Drawing of a rope tied loosely into a figure-8 knot

The Tie that Binds… or Breaks?


“Food, not blood, is then the tie that binds”

(Bakhtin, 1984, in Kifleysus, 2002:251)

gheidi (“gheidi” is a username) suffers from celiac disease and cannot eat anything that contains gluten (e.g. wheat, barley, etc.) without becoming quite ill. Here is gheidi’s story, as told by her on Christmas Day, 2007, on the http://www.glutenfreeforum.com [sic]:

I so understand what you are saying!!! My MIL has been living us for just about 14 weeks… (can’t wait for her to get her own place) and she just doesn’t get it. I had Christmas dinner and snacks all planned out.. and she went and ordered a bunch of stuff that I cannot even eat!!! and I have to figure out where to put it all!! She ordered some kind of meat wrapped in philo dough, a ton of pastries (looks way to dry to me anyway) cheese cackes.. scones, and I just don’t remember what else!! But needless to say I didn’t put any of her stuff out, and my husband supported me… because we had already planned what WE were serving at our house, and she just can’t over rule us!! She even opend on of the boxes of pastries in front of me and offered me some, and I said no thank you it will make me sick, she rolled her eyes, and said “oh I am sorry” I think she is secretly trying to poison me hee hee… JK!! (gheidi, 2007)

On the one hand, she has a supporting husband who took her side against his own mother on Christmas Day. On the other hand, I think the tone of her message conveys distress at the challenge of meeting her own health needs and avoiding days of illness during the holidays, while at the same trying to preserve peace with her mother-in-law (”MIL”).

I wonder what is happening with gheidi’s MIL? What messages is she conveying through her actions around the Christmas food? Does she have closely-held associations with certain foods that are symbolically important to her at Christmas? Does she really think that gheidi is making up her illness and symptoms? Perhaps scones are a way for her to feel “at home” when she hasn’t been “home” in months. There are lots of possibilities, and they aren’t all malicious. They may not even involve gheidi at all, even though to her they feel like an attack because of how important avoiding gluten is for gheidi’s health.

I wonder how gheidi’s husband feels in all of this? (Wow, tough spot, eh?)

I think I need to go and give my food-supporters an extra hug today. You know, they really are wonderful!



gheidi. (2007, December 25). Mom cooked wheat[Msg. 4]. Message posted to http://www.glutenfreeforum.com/index.php?showtopic=41651

Kifleyesus, A. (2002). “Muslims and meals: The social and symbolic function of foods in changing socio-economic environments.” Africa72(2), 2002, 245-276. Retrieved January 20, 2007, from EBSCOHost.

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