Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Potluck and politics

Minding Your MV P's & Q's: Potluck and politics

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole,

What’s the best way to deal with someone you feel you are totally simpatico with and then suddenly realize that you’re on opposite sides of a significant issue that’s about to come up at the Annual Town Meeting?

Confidentially yours,

Tisbury

Dear Tisbury:

Vive La Difference, I say! During the actual Town Meeting, it’s no holds barred. I hope your values mean more to you than not ruffling someone else’s opinion of you. If they’re a good Yankee, they’ll respect you for sticking to your guns even if they disagree with you. If they’re not a good Yankee, who cares what they think?

That said… If you’re on opposite sides of an issue that is fraught with tension, I’d play it close to the vest ahead of time, especially if they’re a good friend you’re not used to disagreeing with them. Unless you want to get into either a cold war or a heated debate, there’s not much sense in alerting them of the approaching political estrangement.

You might get lucky with tunnel-vision.  Some people are so tunnel-visioned, they won’t even realize you’re on different sides. In which case, don’t worry about it. A few years back, a friend of mine made it clear she was voting against an article that I myself was going to vote in favor of. She was so invested in defeating the article that it never occurred to her that anyone – at all, ever – would vote for it. When I cautiously voiced my dissenting opinion, this friend responded as if I were play-acting devil’s advocate unnecessarily, and dismissed my objection as if I obviously didn’t really believe it myself – how could I, when it implied something other than X? At the Meeting, she saw me voting the opposite of her, which worried me… but afterwards, she really seemed to believe that I had misunderstood the issue, or the wording of the article. To this day, she thinks I agree with her position but was too stupid to understand how to vote the right way.

I’ve decided I’m okay with that. It takes less energy than trying to engage in political debate with somebody who has no interest in hearing another point of view.

That’s my take.

Nicole

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Dear Nicole,

I am gluten-free and have been invited to a potluck. Is it okay for me to ask the organizer of the party to request that people don’t use wheat in their recipes?

Confidentially yours,

Wheat-free in West Tisbury

Dear Wheat-free:

Ummm… no. The point of a potluck is that it’s a potluck – what’s available to eat (in the pot) is a matter of chance (luck). Maybe your luck is that you get to eat what you brought, and nothing else. But probably not: there are plenty of naturally gluten-free dishes that are likely to make an appearance. Especially on Martha’s Vineyard in the 21st century. If you were allergic to kale, then you might be in trouble, but gluten is definitely the nourishment non grata here these days.

It would be fine to ask people to place a card beside their contribution with all of the ingredients used in the dish. (This is pretty common at big community pot lucks already.) If it’s a small gathering, where you know everyone personally, feel free to send out an email letting people know you have a gluten sensitivity, in case they are vacillating between, say, pasta casserole or kale casserole.

Also, if it’s an actual dinner party, where the host is cooking all the food just for you and a few select others, it’s important that you do speak up about gluten or other food allergies. Otherwise, someone will spend hours meticulously preparing their signature dish, only to have you, their guest, either decline to eat it or get ill from it afterwards. This will dismay them, and discourage them from inviting you to dinner again. Word will spread of your declining to eat/getting sick. Soon you will have no dinner options available to you except for potlucks. Which is actually fine as long as you’re really into kale.

That’s my take.

Nicole