My first encounter with the delicate Canadian digestive system came many years ago, before I had set foot in Canada. I was in Istanbul, at some international workshop, with a bunch of Canadians. At the first collegial meal, partaken in the dining hall of the amazingly beautiful and stylish hotel we were staying, a Canadian lady got into a loud and incomprehensible argument with the waiter about the wheat in baclava. I shouldn`t say argument, as that would imply there was two sides, in fact, the lady was explaining loudly and angrily what the wheat would do to her digestive system, while the waiter, and other Middle-easterners including myself stared curiously and with little understanding, while the other First-Worlders rolled their eyes and smirked.
I dismissed that little incident as crazy-rich-North-American-person syndrome, little suspecting that in a few years, I would become intimately familiar with the digestive issues of many other Canadian colleagues, and their various sensitivities and food-intolerences would become imprinted indelibly in my brain.
‘Gabriela’ feels sick after eating gluten, but not always, and not in the right amount,so perhaps a tiny slice of cake would be fine. “Shania” couldn’t eat sugar. ‘Veronica’ would get terrible cramps after eating vegetables. ‘Daria’ would fart most loudly and terribly after eating dairy- no she never actually said that, but her stomach couldn’t deal with it. These are people, Gentle Reader, with whom I have no particular intimacy. However, after spending what now seems like half my life in Haligonian offices, I realised that where my colleagues in Iran used to talk obsessively and compulsively about beauty products and creams and things, here, the main focus of public, sociable interest is what you can and cannot eat. I admit I am biased- I prefer beauty regimens to dietary ones. I always thought certain matters should be kept private, and the details of what upsets your belly definitely counts among them.
And yet, I admit I am changing. As I become more integrated in Canadian society, I hear myself discussing whether my daughter and I have lactose intolerance, and whether the non-stop musical burping with which I entertain my family after a heavy supper may be the result of something I ate- or perhaps it is just stress? Who knows. But when in Rome, one does as the Romans do.