You Are What You Do Not Eat

Thanks to the chemo
killing off all of my calorie-consuming lymphocytes, I am now nearly two weeks into my (mostly) no-carbs diet.  I started eating eggs in such large quantities that I now have to purchase the 18-egg cartons as the conventional dozen-unit package only lasts a day or so.  I also have eaten more cottage cheese in the last 12 days than in the prior 12 years.  Ironically, this consumption of so much cottage cheese has reduced the presence of same in my thighs and midriff so on it will go. 

In addition to the weight loss, this diet has some other benefits.  It has reduced dramatically the time spent in the grocery store as I really only can purchase items from the meat or dairy sections, thereby eliminating approximately 85% of the store from the need to be perused.  Also, I have noticed a lot fewer crumbs around the house. 

But I do miss the carbohydrates.  It made me feel for the people I know who cannot eat gluten as I see how limiting this type of diet can be.  While empathizing with these individuals, I was struck by an oddity of language that I have noticed people who do not eat certain types of food routinely use.  And it is one of my biggest pet peeves.  What these people say that I find so annoying is that they are what they do not eat. 

To illustrate my point, I have heard repeatedly people with Celiac state that “I am gluten-free.”  You are gluten-free?  It could be true, after all, as I do not know that people are made up of much wheat.  But if you are free of gluten, is it not because, at least in part, you do not eat gluten? 

Another example is employed by my observant Jewish friends.  “I am kosher,” some of them like to say.  Really?  You mean you have a cloven hoof?  Or are you a fish with scales (but not a fish that has scales at some point in its life and then loses them later in life in which case you may or may not be kosher depending on which branch of the Tribe you belong to)?  If you drink a glass of milk are you still okay for my rabbi to eat?  Or does he have to wait six hours to sauté you?

Now I am no English major, as I am sure you have deduced by reading this far.  But I am pretty confident that this is taking some liberties with our language.  And why is it even necessary?  Is it that difficult to say “keep kosher” instead of “am kosher”?  It is the same number of words and only two more letters.  Or what about “I don’t eat gluten?” in lieu of “I am gluten-free.”  Admittedly this is more to say – it is one letter more, to be precise.  But you also can get rid of a hyphen and use an apostrophe, and I am sure that all of us non-English majors are much more comfortable with when to use an apostrophe than to hyphenate a word.  Its much easier to know when to use the former than the latter, right?

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