It's Not Just Politics. Food Can Stir Holiday Conflict, Too : The Salt Lots of families fight over politics at the holiday table. But decisions about which foods to put on the table can also whip up stress and squabbles.
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It's Not Just Politics. Food Can Stir Holiday Conflict, Too

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It's Not Just Politics. Food Can Stir Holiday Conflict, Too

It's Not Just Politics. Food Can Stir Holiday Conflict, Too

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/564901919/565288754" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right. You know it's coming, the dinner table awkwardness.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, that moment when somebody makes a remark about politics and you realize their views are not the same as yours about who should govern the country or something else divisive, like religion.

MARTIN: Right. These things tend to come up at holiday gatherings. Thanksgiving is upon us. And as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, food itself can also be a source of tension.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: It used to be that most people ate what was served to them without too much fuss.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PORTLANDIA")

DANA MILLICAN: (As Dana) If you have any questions about the menu, please let me know.

CARRIE BROWNSTEIN: (As Nance) I guess I do have a question about the chicken...

AUBREY: This scene from "Portlandia" is supposed to be funny. But doesn't it feel a little familiar?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PORTLANDIA")

MILLICAN: (As Dana) The chicken is a heritage breed that's been fed a diet of sheep's milk, soy and hazelnuts.

FRED ARMISEN: (As Peter) Hazelnuts, these are local?

AUBREY: At a time when what we eat can be considered a political or philosophical act and experimentation with diets - everything from gluten-free to vegan to paleo - is on the rise, more people are choosier about what they put in their mouths.

SARAH CLARK: Whether it is preference or people adhering to a special diet, it certainly does seem to be more common today.

AUBREY: That's Sarah Clark of the University of Michigan. She wondered how this influences family dynamics. So she surveyed a bunch of parents with teenagers. And she found lots of families, about 1 in 5, have someone on a special diet. And it turns out, this can be a recipe for whipping up stress.

CLARK: And about half of our families said that conflicts about food at holiday and family gatherings was a challenge for their family.

AUBREY: For instance, what do you do when a teenager who is vegan would like a turkey-free Thanksgiving?

CLARK: Or teen on a gluten-free diet says no to Aunt Betsy's special macaroni and cheese that she makes every year and is her shining contribution to the family dinner.

AUBREY: Instead of letting this cause hurt feelings or embarrassment, Clark says defuse the tension before the holiday.

CLARK: If you're the host, there are a couple of ways that you can really be supportive and accommodating.

AUBREY: To the teenager who doesn't want a turkey, strike a compromise. They don't get to veto the traditional bird. But by all means, invite them to bring a vegetarian alternative - same for the glutinous mac and cheese. Now, this may seem obvious, but from personal experience, we do tend to dig in with our loved ones and create conflict over little things.

CLARK: You know, we all might be better served by lightening up on this one.

AUBREY: Rather than being annoyed with a picky teenager, see it as a sign of growing up.

CLARK: For teenagers, food can represent their emerging independent identity.

AUBREY: So let them be who they want to be. And everyone in the family could try to be a little more flexible. The important thing is just being together. Right?

Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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