” lying and claiming to have a disease or allergy.
Yesterday, I was flying home from Denver returning from the 2010 United States Personal Chef Conference where I had the distinct honor and privilege of teaching my peers how to meet the needs of the Gluten-free communities of Celiac and Autism. My wife Debbie brought to my attention the distressing comments Cameron wrote in her article.
Here is the exact text from the article that flames my hide:
“What’s a diet devotee to do when breath mints, gum, polite refusal, cleaning products and excessive condiments fail? Echlin hints at this at the end of her column when she says that the best desserts should be eaten. Why attend a dinner party if you don’t plan on eating what’s served? That said, “a host will understand if the dieter has just had triple bypass surgery or is suffering from gestational diabetes.” The final way fervent dieters haven’t tried is a simple way to shut people up: Chalk it up to an allergy or condition. Gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, allergies, lactose intolerance and diabetes will get you out of eating just about any dessert.”
I have several struggles with this type of irresponsible small-minded journalism and Cameron’s senselessness, specifically regarding Celiac Disease; some of these are:
1.) Cameron’s insensitivity trivializes the seriousness of Celiac disease, as well as others. This is an insult to all those struggling daily to MANAGE, NOT CURE, their disease. My wife was incredulous, angry and hurt as are many others afflicted with life-long Celiac Disease (as well as others).
2.) She created unnecessary confusion. Celiac awareness and understanding is thankfully increasing in the United Sates. Foods manufacturers, restaurants and schools are starting to realize up to 40% of the US population is intolerant, allergic or sensitive to gluten, wheat or both. Comments like Cameron’s not only trivialize Celiac Disease but also add to the misunderstandings and confusion that exist, not to mention they demonstration Cameron’s thoughtless foolishness.
3.) Cameron did not do her homework, as every journalist should. Cameron’s ignorance demonstrates her obvious lack of understanding difference between a diet and a life-style. Gluten-free it is an extremely challenging way of life not just a diet. The only way to manage this disease is dramatically changing one’s life style. This not only includes modifying one’s diet, but changing how they live, dine, travel, and socialize. There is no magic pill for Celiac Disease. The disease is managed entirely by the patient’s tough choices and continual search for safe food.
4.) Again, Cameron did not do her homework, as a journalist should. This simply demonstrates a lack of respect for the reader – her customer, and Reader’s Digest Association – her benefactor. She obviously underestimates the value and intelligence of her readers, not to mention she created a black spot on the good reputation Reader’s Digest that has worked hard to build over the decades.
5.) How about the simple truth? Why doesn’t Cameron simply recommend telling the truth? This is a reflection of how Cameron probably addresses challenges in her life. If something as small as turning down a dessert is something Cameron would recommend lying about, then how does she handle the big interpersonal challenges in her life. She should seriously consider finding a new carrier because her readers cannot or should not trust what she says in her writing.
6.) Obviously unknowingly, Cameron also insults those of us who take entertaining seriously. What responsible adult would possibly think less of anyone who turns down a dessert because they are trying to lose weight or don’t like something, not to mention those with legitimate food allergies. As a chef, I take tremendous pride in serving great culinary delights to my clients, guests, customers and wife with Celiac Disease. The fact of the matter is at some time everyone does not each something for some reason, no matter how good it is prepared or presented. It is simply not personal. If someone turns down your dish; it is simply a preference or need, and there is nothing a host or chef and do to change it except offer something else, or graciously accept “No” for an answer. If a host is upset or “put-out” because you do not like or cannot eat their food, it is their problem. Oh well. Next.
The Gluten-free life-style (as well as many others) has many challenges, one of the greatest of which is dealing with small-minded people like Cameron who lack the sensitivity to appreciate other’s struggles. Next she’ll casually dismiss those afflicted with epilepsy, cancer, autism, MS and other things she knows little about with respected to the afflicted individual’s perspective. Cameron, how about some sensitivity training?
As of August 2, Reader’s Digest was wise enough to pull the article from their web site, thanks to the outcry of us who find Cameron’s ramblings offensive. However, I think it is still prudent to let the officers of Reader’s Digest Association know you have higher expectations of their editors and writers and expect a published apology for such irresponsible insensitivity. I truly believe Reader’s Digest Association leadership would want to know your heartfelt thoughts so that they could have the opportunity to correct their problem and institute some form of corrective action to protect their publication. Please make your comments in a professional manner so your message “gets through.” You may write to the following addresses.
Thomas O. Ryder
Readers Digest Road
Pleasantville, New York 10570
1 914 238-1000
Eric W. Schrier
President & Chief Executive
Readers Digest Road
Pleasantville, New York 10570
1 914 238-1000
Thank you for your time.
David Hall, CGC
Thyme for a Chef