coworker’s food restrictions are restricting me, someone told my boss I’m job hunting, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker’s food restrictions mean that I’ll be the one restricted

My company is based mainly in two cities. Every so often, we all meet up in one city or another and go out to eat, paid for by the company. It’s usually a really nice evening, and viewed as a real treat. We’ve always had to be a little careful where we book, because a couple of employees need gluten-free food. But both cities have fantastic restaurants with lots of options — not the kind of places with 30 different menu options and only one gluten-free. So it’s never been much of an issue.

Now we have a new employee who has particular religious dietary requirements. He offered to do the research to find a restaurant which would suit everyone in his city. Great, I thought. Except the only restaurants which he claims will work are ones which serve curry. Curry is — literally — the only thing I cannot eat. I’ve tried so many times, and been sick so many times, that now I can barely tolerate the smell.

His response was, “Well, there will be a non-curry option for you.” Yes, there will. But in most places, it’s plain, dull, uninteresting food. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips. I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat.

I feel as though I’m being penalized for someone else’s needs — that something I previously enjoyed is essentially being taken away. Frankly, I’d rather not attend at all as I feel that I’m being made into the exception when my own needs should be the easiest of all to meet. It’s literally one dish I need to avoid.

The other employee won’t accept my looking for an alternative restaurant, as he says I don’t know enough about his needs to find one. Is there any way at all to push back on this?

If this is more than preference for you, and the smell of the restaurant will actually make you sick, that needs to be accommodated. It doesn’t make sense to put him in charge of picking a place that meets everyone’s needs if he’s not in fact willing to do that.

But if this is just an issue of preference — you can eat there but you’d prefer somewhere with food you like better — and if it’s really true that he can’t eat anywhere else in the city, then this is just part of the deal with business meals; sometimes you’re going to be stuck with food you’re not thrilled about. I know that sucks when the food has previously been a big part of the appeal, but if he truly can’t eat anywhere else, it’s more important that he be included than that the food be awesome. Unfortunately, because he’s refusing to share information about his needs, he’s making it impossible for you to suggest other options, and that’s not reasonable.

If you haven’t already, I’d first take a look at the menu at the place he picked to make sure you’re right that it’s not somewhere you could happily eat. But if that is indeed the case, it’s reasonable to say, “Unfortunately that restaurant would be difficult for me, so can we discuss other options?”

But if he refuses to share information about what would make a restaurant work for him, it’s worth talking to whoever organizes these evenings about what other options there might be. In the end, it might turn out that this is it — but since it does impact other people, he should be willing to have a dialogue about it.

2. I think a former coworker told my boss about my job hunt

I have been in my current job for almost three years. Overall, I’m relatively happy, but have been told my ability to move up in my area of the organization may be limited. LinkedIn sends job postings out occasionally, and I’ve had a few friends/colleagues reach out about possible opportunities. Even though I’m happy, I don’t want to turn down a potential opportunity just because I’m content. I always want to be my best self and go after opportunities!

Here’s the drag: I was just called into our director’s office. He said someone reached out to him to let him know I was job searching. He was friendly about it and wanted to ensure if I had a problem, I brought it to his (or my boss’s) attention so it could be fixed. He also said he wouldn’t mention it to anyone. I explained what I did above about why I applied. I also plan on talking to my boss and boss’s boss in case they are contacted as well.

With my most recent application, I reached out to two former colleagues who are now at that organization. It’s likely one of them reached out to the director. Is it normal/acceptable for former coworkers to reach out to an employer to let others know that a current employee is job searching? And can/should I contact the employees I suspect reached out? (I know the answer here is probably no, but want your thoughts).

No, it’s not normal or okay for people to tell someone’s employer that they’re job searching, especially outside the context of a reference check (where they’ve hopefully gotten permission first). In fact, that’s really horrible, because in some cases it can jeopardize the person’s job. Generally it’s understood that job applications will be handled with discretion for that reason.

I actually think you could contact the two former colleagues who you think might have done this. You could say something like, “Soon after i contacted you, Gavin told me he’d been informed that I’m job searching, which obviously wasn’t something I was ready to share. I’m trying to figure out how that might have reached him, and I wonder if you happened to have mentioned it to him. If you did, knowing that would put my mind at ease since I won’t need to wonder how else he might have heard that, so I’d be grateful if you could let me know.” The culprit may not admit it, but you’ll at least be politely conveying “this wasn’t okay.” (And really, it’s so not okay that you don’t really need to be polite about it — but since you don’t know who did it, you don’t want to go in with guns blazing and accuse the wrong person.) And if someone does fess up, at that point you can say, “I’m really dismayed that you did that. That was confidential information that I wasn’t ready to share, and passing it along could have jeopardized my job here.”

3. My boss has a private Facebook group with only some of the people on my team

I started on a new team a few months ago. I’ve had some trouble fitting in with the new group, with a certain subset being especially close. My manager is one of this group. I understand that managers get to have friends, but I also recently learned that this group has a private Facebook message group. One of the members told me about it, and I have seen the members use it during meetings and group interviews.

I’ve never actually read the messages, but I suspect it isn’t merely social. I know they recently messaged each other about an internal-only job posting. The job, which I also applied to, went to the member of the group messaging chat. The manager who is also in the chat was on the hiring committee. We don’t have hugely different qualifications, so I can’t help but wonder to what degree their personal relationship played into the decision.

It makes me uncomfortable that my manager has such close friendships with half his direct reports since he is responsible for doling out responsibilities. How do I know his personal relationships aren’t impacting his decisions and that I’m not suffering because I’m not part of the in-group? Is this something I need to get over, or am I justifiably uneasy? I know I’m being a little paranoid, but it’s driving a little nuts to see them messaging during meetings and work functions and then walking out the door together for lunches and happy hours. Do I invite myself to their social events, or just let this go?

Your manager is being unprofessional and is prioritizing social relationships over his obligations as a manager. It’s entirely understandable that you wonder if he’s favoring the employees he’s friends with and whether it could have impacted who got the job you applied for. That’s one of a number of reasons why managers aren’t supposed to have this sort of relationship with people they manage. It’s very, very difficult to manage people impartially when you have social relationships with some of them, and it’s even harder to have people believe you’re impartial, regardless of whether you really are.

You could indeed try inviting yourself to some of their lunches and happy hours and see what comes of that. You could also raise it if there’s ever an opportunity for you to give feedback about your manager (either one that’s offered to you or one that you create more proactively). But ultimately, your manager sucks and has created a crappy situation for you and others on your team.

4. My boss calls me “Missy”

I just started a new job. I am a woman and I have a female boss. My name is Michelle. When speaking to me, my boss will say things like, “Hey Missy, what do have going on today?” or “Hey, Missy, do you have enough work?” I find this term very derogatory and it makes me feel inferior. What is your take on it?

It sounds like she’s using “Missy” as a nickname for Michelle, rather than as a derogatory term. But even if she’s not, you can pretend she is and just ask her not to: “Would you mind calling me Michelle? I’ve never used Missy as a nickname and prefer not to.” That may put an end to it, but if it continues: “I really don’t like Missy. Please call me Michelle.”

5. How do I tell my boss I need to stick to my part-time schedule?

I’m working my first retail job at a small business, where I am also a new employee. I applied for (and got) what was supposed to be a part-time position – I have a lot of personal things going on right now that need my attention so I don’t have the time for a full-time schedule. At first my schedule was fine. There was some variation in my hours, but it was never less than 15 or more than 26, which seemed like a reasonable schedule to me. It gave me a good work-life balance and also made the physical demands of the job more manageable.

However, for the past few weeks I have been scheduled for well over 30 hours each week. I think this is partly because the owners were away during that time and partly because there aren’t all that many of us available to work right now (my manager, who is not the boss-person who makes the schedules, claims that we’re not short-handed … but we ARE looking for more help and our current state of “not short-handed” seems to be dependent on things like me working a near-full-time schedule). I don’t want to be a difficult employee, but this is not a schedule I can maintain for more than another week or two, and even that would be difficult, so I want to talk to my boss about bringing my hours back down to under 30 a week. How can I approach this conversation? I want to be polite, and also make it clear that I can work longer schedules occasionally (e.g., I can help out if someone needs a sick day and I’m otherwise available), but I can’t manage this as my regularly weekly thing.

This is a completely normal and okay thing for you to say! In fact, if you don’t, your lack of push-back is likely to be taken as you being fine with it, so it’s in everyone’s interests for you to speak up and explain what will and won’t work so that everyone is on the same page.

You can just say something like, “When I was hired, we agreed I’d work part-time, and I want to make sure you know that’s really all I’m available to do on a regular basis. I was able to help out by working extra hours for a few weeks when you needed me to, but I can’t to that for more than a week or two longer. Can we get my hours back down to where they were before, somewhere in the 15-26-hour range?” And then once that’s worked out, you can add, “If there’s a time where you really need someone to take some extra hours temporarily, I can do it on occasion — just not as the norm.”

One caveat though — did you ever discuss what “part-time” would mean? Some business consider 32 hours a week to be part-time, and it’s possible that yours always intended to schedule you for around that amount. So the meaning of “part-time” was never explicitly discussed, it’s worth hashing that out now.

{ 1,114 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The comments on this one are a mess. I’m intervening where I see problems, but I’m sure I’m not seeing everything. Please read the site rules and follow them.

    If you are unkind, hostile, or generally obnoxious, your comments may be removed (without warning, since I’m sick and don’t have a ton of energy to spend on warnings right now).

  2. OfficeLife*

    #1 – Ooh, that’s frustrating. I suspect you will get some support on this, because I doubt everyone else wants to go out to the same food every time either! I’m not terribly familiar with religious eating, but it does seem there has to be somewhere else that would work… unless his religion specifically requires eating curry, which seems unlikely.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah. I don’t want to speculate about the coworker’s religious restriction, but it’s unlikely his restrictions require eating only at restaurants that serve curry.

      Most important is what Alison noted (and her framing)—he can’t pick locations that purportedly accommodate everyone when they clearly do not accommodate OP. Either he needs to be more flexible, or he should not be the “decider” for the final food location.

      1. Les G*

        No, but it is perfectly likely that the only restaurant in this oarticular city that meets his needs also happens to serve curry.

        Why shouldn’t he be the decider? If they need to eat together and there is only one restaurant thar serves food he can eat, well, it’s a pretty straightforward decision.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Because the restaurant doesn’t provide food the OP can eat. So he’s not doing what he claims.
          It’s possible the OP has a food allergy. That means his ADA issues collide with the religious ones.

          1. HLK1219HLK*

            Correction: He can eat the food – he just doesn’t like the options available. Sorry, welcome to the real world. Everyone gets a turn at picking a spot, sorry buddy but it’s not your year to force others to meet your demands. Second, it’s one meal – suck it up or get your boss to spring for a Subway sandwich before or after.

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              “Everyone gets a turn at picking a spot” is inaccurate- the OP is not being offered the opportunity to pick a spot.

            2. ella*

              I don’t see how “I dislike curry so much and it has made me ill in the past and now the mere smell of it makes me nauseated” is somehow being overly demanding or entitled. Also, *is* it just the one meal? It sounds like this is at least a semi-regular thing, what’s to stop the religious coworker from saying that he needs to pick the venue every time, because of his religious restrictions, and then only picking curry places because that’s what he likes? Particularly if he won’t let anyone else in on the process and says that he’s the only one who’s allowed to know the details of his particular dietary restrictions.

              1. Adele*

                My boss, in fact, is the same way. I love curry but the mere smell truly nauseates him, makes his eyes water, and makes him gag. Maybe he has an allergy to some ingredient, maybe it is just a strong preference that is causing psychosomatic symptoms, but the effects are real. Result: I don’t bring in curry that gets heated in a communal microwave with smells that waft down the hallway. To do so would be incredibly selfish.

                I used to organize training seminars for staff from around the world, usually at a hotel or conference center in a vibrant cosmopolitan city. It was before the gluten-free and vegan diets were so ubiquitous, but I solved it by always having a meat option, a vegetarian option and a non-crustacean seafood option for each meal. I know there were sometimes participants who didn’t like any of these because they were not prepared the way they were used to in their home country, but I just took this as another form of meat-and-potatoes.

                Once, when I was a child, I made a friend whose family was from someplace in India. She spent the night at my house but trying to serve her breakfast was a challenge. It turned out her religion didn’t permit added salt to food, in addition to many other restrictions. We ended up feeding her canned peaches. I have always wondered what religion she was.

                1. Laurelma01*

                  Curry sets my GERD off. Sounds like the co-worker wants control more than a diet issue. That’s how I’m taking it since he’s not willing to be clear about the diet restriction.

                2. Zillah*

                  @Laurelma01 – This is really uncharitable. There’s no reason to believe that the OP’s coworker is lying about having religious issues to control the restaurant they go to.

              2. EddieSherbert*

                Seriously, the OP may not be considered legitimately allergic (or allergic “enough” to it?) but let’s take her at her word that she can’t handle this situation.
                Maybe it sounds ridiculous to others, but I cannot even walk into my work cafeteria on curry day because I literally cannot even breath through the spice. There’s no way I could sit down and make it through a whole meal in that room on those days.

                1. Jennifer85*

                  That’s true but they also seem unwilling to eat the non-curry option – which, I get it, is bland and boring food, but *is* ‘something they can eat’

                2. EddieSherbert*

                  Again, my point is I personally can’t even go to a restaurant that mostly serves curry because I can’t breath in that environment. I do not know if OP has that level of a reaction since they didn’t go into detail on that, but it’s worth considering.

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  @Jennifer85 Yes, the restaurant will have a non-curry option, but it will be served in an environment that smells strongly of curry, which the OP has said makes them feel physically unwell. So it’s a food they technically can eat, but in an environment they cannot be in.

                4. blink14*

                  Yes, 1oo% agree on this. The smell makes me incredibly nauseous. I could find food at a restaurant that serves curry, but the smell would make the entire meal highly unpleasant for me.

                  If this person’s restriction is what I’m thinking, there are probably a handful of other restaurant options to choose from. He clearly prefers this restriction within a certain culinary type.

                5. Jules the 3rd*

                  Wait, the OP doesn’t ever say she can’t be in the curry restaurant, just that she can’t eat curry. I can’t be in a curry restaurant, and I am very clear about that.

                  If we take OP at her word, she can eat there but can’t eat the curry and finds the non-curry food boring. Does that change your perception of this at all?

                6. bonkerballs*

                  @Jules the 3rd, OP literally says she’s “been sick so many times, that now I can barely tolerate the smell.” I don’t know any curry places that don’t smell like curry, so it seems pretty clear she’s saying the restaurant itself is a problem, not just the food.

              3. Jules the 3rd*

                I can’t walk into Indian restaurants, and that’s after having gotten *less* sensitive. In college, I had to walk on the other side of the street. The scent makes me nauseous, at least once to the point of actually throwing up (Sensory Processing Disorder issue, I think).

                So, I really sympathize with OP not wanting to go to a place that’s mostly curry. But it doesn’t sound like a bad / allergic reaction for OP, just ‘bland’ options.

                Yes, OP, you’ve lost something you enjoyed. That sucks. But there’s a big difference between ‘choices are boring’ and ‘choices are inedible’, and your coworker is dealing with how to get something edible. For me, that does take priority.

                1. Disconnected*

                  The problem seems to be a wee bit more than that. It’s not just the bland food they can barely tolerate the smell of curry. Even if they got the bland food they’d need everyone within smelling distance to get the bland food too…in a curry restaurant with customers other than their work colleagues. Unable to comfortably be in the environment is a wee bit more than the food sucks. As someone who can’t stand the smell of cooked fruit to the point of it making me feel sick trust me on that one.

              4. Jules the 3rd*

                Hunh – I took “now I can barely tolerate the smell.” to mean they could tolerate the smell, it doesn’t make them nauseous, but they don’t actively like it.

                If the smell does make them nauseous, that’s a different ball game, but OP doesn’t say that, they say the non-curry options are boring.

                1. Charlotte Collins*

                  As a vegetarian, I’ve had to deal with boring options at restaurants, so while as a lover of good food I’m sympathetic, I also have these words for OP: Welcome to the club.

                  However, based on what we (and the OP) know, it sounds like we’re not sure if there’s only one restaurant that will accommodate the CW’s religious restrictions (since he doesn’t seem to want to share what those are), or if there’s only one that the CW wants to eat at that does. And I think that’s where the difference lies. It also sounds like the OP isn’t in the US, so it sounds like the options at the restaurant will be more limited than in India restaurants I’ve been in here.

              5. Artemesia*

                I am not ‘allergic’ to onions i.e. they won’t kill me, but they make me sick — stomach upset and blinding headache. Usually I can deal but if it were a restaurant where most of the cuisine has this built in I couldn’t eat there. Curry is apparently the same way for the OP. She should probably stress that curry makes her ill — probably an allergy to some of the ingredients and can’t eat in such a restaurant.

            3. Antilles*

              Whoa. That’s way, way, way too harsh on OP.
              1.) it doesn’t seem like it’s taking turns. The new guy isn’t saying “let’s do curry this time”, he’s saying there’s no restaurant that could possibly work except curry. And it sounds like he’s not even willing to engage OP in a dialogue about it – not trying to brainstorm compromises or talk through about whether there might be other potential places, just going “nope I know my restrictions and this is it”.
              2.) OP getting sick from eating and even the smell of curry isn’t just a preference or dislike, but a legitimate health concern.
              3.) “Suck it up for one meal” is a ridiculous attitude to take given that this is a team meeting that’s intended as a reward. Yes, there are conflicting needs which stinks, but the dismissive attitude is completely out of line with the company’s intent of showing gratitude.

            4. Lexie*

              I have a wheat allergy, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve been to good and even great restaurants where my only meal choices were a salad/no croutons and something like plain grilled salmon with plain grilled vegetables on the side. Which is fine, if not always thrilling. My attitude is that I owe it to myself and my team to not make the low number of options for me a focus, and just enjoy the company.

              For business meals, even teambuilding/reward ones, it’s worth being graceful if there’s an option for you, even if it’s not one you’d jump up and down for. If the smell of the restaurant would make you ill (and you know for sure that the restaurant has an odor—not all do), that’s one thing, but if it’s just that you consider the one option for you to be sub-par, I’d let it go. It’s not about the food: it’s about the relationships and enjoying the people with whom you work.

              1. Zillah*

                I agree. I’m gluten-free, vegetarian, and allergic to garlic. That’s so restrictive that I strenuously object to people wanting to plan to find a restaurant that can accommodate it, but I also feel like I often have to eat boring things if I can eat anything at all. Is it fun? I mean, no, the food aspect is not fun, but as you said, that’s not really the point.

                OP, if you’re going to be physically unwell from being in the restaurant, make that clear, but if it’s just that you’ll find the food bland or boring… I get that it’s not ideal, but sometimes things aren’t ideal, and that is what it is.

        2. Michio Pa*

          “it is perfectly likely that the only restaurant in this particular city that meets his needs also happens to serve curry.”

          …I’m sorry, I’m really struggling to think of a situation where this is the case. OP says “both cities have fantastic restaurants with lots of options — not the kind of places with 30 different menu options and only one gluten-free.” So this isn’t a case of small-town-one-restaurant. I think it’s more the case that, religious coworker’s needs were met, so he stopped looking.

          1. Les G*

            I invite you to go to most of the U.S. (even the fun college towns with 10 vegan restaurants per capita) and find more than one kosher and halal restaurant. Heck, try finding even one.

            This situation is not even remotely hard to imagine.

            1. Michio Pa*

              Maybe that’s just the difference between our assumptions, then. I wouldn’t say that cities with only one kosher/halal/other religiously-compliant restaurant have “fantastic restaurants with lots of options.”

              1. Les G*

                Removed because this is argumentative and antagonistic (and I especially don’t want that happening a few comments into the comment section — it’s really unpleasant for people). – Alison

                1. TL -*

                  Except I wouldn’t think that kosher places would serve mainly curry and keeping halal, if I’m not mistaken, can be done with vegetarian non alcoholic options which opens up a lot of options besides curry in a city with good restaurants.
                  Not sure what his requirements are but kosher or halal seem unlikely.

                2. Aveline*

                  TL

                  From experience – direct experience – in a lot of places the only options for vegetarian or Kosher/Halal are Indian restaurants. Yes, vegetarian is becoming more and more frequent, but not everywhere.

                  This is no where near as easy to find in small to mid size cities as it is in NYC or LA.

                  I wish it were different, but it is not the case.

                  In my town, which is a foodie town, the only certified Kosher/Halal restaurant is Indian and heavy on the curry.

                  There are a few places you might make it work if you had a large enough party, but that would require a lot of $$$.

              2. Aveline*

                I currently live in a city that has fantastic food and a great diversity of restaurants. Seriously known for been a foodie haven. It has only one kosher/halal option. That’s an Indian restaurant with lots of curry. This is so even though we have a pretty large population of Jews based on the size of the city. And a huge influx of Muslim refugees in the past decade.

                So in my city, if you were trying to plan a dinner out with someone keeping Kosher or Halal, the only option would be somewhere with lots of curry.

                As someone who has done a lot of traveling with Muslim co-workers who try and observe, it’s a lot more difficult than you are making it out to be. In a lot of small to mid size cities, the only Kosher or Halal option is an Indian restaurant. Full stop.

                Also, there is a surge of craft food and drink in a lot of smaller cities in the US. Very few of them have Kosher/Halal places.

                If you hear city and you think NYC/LA/SF/Chicago, you are leaving out what the majority of cities in the US are actually like.

                TLDR: I think your assumption is wrong.

                1. Tan*

                  If the food is a fantastic as you say, most restaurants will have Halal /Kosher options aka the vegetarian options (providing it does not have alcohol or other additives in it).

                2. Aveline*

                  Tan,

                  Why are you contradicting my direct experience in my town?

                  The food is fantastic, but it does not have those options.

                  Are you calling me a liar on this? Cause that’s how it reads?

                3. Alli525*

                  Tan – that is simply not true. Halal/kosher is about more than just the ingredients – it’s how they’re prepared. Animals have to be slaughtered in a specific way, special utensils used, etc. An average restaurant might have, say, a hamburger option instead of only cheeseburgers, but that doesn’t make the hamburger kosher.

                4. Psyche*

                  I think the main problem is that he won’t explain what his restrictions are so no one else can even try to find a place that would work. They have to take his word for it. And I know some people who would take advantage of that and insert their preference as well. Once they find a place they like, they stop looking and it is the only option. This may very well be the only option, but I think he needs to give others the chance to look, especially if this is going to be an ongoing issue. He should definitely get to screen the options found and point out if there is a problem, but he shouldn’t be the only one able to even find options.

                5. Kyrielle*

                  I do think think he should explain the criteria, however, I don’t know that I would have others weigh in. I know for kosher, at least, the degree of adherence can vary. In the most restrictive version I’m aware of, it’s not just requirements of what is in the food, but requirements regarding the utensils it is cooked with and served on.

                  There must be separate utensils for meat and for dairy, stored separately, washed separately, never used for the other. In a large commercial kitchen not dedicated to keeping that, I don’t see how it could happen.

                  As far as I understand it, for those who do require this level of kosher, even a vegan meal served on a non-kosher plate (one previously used with both meat and dairy, or intermingled in storage or washing with any of the same) would still be a problem.

                  Many people who “keep kosher” require the foods to be separated but not the dishes, and for them a “kosher option” at a normal restaurant might be viable.

                6. Observer*

                  @Tan the vegetarian option doesn’t come close to being a good default option for either Halal or Kosher (even for people who aren’t completely “strict” about kosher.)

                  For Halal, at minimum you’re dealing with the possibility of cooking with alcohol. For kosher, unless you’ve got a vegan (not just vegetarian) option it’s just not going to fly. Dairy has a whole set of rules, and so does fish. And even vegan options can be hugely problematic. eg are they using vegetables that are known for bug infestations? How are they checking for that? (It’s not for nothing that people who are strict about observing all of the time look for certification – there is a LOT to deal with here.)

                7. Observer*

                  @Kyrielle You have a good point. But it’s important to note that even the ingredients are much more complex than people realize. For people who keep Halal, the alcohol bit can be surprisingly complicated, and will make it extremely difficult to deal with many cuisines. There is nothing about a vegan option that prevents that.

                  For Kosher, vegan using ingredients that are not typically bug infested might work, but cuisines that typically cook in wine are still going to present a problem.

                  From what the OP says it’s not clear if the problem is that they cannot tolerate the smell of curry or that they are upset at being limited to “plain boring, unappetizing” food. If it’s the latter, I sympathize, but they are just going to have to deal. If it’s the former, then I’m not sure what the company can do, but I do agree with the people who are saying that the co-worker is not handling this appropriately.

                8. Pontoon Pirate*

                  I know I’m just one more data point, but in my mid-sized southern US city, a quick internet search throws up several halal and kosher restaurants. Not trusting Google SEO, I actually looked at blogs that would take a deeper dive (think “[religion] – person – travel” type blogs) and came away with recommendations for at least five halal restaurants and seven kosher restaurants, many of which do not appear to lean heavily on curry.

                9. R.D.*

                  I was surprised that many of the greek restaurants in my area are Halal. There are also Persian and Nepalese, a breakfast place and shockingly enough, a burger place. Also one of the Argentinian steak houses in the next city over.

                  I live in a smaller city, just over 100k people, but it is pretty ethnically diverse. Many cities of a similar size would not have the Persian, Nepalese, or randomly compliant burger and breakfast places, but Greek/Mediterranean is at least worth looking into.

                10. Jules the 3rd*

                  Yeah, this is my experience of several mid-sized US towns. Reliable kosher / halal can require certification, to ensure, for example, that there’s no bacon shreds in the cesar salad or green beans, or cross contamination in the kitchen. ‘Just pick the vegetarian option’ isn’t always reliable.

                11. Astor*

                  It’s also something that really can vary within groups of people who even go to the same synagogue or are part of the same community. In my family, those who keep kosher just order dairy or parve options (basically the vegetarian options plus fish) when they go to a non-kosher restaurant. I know a number of more religious and visually “obviously observant” people in our community who will eat at restaurants that are either kosher or vegan, but no others. And I also have a friend who most people wouldn’t have even realized was observant and who wouldn’t eat at a vegan restaurant that didn’t have a hechsher (kosher certification).

                  It’s really hard to know all the nuances of what someone means by “I keep kosher”.

                12. atalanta0jess*

                  Yeah, my friend who is Jewish orthodox tells me that there are only two kosher restaurants in Seattle. It does NOT seem bizarre to me that a city would have very limited options.

                13. Heina*

                  I used to eat very strictly halal, and as long as there was a veggie option without an intoxicating level of booze in it, I was fine. It’s not at all like kosher like some people are claiming here. It’s not as strict. There don’t have to be separate utensils or anything like that. If this person is indeed Muslim, he’s not being honest about his restrictions and trying to push something he likes.

                14. Michio Pa*

                  OK, we have different assumptions. I’m not in the US and would not describe most cities you describe as having “great food options”. Most small to mid-size cities don’t have a great variety precisely for the reason you describe.

              3. Observer*

                I don’t want to come down too hard on the OP, because it sounds like they have a legitimate problem on their hands. But it’s hard to know whether they have the same definition that you do. The letter doesn’t scream “no”. On the other hand, it also doesn’t sound like “yes” either. So, I wouldn’t make any assumptions.

            2. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

              So true. And if he is (for example) a strict practicing Sikh or Muslim, the restaurant might also have to be alcohol-free in addition to any other dietary restrictions. That would be a difficult circle to square pretty much no matter where in the US you are.
              This doesn’t mean a reasonable amount of pushback shouldn’t happen though. OP, would it be possible for you and he to have a longer discussion about this? I know he said he didn’t want you choosing the restaurant because you can’t understand his dietary needs (which, while I can see where he’s coming from, sounds pretty patronizing), you and he could potentially be colleagues for years. Taking an hour to explain things and work to find a solution that fits both your needs would make a lot of sense.

              1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

                But, just to be clear, if you look into it and curry places really are the only ones that fit his religious requirements and others’ gluten free needs, you really will have to conent yourself with either eating bland food or bowing out gracefully.

                1. Cat wrangler*

                  I might have missed this if it’s already been suggested, but would it be worth talking to the restaurant beforehand to see if they can create a dish that OP can eat? Putting spices in the chicken or a side dish to remove blandness? They might be able to offer constructive suggestions. I appreciate it won’t remove the issue of the ‘curry smell’ but perhaps OP can sit on the end of the table or near the a/c which might minimise the discomfort. If coworker can talk to the restaurant ahead of time, then so can OP.

                  FWIW, I dislike the aroma of cooked fish or seafood but sometimes I’ve had to tolerate it as my ENTIRE family tucked into a fishy feast, leaving me sipping a cup of tea, so I do emphasise.

                2. pleaset*

                  This.

                  Religious needs trump taste. If there is boring food at the place that works for the OP, so be it.

                  It’s not a common event, so the OP just has to deal. Or skip the meal. It’s just bland food.

                3. else*

                  But – medical needs trump religious ones. It’s really hard to eat safely gluten-free at many Indian restaurants for people who are sensitive. And yes, this is from experience – depending on the region, they use wheat, AND, some curry blends include it. And, if he’s the only person who’s happy with a restaurant that is supposed to be a treat for a large group, he needs to bow out. That is not cool, regardless of religious deference. If this is going to be such a problem, maybe they need to come up with some other kind of bonding treat that does not involve food.

                4. MP*

                  I agree with Else completely. Medical trumps religious, and if this one person is really taking away the joy of this meal for a lot of people, he needs to bow out. Our country is tolerant of other religions, but at some point – come on! Only curry? He needs to try harder.

                  I say this as a vegetarian (for ethical reasons). I would never make a whole group of people eat a meal they don’t like, just to please me. I would bow out, or just drink tea. Why can’t this new guy do something like that?

                5. Shoes on My Cat*

                  Cat Wrangler! This!! I spent decades in hospitality. With a couple of days notice, chefs can really do neat things and most (not all, but most) are hosts at heart. Give them a chance to “wow” you with their creativity and often you will get something really special that you can then compliment and make a big deal about (since that’s the right thing to do AND you’ll be back). Many chefs ‘go bland’ because they are actually offended that you didn’t give them a chance to be a good host. (Artistic temperament ;-)

                6. Jules the 3rd*

                  else, suggesting that someone consistently bow out of work events due to religious restrictions is pretty scary. These dinners are work events, not social ones.

                  Religious beats taste preference, and medical beats religious, but it’s not clear if this rises to the level of ‘medical’ for OP.

                  Also, big stretch to say ‘no one’ else likes them because OP doesn’t like them. A lot of people do (eg, Mr. Jules; I have to send him out with friends / without me), and OP doesn’t make the claim that others don’t like it.

                7. Klew*

                  Jules the 3rd –
                  “Religious beats taste preference, and medical beats religious, but it’s not clear if this rises to the level of ‘medical’ for OP”.

                  Maybe, maybe not but it’s also not clear if the coworker is being truthful about his religious restrictions.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Most Sikhs (even very strictly practicing ones) in the United States do not require others to only select restaurants that don’t serve alcohol. But even if alcohol were a dealbreaker, there are very few food-related religious restrictions for Sikhs.

              3. Ahead Fish*

                Even the strictest of Muslims can eat the vegetarian option at any restaurant, which is by default hallal. The alcohol problem seems excessive — every Muslim I know, and my in-laws are Muslim so I know a lot, and had to plan my wedding around some pretty hardcore Muslim’s dietary restrictions — will be willing to go to a place that serves alcohol. The strictest just won’t go to an establishment where the exclusive purpose is alcohol (aka, no bars or breweries or other things of that nature, even if they’re just drinking water). I guess it’s not inconceivable that someone might be strict enough to not go anywhere that serves alcohol in any capacity. But even then, I’d find it surprising that there are no restaurants that don’t serve alcohol besides hallal places — it’s not like getting a liquor license is always easy, and there are plenty of BYOB establishments…

                1. Observer*

                  Obviously you either don’t know as many Muslims as you think or you don’t know much about vegetarian food. There are a lot of vegetarian foods that are cooked with alcohol, and someone who is strict about that is just not going to be able to eat that stuff.

                2. muslim vegans exist*

                  @Observer: I am quite sure that Ahead Fish does know just as many Muslims as she thinks she does and I found your reply to be a bit condescending! I am Muslim and vegan, and I have never, in multiple countries, ever had any problems with restaurant menus being totally flooded with booze-vegetables. Sure, booze-vegetables EXIST, but in my own experience nothing that Ahead Fish said here is incorrect and alcohol is really not ruining all the meatless options at any restaurant I have ever encountered. :)

                3. Observer*

                  Talk about condescending. I didn’t say what you claim I said. But, if you’re being honest, I think you’re going to have to admit that “vegetarian option” does NOT equate to “Halal option that the strictest adherent can eat.”

                  That’s a claim that doesn’t merit any respect.

                  And, my point was that it’s this kind of broad based and inaccurate kind of thing that makes it much harder for people with complex issues to actually find what they need, without being challenged a dozen times over by people who claim to know what they are talking about.

                4. muslim vegans exist*

                  @Observer what you said to her was literally “Obviously you either don’t know as many Muslims as you think”, and that’s exactly what I was attempting to reply to and what I found to be a bit rude. Of course not all vegetarian options are inherently halal. I am simply saying that the odds of ALL meatless options in any restaurant being NOT halal are extremely low, so low that I, as a vegan Muslim, would never consider this as being a problem that would automatically leave me hungry at work dinners. That’s all. When people tell me that they can’t find suitable food at restaurants for whatever their personal needs are, I don’t argue with them, but when other people try to suggest that Muslims in restaurants are going to struggle with eating meatless and halal, that makes me feel awfully tired. That’s all. Have a nice evening!

            3. TL -*

              I just checked Boston and there were 8 kosher restaurants listed on trip adviser and 19 halal ones. I know several kosher restaurants weren’t listed. Austin had 11 halal and 3 kosher*; Kansas City had 8 kosher and 3 halal. Portland, OR had 17 halal and 3 kosher.

              All of them had variety in the type of restaurants offered and all of them are mid-sized to large cities. It does depend on where the OP is and what the restrictions are, but in a vibrant city setting, there usually are at least a few options.

              *these didn’t look like they’d be ideal if you keep really strict kosher, to be fair.

              1. TL -*

                My point is that this would really, really depend on the restrictions – most cities that have a vibrant food scene would have at least a few options for common dietary restrictions, which would include halal, gluten free, kosher, and vegan/vegetarian. But it wouldn’t be nearly as easy if it’s not a common restriction.

                1. Aveline*

                  What are you basing this on?

                  This is not my experience at all.

                  I live in a city with a “vibrant food scene” and your diversity of choice for vegans and kosher and halal does not exist.

                  I just checked where my sister lives as it is the largest city in her state and has a “vibrant food scene.” One place. Also lots of curry on the menu.

                  Let’s not assume this is universally easy everywhere in the US.

                2. knitting librarian (with cats)*

                  Yeah, it really depends on the city.

                  Portland ME ~ the largest city in the state ~ is definitely a great city for food {it’s been named in various magazines as such} and is reasonably good for vegetarians, with some options for vegans.
                  The recent influx of Somalis has meant that the halal options are increasing, but they are generally not restaurants suitable for a business meal {picture a takeout counter at the back of a variety store with a couple 1960s Formica tables}.
                  Kosher restaurants are non-existent :-(

                3. Sacred Ground*

                  I’d say that if your city does not have a diversity of choices for vegan, kosher, and halal, you do not, in fact, have a “vibrant food scene.”

              2. Jojo*

                Hmm, I am strictly kosher, and aside from Boston which has a large Orthodox community, those numbers sound off. Kansas City and Portland don’t have any actual kosher sit-down restaurants. I haven’t been to Austin but I find it very unlikely based on the size of their observant community that they have 3 full restaurants. It can actually be incredibly challenging to find a strict kosher restaurant in many places in America, much less one that is suitable for a dinner like this.

                I think this highlights why the new employee in question wants to find the restaurant himself. Well-meaning people often do a quick search or assume that something meets a religious need based on the name of a restaurant or the little they know about a topic. I have had many instances of people trying to be accommodating, where they go out of the way to buy me something which I unfortunately cannot eat. Then I feel awful when I have to politely thank them for being so thoughtful, while trying to explain the very complicated religious guidelines that mean I can’t eat it. I completely understand why this employee wants to pick the restaurant and avoid this kind of situation.

                Kosher and hallal can be very difficult to accommodate; I’ve sat through plenty of meetings and dinners with a diet coke while everyone else is enjoying a delicious dinner. I get it, and it’s not something that I would make a fuss about. That being said, it’s always lovely when people do check with me in advance and make sure I will be able to eat, especially at events that are about team-building and fun. Since he’s a new employee, I think in this case it would be welcoming to go to a restaurant where he could eat like everyone else. Doesn’t mean it has to be done this way every time there is a dinner, but it certainly feels like a nice gesture for his first one of these.

                1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                  Well-meaning people often do a quick search or assume that something meets a religious need based on the name of a restaurant or the little they know about a topic

                  Actually, when I’ve had to do a restaurant search for a group of people with differing needs, I usually go by whether the restaurant itself states “we serve hallal/kosher/gluten free etc.” Just because I’m not of the particular dietary restriction, in fact *because* I’m not of the dietary restriction, I am going to make the restaurant do some of the work for me. Otherwise, if I need to involve everyone with the dietary restriction, it becomes a case of (for want of a better cliche) too many cooks spoiling the broth.

                  My SIL has dietary restrictions and she has found ONE restaurant she likes. This is despite the fact that I have friends with the same restrictions who like to go to two or three restaurants in the broad area – if it’s a family meal it’s at the ONE restaurant because it’s the ONLY on that meets her needs (aka, her preference). It has never crossed her mind to look outside of the first place that she found that worked for her.

                2. Casca*

                  To WonderingHowIGotIntoThis, self-identification is not foolproof in the slightest. I’ve seen places mislabel themselves as kosher or say they can provide kosher and it turns out to be ‘Kosher-style’, whatever that means

                3. EventPlannerGal*

                  The “suitable for the event” part is key. Even if a quick google brings up 11 halal restaurants in Teapot City, for example, it’s possible that 4 of them will be too far away, 2 will be too downscale for a business dinner, 2 will be way over budget and 1 looks great but last time the company used it someone got food poisoning. Even in a city with a great food scene it can be difficult to find a restaurant that fulfils all requirements – it’s not as simple as saying “oh, it does halal, that’ll do”.

                4. Observer*

                  @WonderingHowIGotIntoThis If our primary criterion is how the place labels itself, you’re asking for trouble. Without asking some pointed questions there is no way to know whether these folks have a clue or not.

                5. Ginger Baker*

                  WonderingHowIGotIntoThis: Please note that there are different “strictness levels” as it were to observing kashrut rules. There are different certifying agencies but not all are accepted by the most observant folks. So, for instance, a restaurant could say “we serve kosher food” and that can be true, but they are “certified kosher” by ABC Kosher Group which is not considered “really kosher” by (for example) Hasidic folks, who would only accept restaurants certified by XYZ Kashrut Agency….therefore meaning that to those within that religious group, your suggestion of that “kosher restaurant” is actually still a place they cannot eat. (Background: I’ve worked with a number of very-orthodox Jews and worked hard to find places they could eat on business trips.)

                6. Observer*

                  @Ginger Baker is correct, but it goes even further than that. Notice, for instance, how many people think that kosher is only about not having pork and mixing meat with dairy. Notice how many people think that vegetarian is by default Kosher – even though dairy and fish both have significant kosher rules. etc. So, “We serve” kosher is simply a non-starter as a way to know what you are dealing with.

                  On a practical level, I can also tell you that similar issues crop up with many other designations. I have some health related food restrictions. Some places that claim to be serve XXX free food would make me pretty sick -btdt and there are some places that make that claim that I simply cannot order any food from. If you’re gluten free, for instance, with a high level of sensitivity, (eg most celiac sufferers), you need to find out what they fry, and whether they keep the “gluten free” fried foods away from the fryers used for breaded foods.

                  I don’t know what the OP’s restrictions are, but it’s just nowhere near enough to say “they say they serve X, so I can rely on that.” Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can’t.

                7. Zillah*

                  I think this highlights why the new employee in question wants to find the restaurant himself. Well-meaning people often do a quick search or assume that something meets a religious need based on the name of a restaurant or the little they know about a topic.

                  This. I have a lot of food restrictions, and even well-meaning people don’t always understand them or know what to look for. A lot of soups that look vegetarian use chicken stock. A lot of dishes that look gluten-free use soy sauce. A lot of salads that look safe on all counts have garlic in the dressing. Even well-meaning people don’t always know what to look for, and it’s hard for most of us to believe that experiences that are radically different from our own are true.

                  (I frequently just skip eating when I’m not home because it’s not worth the consequences to my health/comfort, and people bending over backward to try to accommodate me just stresses me out.)

                8. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                  I realise I wasn’t 100% clear, although I did say “some of the work” – what generally happens is I use the restuarant’s self identification to pull together a short list. If there are 100 restuarant options, that’s 100 ways to go wrong. If 50 of them self identify as “sprout-free” I’ve just cut the pressure of finding somewhere suitable in half. Then I ask those who are sprout intolerant to help narrow it down further, and obtain menus from the short list for EVERYONE to double check.
                  We have new restuarants opening in our area all the time.
                  It’s also a bit different, becuase I’m not US-based, and we have slightly different regulations regarding self-identification.

            4. Anon101*

              I think that this really does vary by city. My hometown had a lot of different food cultures represented, but no kosher and maybe 4 halal. My current city is smaller and has less variety of food but a much bigger Muslim community— so there are halal places everywhere, from fast food up (two on my street alone). I’m trusting that the OP knows her community well enough to determine what options may be out there, at least enough to offer suggestions for input.

              1. Aveline*

                Same where I live.

                The sushi is divine. Great Indian. 10 different varieties of Chinese food. Amazing Mexican.

                The only place that would be ok for most kosher or halal is Indian.

            5. Ellen N.*

              I live in West Los Angeles, CA. There are many kosher and many halal restaurants within a ten minute drive.

              1. Aveline*

                Yep, but that’s LA. That’s not Austin or Omaha or Toledo.

                There are lots of other cities out there.

                LA tends to have anything you want. Smaller cities – which are still cities – do not.

                1. Oxford Comma*

                  I just googled mine and wow, I had no idea. I’m in a midsized city. There are exactly 4 options and all of them are delis (3 in supermarkets). Halal, I find a few more, but they’re all storefronts that have some sort of very casual eating options.

                  I had no idea.

                2. Aveline*

                  Yep. It’s not just “is there an option” but “is the option fit for the purpose.”

                  Some places have great options, others don’t.

                  I just don’t think we should assume one way or the other.

                  I’m not arguing that there AREN’T more options, only that we can’t know and it’s possible there aren’t.

                  So we have to deal with the “then what” scenario instead of the wishful thinking that the perfect venue will materialize if they just try hard enough.

            6. Laura*

              Vegetarian food and seafood are always halal, and vegetarian food is usually kosher. Or do restaurants in the US not have vegetarian options?! (Yikes if true)

              1. Curly sue*

                The food may be technically kosher (as in, non-pork, non-lobster, etc), but the kitchen will almost certainly not be unless the restaurant has put in the effort to be formally certified. Otherwise you could easily have pork meatballs made on the same counter as the veggie burgers, cheese made with rennet cut with the same knife as kosher cheese, and once you get to the stricter end of things, fruit and vegetables bought pre-cut rather than cut on-site. Kashrut’s a really complicated thing.

                1. Curly sue*

                  Unfortunately that’s not the case (that vegetarian is automatically kosher). It’s a lot more likely, and my grandmother would only eat vegetarian when we went out even though our family isn’t super-strict, but there are a lot of things that can affect kashrut even on a veggie diet. Many people who keep strictly kosher can’t eat at a place that doesn’t have a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) on staff, for instance. There’s a link to one organization’s explanation in my user name.

                2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

                  For those who keep Kosher, the category of the food is not enough to qualify a place. For example: if the restaurant is vegan but remains open on Saturdays it’s very much not Kosher.

                3. Observer*

                  @Anononon Not correct. Wines present a problem, and they are vegan. Fish and dairy are acceptable in vegetarian diets, and both can present major problems (it’s not just crustaceans that are non-kosher.)

                  Fun fact – Kosher tuna producers jumped on the dolphin safe bandwagon right away because dolphins are not kosher, so it’s not just “not a good thing” but a stray dolphin or two could mess up a whole batch of tuna. Not cool.

              2. Observer*

                Your assertion is totally not correct. I hope you don’t have any significant input into food choices for people who keep kosher or Halal. Seriously.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  Of my two Muslims friends, one doesn’t eat halal, and the other would agree with Laura’s statement, as long as no alcohol was used in the preparation of the dish. Different people have different levels of interpretation, observation, and adherence. Blanket statements are not useful when dealing with the practicalities of accommodating people. Ask the people in question what works for them as the starting point.

              3. beth*

                Most restaurants in the US have vegetarian options. Even something like a steakhouse can usually do a meat-free salad and a baked potato (it might be a pretty unappealing meal, but there would be something non-meat-eaters could order). That’s not to say that they’d always be kosher or halal–I’m not familiar enough with the requirements for those to say.

            7. Anoncorporate*

              I grew up with religious dietary restrictions and would choose the vegetarian or fish/seafood item at restaurants. If this is one of those cities with lots of options, I’m sure someone who is kosher/halal could still eat at many restaurants. The only exception is, if you’re VERY strict, then you wouldn’t eat in a restaurant that isn’t specifically designated as kosher/halal, which might be the case with this coworker.

            8. LKW*

              The easiest way to find a kosher/halal restaurant is to go to a vegetarian restaurant. Even if they serve dairy -the entire meal is meat free. Although it may not have been given a clerical blessing it should be acceptable.

              Almost every town has that one vegan/vegetarian place.

              1. Jilly*

                That’s not what Kosher is. The restaurant needs to be certified Kosher. And that isn’t just the kitchen facilities, it’s the sourcing of the ingredients. Those are Kosher certified as well. For example, a jar of brined olives – if low grade wine vinegar was used in the brining process, it’s likely that vinegar didn’t come from Kosher wine. So those olives are not Kosher.

              2. Aveline*

                You may mean well, but you are wrong on both counts.

                Vegetarian is ok for those who are loose about the rules. But if a place isn’t certified kosher or halal, it isn’t even if it follows every practice.

                In this US, there are tons of smaller cities and large towns that do not have a vegan or veg Atari an place….and in many that do, that place is Indian. So you get back to the curry problem.

                1. Heina*

                  This is a false equivalency. Kosher is stricter than halal and requires the entire space and everything in it to be blessed. Halal certification is for meat, not an eating space. Taking bacon into a “halal restaurant” (which really just means “no pork or booze here, and all the meat is halal”) doesn’t mean it needs to get recertified.

              3. LKW*

                Yes, I’m talking about those who are a little more flexible, those who follow the strictest of strictest of rules are not going to accept simple vegetarian. Where I live, a lot of vegetarian restaurants work with the local clergy to get certified to widen their clientele base.

                1. Observer*

                  Even people who are not at the strictest level are not necessarily going to be able to accept a vegetarian option. Because there are a LOT of pieces to this. Vegan gets easier, but even there you need to know your stuff.

              4. AnotherSarah*

                I’m sorry, unless you’re a religious authority who can say whether a particular restaurant is kosher or halal, you really can’t say “it should be acceptable.” As many people have noted–there are differing standards for what constitutes kosher and halal food, and these are determined, like it or lump it, by people who have been authorized to do so. It’s not about a blessing (at least not for being kosher; I can’t speak for halal), it’s about a very complex set of rules that go beyond ingredients.

              5. LizB*

                In my Jewish community we call the thing you’re describing “kosher-style” — the food doesn’t have any pork or shellfish or obvious meat+milk, but there might be less attention paid to the less-publicized rules for what is kosher and what isn’t, and probably not everything has been hechshered (certified kosher by a religious authority). Some Jews who keep some level of kosher would be okay with a kosher-style meal, but many would not. You can’t really say “it should be acceptable” when it wouldn’t meet the standards of a loooot of people who describe themselves as keeping kosher.

                1. MatKnifeNinja*

                  My sister has to plan business luncheons where the participants eat Glatt Kosher. They come from an from an area that finding a nice, sit down Glatt Kosher restaurant is no big deal.

                  There is not one restaurant that would be acceptable EXCEPT little vegetarian pizza place that is a 40 minute drive. I can think of at least 5 synagogues off the top of my head. There is a huge Jewish population, but just that they just don’t keep that strict level of Kosher. So the business aren’t going to shell out for certification and supervision for something doesn’t make them more money.

                  Sis winds up getting the luncheons catered, and lets the participants speak to the caters themselves.

              6. Osipova*

                Yeah, I don’t think that this is an assumption that you can make. I used to work in the Jewish Nonprofit world and met many people who kept kosher in a variety of ways. I knew some who would be happy to go out for sushi or to eat vegetarian food. HOWEVER, I knew plenty who would not. For Jews who are very strict about keeping kosher, they can only go to a restaurant that is certified as kosher and frankly there are not that many options. Even in big cities. DC proper (not suburbs) only has three kosher restaurants.

                And even doing a google search might not give you the full picture. I once sat through a lecture about how New York’s 2nd Avenue Deli isn’t really lecture (it is certified) because they are open on Shabbat.

                I know nothing about halal rules, but my understanding is that are similar and I imagine that if one was strict, it could be similarly difficult to find food.

                I do not think its fair to pile onto this person in OP#1’s letter without more information. Especially for a commenter community that is normally very open and tolerant to other’s beliefs.

              7. Ellen N.*

                For food to be kosher, its production must be overseen by a Rabbi. As eating insects is un-kosher, vegetables must be washed and inspected in specific ways to make sure that they are insect free. Kosher food must be cooked on equipment that has never touched non-kosher food. In short, people who keep kosher will only go to restaurants that are certified kosher.

                As the original poster stated that the employee chose restaurants that served curry, I doubt that the employee follows a kosher diet. I also doubt that the employee is Muslim as the requirement is to avoid meat that isn’t killed according to halal law and to avoid alcohol. This is easy to do in almost any restaurant.

                The employee might be a Jain which dictates a very restricted diet. This religion is not very well known in much of the world. In India, many restaurants have dishes that are prepared according to Jain dietary restrictions.

                1. Osipova*

                  There are certified kosher Indian places. We also are making the assumption that the “curry” restaurant is an Indian Restaurant.

              1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                Not if they follow the stricter interpretation of the rules. Some people I know can only go to places where the kitchen is certified, can’t be open on the Sabbath, etc.. Plain old vegan wouldn’t cut it

                1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  Oh yeah. The word “kosher” is supposed to be between “the” and “rules”.

                  I need more coffee

              2. Scarlet*

                I’m afraid that’s off base. I’m vegan, and recently attended an international conference where my tablemates ate halal, strictly – we were in a large European city with restaurants everywhere, including a few vegan ones. We were bonding over complications re finding food, BUT, I was able to buy prepared vegan meals and clearly labeled foods from a local supermarket, and could have eaten out if I’d wanted to – they’d been to the conference before, and knew from experience that they were likely to have a really hard time finding anything, and had opted to pack their own food for a 4-day conference. Vegan’s pretty restrictive re ingredients and processing, and it’s true that most of my utensils at home have never been used on meat, but I will eat vegan food prepared in a mixed-food kitchen, and my colleagues did not have that option. Even the hotel where it was held wasn’t able to feed them, because of course their kitchen and crockery etc didn’t meet the criteria.

            9. The halal guys*

              You do realize that vegetarian food is halal, right? Halal is only relevant when it comes to meat, veggies and fish are always halal.

              1. Observer*

                No, it also applies to the use of alcohol. Not all Muslims are strict about this, but for one who is, you need to do some checking.

            10. General Ginger*

              There are zero kosher restaurants in my town (not a college town, but in a tech corridor, and part of a significant greater metropolitan area, with about 90K people in the town itself). You need to take about an hour drive for one.

            11. Yorick*

              I think “fun college towns” are not the kinds of places that come to mind when I hear of a city with many diverse food options. If that’s your definition of a good food scene, it’s understandable that you find it hard to believe there are other restaurants that would work.

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            I avoid shellfish and pork. The restaurants where I live, that serve up curry (we have a huge Indian population here), 9/10 have no pork or shellfish on the menu.

            Places I’ve eating that accommodate the above are

            Vegan/vegetarian
            Arabic/Lebanese (sometimes shellfish is in the restaurant)
            Kosher (more pricey of the three)

            I’ve Christian friends who have restrictions on pork/shellfush, and they can eat quite nicely from the above three.

            I think the coworker foundchid comfort zone and stopped looking too.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Not if the only restaurants he can eat at are ones the OP can’t eat at.

          It sounds like this is a city with an extensive restaurant scene, and that he’s produced multiple options – all of which serve nothing but curry. If it’s true that there are no non-curry restaurants that he can eat at, and therefore that he and the OP can’t eat at the same restaurant, then the employer has to do something different. One option would be to alternate – one time they go to the Blessed Curry House, the OP has a beverage, and gets money to eat a nice dinner somewhere before or after, and the next time they eat at a non curry restaurant, and the coworkers has his meal before or after. Another option would be to split the event into two meals, so people can choose where they want to go and everyone would get something to eat.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep – at that point I’d split people into two groups. If it’s not big enough to do that, then they may need to switch it up and have food delivered, so that everyone gets what they need.

            1. NotoriousMCG*

              Would splitting into groups exacerbate the issue of why dietary restrictions have become such a prevalent issue, though? It feels like you can’t spit without hitting someone complaining about accommodating vegetarians and all the other newfangled things these days – but you just commiserated heartily with an un-accommodated vegetarian on the podcast.

              I think that someone having the option of eating things that do not make them sick at a restaurant that meets a coworkers religious obligations does not have as much of a foot to stand on. I agree that the coworker could be more open to a collaborative process in decision making, but not that OP’s aversion to bland options is the same as a religious restriction.

            2. NotoriousMCG*

              Sorry, I missed my first point. I just meant that we have all been trying to create more inclusive workplaces inlcuding in the realms of dietary restrictions and splitting into groups seems to invite ‘othering’ people.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If there’s no restaurant that will accommodate everyone (and the OP says the smell of this restaurant will make her sick), then your options are to split up or do delivery.

                1. NotoriousMCG*

                  I think this will be my last one on the topic – I didn’t expect to get so engaged – but I read the one line ‘to the point where I can barely tolerate the smell’ to be more offhanded than the three-ish lines they wrote about losing out on a perk.

                  Regardless – if those are the options you foresee as working then I think they should have been included in the initial advice, and more cooperation should have been encouraged. Advising someone who does not want to eat bland food to push back extensively on a coworker with religious restrictions without encouraging cooperative language scripts or delivery options will come off as putting a preference on par with a religious observance.

                  Since this will be my last comment, I would like the context that I am a person who has *extensive and extreme* aversions to tons of food, and my food choices frequently become the hot topic of a conversation because they are so odd and other. And even though my food aversions are not observances or for ethical reasons – I recognize that it sucks to look forward to a meal and realize that your options are nil or limited/unappealing. But that means that more solutions should be explored, and I don’t think the above answer supports collaboration enough.

                2. Tuxedo Cat*

                  I was going to suggest delivery. I think that might be the best bet, unless the scent of curry will still bother the OP.

            3. Engineer Girl*

              It’s important to note that religious accommodation doesn’t mean forcing others to follow that diet.
              Delivery may indeed be the best solution.

            4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              Can’t she just suck it up and eat something bland? I have to do it all the darn time because many in my workplace will only eat a very narrow range of foods

            5. Psyche*

              Some restaurants allow an outside meal if the restaurant is unable to meet someone’s dietary restrictions. It might be worth calling around and finding one if they have a large enough group.

              1. On a pale mouse*

                Strict kosher places probably won’t. (I don’t follow any religious restrictions but one of my favorite places in Houston used to be the Wonderful Vegetarian, which was certified Kosher and for that reason didn’t allow outside food. No bringing in a birthday cake or whatever. I’ll also point out that in Houston, a city with tons of varied food options, this was apparently the only certified Kosher place in town at that time.)

                1. Psyche*

                  True, but it may be possible to bring a kosher meal to a non-kosher restaurant for a business lunch (it seems that some, but not all, people who keep kosher would be ok with this).

                2. Mockingdragon*

                  I read Psyche’s comment more that you could take out from Wonderful Vegetarian and bring it into a non-kosher place.

                3. On a pale mouse*

                  Oh, yeah, you could do it that direction, assuming you can find a place where everyone’s okay eating the outside food, nobody is allergic to the smell of anything and so on. I don’t know if someone keeping strict kosher could do that. I suppose they’d have to bring in utensils etc. as well.

            6. Totally Minnie*

              I like the idea of ordering in. They could book a nice room at a fun hotel or other venue, and order from a variety of places so everyone can have something they’re able to enjoy. Also, this would cut down on the noise you get from restaurants so that the group could actually socialize.

          1. Aveline*

            We don’t know what he did or didn’t do wrt to anyone else’s restrictions. We don’t know what he knew in selecting those restaurants or what the process was.

            There are two problems here:

            (1) What is the process? (Does it have all info and input necessary? Is it fair? What’s the decision making rules?)
            (2) What will be done if there is no single restaurant that can accommodate everyone.

            We don’t know he is being unreasonable. It’s equally likely he made the best choice based on the info he was given.

            Let’s not assume bad intent on his part when incompetence or ignorance might explain it.

            As to his “refusal”: This depends entirely on what OP said to him. “I dislike curry” or “I don’t want to eat bland food” is very different from “I cannot eat at that place because I’ve gotten sick the three times I’ve tried to do so.”

            1. Psyche*

              He won’t explain what his dietary restrictions are, thus shutting everyone else out of the decision process. I think that is unreasonable.

              1. Talia*

                Yup! That’s the unreasonable part of this. I have weird and complex food restrictions that mean I’m going to be confined to a limited number of restaurants– my boss has had to get special meals for me for some meal-provided work events. The way that worked? I gave my boss a full list of my restrictions, he found something that worked, and then checked that it worked with me.

                1. JessaB*

                  Exactly. And in some restaurants if you call in advance you can get a lot done. I can’t eat for instance at an Emeril Lagasse or Paul Prudhomme place without calling in advance because I’m allergic to mustard and all their main proprietary seasoning blends have mustard. I need an absolutely fresh pan and utensils, they’ve always accommodated when asked a couple of days ahead.

                  I’ve even eaten beef welly at a Gordon Ramsay place even though I’m allergic to mustard because you order that in advance. It needs to be prepared, you can’t just toss one in an oven, the pastry etc. has to rise, they usually ask for 24 hours notice and with my notice I tell em “no mustard to hold the mushrooms on it.” they use something else.

                  A decent place depending on the restrictions (if we’re talking Kosher/Halal, that might get messier,) but if it’s something else, like no ingredient x or y – a call in advance can often fix things. Including for the OP if their issue isn’t the smell, that badly.

              2. Name Required*

                For me, this is different because OP is asking coworker to explain religious observances, not just dietary restrictions. I think it’s entirely reasonable for OP’s coworker to ask to be the expert on his own personal religious observances when OP just doesn’t like other foods served at restaurants that serve curry — she has gone to restaurants after getting sick eating curry itself without getting sick, and she doesn’t like the other food options she has been previously served. It seems like a strong preference for her and a requirement for him; if I were coworker, I wouldn’t get into that debate with OP either.

                1. Totally Minnie*

                  I get what you’re saying, but if this is going to be something that happens several times a year for the rest of the time that OP has this job, the idea of being the only person who can’t have a good meal at the group outing would be incredibly depressing and demoralizing. As a one off occurrence, fine, I get it. But this sounds like a regular, ongoing meeting, and I wouldn’t want to be stuck eating food I think is gross over and over while my coworkers are enjoying their meals.

                2. Osipova*

                  Honestly, being interrogated about the way one observes about a religion because an outside person “claims to know better” and that “surely there could be other options” brings me to a really uncomfortable place for religious discrimination. Most of the letter was about the OP not liking curry or bland food–not about an actual allergy or actually getting sick.

                  I have a weird food aversion and the smell of it can sometimes make me feel ill but most of the time, I just have to deal when it is served at a party etc. I just don’t eat it. That is not how religious dietary laws work. It would be nice for a business to keep all employees food preferences in mind, but if someone needs a religious accommodation, that should be the priority.

                3. Name Required*

                  @Osipova, I completely agree.

                  @Totally Minnie, OP can have something, but it might be bland. Coworker can’t have anything, bland or otherwise. They’re both depressing and demoralizing, but in one situation, a coworker can’t eat at all. I think the coworker who can’t eat at all “wins” … if we’re stuck with eating only at 1 restaurant with 1 group. There are other options here that do not involve Coworker explaining his needs to OP.

              3. LJay*

                The problem with dietary restrictions is that there is a lot of nuance – look at the discussions on this thread about what is and is not kosher – so if he does tell other people what his dietary restrictions are they might try to insist that he can eat things that he cannot.

        4. Mookie*

          It’s not ONE restaurant, though. The LW used the plural; the co-worker has given the team several options, it sounds like. What’s weird to me is the LW’s own experience with curry joints. The ones she’s visited only offer as alternatives unseasoned chicken, egg, and potatoes. I guess this is a regional thing?

          I think it’s reasonable to point out that curry refers to such a wide variety of dishes, with almost innumerable ingredients and flavor profiles, that the LW has a pretty rigid restriction herself.

          1. Dragoning*

            That…seems pretty par for my experience need dietary accommodations at restaurants, actually. I can’t eat black pepper, and for most restaurants, that means the alternative is “no seasoning” because they premixed all the seasonings together so they can’t but anything on my food.

            If they go to a curry restaurant, but can’t have the curry spices…well…what are they going to do?

            1. fposte*

              I think Mookie’s point is that “curry” in the world means a huge variety of things, with no one single common spice. It’s kind of like saying “stew.” However, curry in the OP’s town restaurants is not likely to be as varied.

          2. Genny*

            Eh, I like South Asian foods, but across the board they tend to contain a lot of heavy spices like ginger, tamarind, etc., which are also found in curry. If LW is reacting to the tamarind, her options in a curry joint will be limited regardless of which meats and veggies are available.

          3. Joielle*

            This was my thought too! Maybe I’m just not familiar with the idea of a “curry restaurant”? Any Indian or Thai place will have tons of other stuff on the menu, the cuisines are incredibly varied. If it’s that OP doesn’t like heavily seasoned food, then ok, maybe the alternative for her is bland, but I think she’s gonna have to deal with it. If one person has a religious restriction and the other just doesn’t want bland food… the first person wins, I’m sorry.

        5. JB*

          Why should he get to be the decider? Why should everyone else bend over backwards to accommodate him?

          How about they do things his way once, and then next time it’s his turn to suck it up? If he doesn’t like whatever everyone else is eating, he can eat a salad. Or PB&J.

            1. JSPA*

              Only if he’s too lazy to find out and explain what his actual religious strictures are, instead of outsourcing them to the cooks at a restaurant. Even if he’s Jain (and can’t eat anything whose production predictably harms insects or is intrinsically fatally harmful to the plant–which negates any vegetables grown underground) it is most certainly possible to find dishes that have no onions, garlic nor root vegetables in a vegan restaurant. Heck, soup and salad bar would answer, if he’s careful with what he puts on his plate. At minimum, if he told OP what the limits are, OP could confirm that the curry restaurant is the only option.

        6. JSPA*

          This sounds like it could be a UK “curry house” where there’s a limited menu–nearly all curry–and the air is redolent of curry. Not “a restaurant that serves a curry.”

      2. sacados*

        Exactly. And while he does have a point that OP may not be able to accurately judge whether a restaurant meets his specific needs —
        For example in the case of someone keeping strict kosher or halal or something like that, I imagine it would be difficult for someone not of the same religion to be fully aware of all the restrictions and say for sure if a restaurant meets it or not.
        But OP (or someone else) can certainly come up with other options that they think will likely meet the coworkers needs and then send them to coworker for vetting.

      3. Dogsnroses*

        I think it’s more unlikely that the OP literally can’t find one semi-enjoyable thing on the menu at an Indian restaurant. The OP needs to be a little more flexible and at least try the restaurant before pushing extremely hard and being adamant that it won’t work. This is really a matter of preference it sounds like. It’d be different if OP had an allergy and couldn’t eat anything on the menu due to cross-contamination but they just don’t even want to give the restaurant a try.

        1. Airy*

          Given what they’ve said about how ill they’ve been when they have eaten curry, it’s possible they are allergic to a common ingredient and just don’t know exactly what it is. It sounds like more than a matter of preference.

          1. only acting normal*

            It happens. I have one friend allergic to the onion family, and another allergic to several spices (both properly diagnosed by allergy clinics). Curry is pretty much out of the question for either of them.

            1. Aveline*

              Yes. Allergies can be weird. Very weird.

              One thing OP absolutely needs to do is to get a medical diagnosis.

              If she goes into work with a doctors note that says she’s allergic to the ingredients in curry, she will be much more sympathetic than if she says “I don’t like it” or “The food is bland.”

              Also, there are so many people that round up dislikes to allergies that one really does need the diagnosis if one can afford it and can get it.

              1. Les G*

                The only rpoblem with that is that she probably *isn’t* allergic to the ingredients found in curry. An aversion is not an allergy.

                1. Aveline*

                  Well, I’ll quote my allergist/immunologist (he’s both) and say that there are a lot of things that aren’t allergies that one should avoid.

                  It really, really depends upon how much of this is a physical reaction instead of a dislike.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I’m not allergic to liver but if I swallow even a small bite, it comes out the way it went in…along with whatever else I ate in the previous few hours. Put a plate of liver near me, close to the same result. No one needs to be subjected to that, ‘allergies ‘ notwithstanding.

          2. Alica*

            That’s exactly what I suspect my issue is! Like the OP, I have tried different curries from different places, and it always ends up the same – me puking my guts out all night. I suspect even if I isolated the spice I am allergic to, I wouldn’t fancy curry now anyway! I now associate it with being ill, yuk.

            (you would be surprised how many people want to find out what I’m allergic to. I know it’s not cumin or coriander. But being sick a lot finding out doesn’t appeal to me.)

            1. Alex*

              I’m in the same boat, and I just say it’s turmeric. I’m not 100% exactly what it is in curry, but it’s never caused me issues in anything else, so turmeric seems like a fair guess, and one that gets people off my back.

                1. President Porpoise*

                  Paella is frequently made with saffron instead of turmeric, so it may not be so clear cut. But I hope you figure out what’s causing you distress, because that sounds awful!

            2. UKDancer*

              Me too. I don’t know why Indian food makes me sick, it just does. Having seen it come back up a few times I’ve no desire to eat it again, so I don’t particularly want to try to find out. I just don’t eat Indian curries. No problem with Thai, Malaysian or Indonesian, but something about Indian food just makes me unwell.

            3. Kaboobie*

              I don’t think I have an allergy, but every time I have tried to eat Indian cuisine, even the most mildly seasoned dish gives me intense heartburn. I would probably wind up just eating naan if required to go to an Indian restaurant, because I have no way of knowing what would trigger me. If this were just “every so often” as the LW describes, I would probably suck it up, but after a prolonged period of time I can see where it would become disappointing and might start to skip the meals.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes, spice allergies can be a problem.. I knew someone from India who was allergic to turmeric… a key ingredient in many of his region’s dishes. He became a very good cook in self defense.

          4. Ceiswyn*

            While this is likely, it’s also true that there are non-curry options at the restaurant that the OP can eat. OP just thinks they’ll be bland and uninteresting.

            ‘Bland and uninteresting’ is the standard fare of most people with dietary restrictions, most of the time they eat out. I’m struggling to be particularly sympathetic when the boot is on the other foot for a change.

            1. Mookie*

              Yeah, if there’s an actual allergy or intolerance at play, it depends on the ingredient, and, for example, whether inhalation of airbourne particulates can elicit a response, which is rare if we’re talking conventional herbs and spices.

              1. Aveline*

                To a point.

                I realize I’ve been very critical of OP. But I will say this in their defense: There is one particular spice to which I am so allergic that the mere scent of it makes me vomit.

                It’s entirely involuntary.

                Fortunately, that spice is very, very rare in American cooking.

                What I question is whether OP is so allergic she can’t even set foot in the place or if it’s simply she doesn’t want to eat bland food there, but could do so if she had to. The difference there is all the difference in the world to me.

                1. Observer*

                  What I question is whether OP is so allergic she can’t even set foot in the place or if it’s simply she doesn’t want to eat bland food there, but could do so if she had to. The difference there is all the difference in the world to me.

                  This is the key for me, as well. “The smell makes me sick” – problem that needs to be accommodated. “I don’t LIKE the food choices”, no.

                2. Aveline*

                  I think the term was “slightly ill” but I’ll go back and check.

                  I don’t like and it makes me uncomfortable is not the same as making her vomit.

                  She needs to frame this in her mind and be honest about it.

                  If it is that severe, then it is worth expending the political capital.

                  However, as an allergy-sufferer, I think she will get far less sympathy in reality than he will. I have known, documented allergies, intolerances, and “bad reactions.” I get very little sympathy.

                  It will really come down to what the other coworkers want. If they like Indian or like him, she’s likely going to be viewed as causing trouble even if her needs are medical.

                  That’s not fair, but it is reality.

                3. Anonana*

                  “It will really come down to what the other coworkers want. If they like Indian or like him, she’s likely going to be viewed as causing trouble even if her needs are medical.”

                  Or the coworkers, like the OP, have been completely happy with the previous choices and prefer them to a restaurant with a specific cuisine and regard new coworker as the trouble maker…I’m thinking it might be the second one.

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              Bland and uninteresting while surrounded by a smell you can barely tolerate and reminds you of being sick is not a fun evening. It’s a lot harder to eat when surrounded by a smell you hate. It tends to infect how you taste food.

              1. Ceiswyn*

                Are all your work events held at vegetarian restaurants, in order to spare the vegetarians on the team from that experience?

                1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  I’m friends with many vegetarians and none of them have a problem with the smell of meat. I know there are some out there who are – but it is not an automatic assumption that they all hate the smell of cooked meat to the point where it makes them ill, so not an accommodation that anyone would need to address unless it was brought up.

              2. Aveline*

                Which may or may not be a problem in the venue.

                How big is it? Where is the curry made? ARe they in a private room or out in the open?

                Too many questions, no answers.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’m struggling to be particularly sympathetic when the boot is on the other foot for a change.

              While I can appreciate the schadenfreude, I don’t think “vegetarians have suffered for years, and so now YOU get to suffer” is the way to build bridges. Why not model better behavior by working together to find a restaurant where everyone can be satisfied, if not overjoyed?

              (I know we’re not talking about a vegetarian, I just used that as an example.)

              1. ceiswyn*

                But my reading is that the OP is currently in the situation where she can be satisfied, but is complaining that she doesn’t get to be overjoyed.

                That comes across as more than a little tone-deaf, given that that is the standard experience of anyone with non-standard dietary requirements.

                What are the chances that previous restaurants have been non-overjoying for other employees, but they didn’t kick up a fuss and OP never noticed or cared?

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  She doesn’t sound even satisfied to me. And if others have been non-overjoyed, that’s a perfect excuse to break the group in two in the future – more of a chance that everyone will find something to love.

            4. KHB*

              See, it’s precisely because I’ve had my own experiences with “bland and uninteresting” food that I am sympathetic to the OP.

              I’m a vegetarian, and was vegan for a while. I try not to be obnoxious about it, but I will raise holy hell to anyone who suggests that the veg*ns should be satisfied with plain salad and unseasoned vegetables while everyone else gets a culinary treat. For a meal that’s intended as a treat (as opposed to, say, a catered work-through-lunch meeting, where you just need to get some food in your stomach and sometimes you need to take whatever you can get), that’s not an adequate solution. If your intention is to treat people, it needs to be perceived as a treat by everyone; otherwise, it’s not a treat.

              I like Alison’s solutions of either splitting into two groups to go to different restaurants, or having food delivered.

          5. BluntBunny*

            But the OP hasn’t been clear. It could be an intolerance or food poisoning. As someone who has food poisoning multiple times I sympathise with wanting to be more cautious with what you eat. If it was how spicy the food was they might find Chinese, Mexican food hard but since they have singled out curry it could be a particular spice. If you are willing to try some Indian curries I would recommend a Korma or dhaal both very mild and have few spices. I think you should speak to your coworker and explain further as at the moment it sounds like I don’t like curry which comes across as possibly insulting to your coworker as curry is a very diverse they also may have some solutions as they are more likely to no the cuisine. If they need Halal foods other types or restaurants to try are Turkish restaurants and kebab type or Mediterranean ones, the coworker may not have thought to look for those or they may be smaller family run and not appeared on their search

            1. LKW*

              We’ve all had that one experience where something didn’t sit right and we’ve gotten very sick. In my case, cookie dough. I will not eat cookie dough now. Ever. Even when it’s in a “safer form” like made specifically to be eaten in dough form, like cookie dough ice cream.

              The OP has indicated that they’ve tried it several times, been very sick and now the smell triggers a recall. I see no reason why the OP has to continue to try variations on a theme to find the one form that may not cause gastric distress.

              1. Katefish*

                In terms of a hidden allergen in curry, it could be peanut or nut flour. Some cuisines, including Indian, have this as an optional spice. I always wondered why I’d sometimes get I’ll or not with the same dish. Found out the hard way!

          6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            But they said that in the past the curry restaurants will make non-curry dishes, which happen to be bland, but perfectly edible for her and she didn’t mention getting sick from them. She just doesn’t want to have to eat a bland meal once in a while

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Would you? If all the other members of your team are digging in and making yummy noises and really enjoying their meals, it feels really terrible to look down at your sad, unseasoned plate and contemplate taking another bite. If it was just a one time occurence, I’d say suck it up, but this sounds like something that happens repeatedly, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have that experience over and over and over for the rest of my career.

              Yes, health requirements and religious requirements take precedence over personal preferences, but there’s got to be an option for OP other than “suck it up” under these circumstances.

              1. PVR*

                As someone who is allergic to shellfish and cannot eat gluten, I have eaten many bland meals while everyone else experienced a culinary delight. It is what it is. I try to focus on the people I’m with and the intent of the meal—holiday, social, business, etc. I can always make my own outing where I can go to a restaurant that will better accommodate me on my own time. I’m interpreting the not liking curry as a preference which is definitely coloring my reaction to the letter.

              2. Frankie Bergstein*

                Me too – this happens a lot with the vegetarian option at a work function. And I don’t mind at all. Folks are trying to accommodate me by having the vegetarian option.

          7. JSPA*

            If you’ve puked up a particular, strong-smelling food several times, that smell can become triggering at a level way, way beyond mere “dislike.”

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          My question is: What happens if a bunch of people push back on curry? In general I would never choose an Indian restaurant for a big group outing because I find that most people are either really into Indian food or don’t like it at all. I feel like the OP isn’t going to be the only person put off with a place that serves mostly curry. I also really hate the smell, and probably wouldn’t be able to eat anything surrounded by it, bland or not (of course I’m pregnant right now so intense smells and gagging on things has become my life, but this was true before that). If there were four or five people out of a dozen who just really didn’t want to eat Indian food would it change things?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            This is a good point. It seems unlikely to me that every other diner is going to be thrilled with such a limited option. If I were one of the group, I’d go find a nice non-Indian place to eat with the LW.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Well, then, you’re looking at discriminating against the employee because of his religion – he can’t join in this work function. Alison’s ‘split up or get delivery’ seems like a better choice.

        3. Former Indian Restaurant Server*

          Yes. If “curries” (by the way, this isn’t actually a thing – curry is just a spice used in many dishes) make you sick, why not try an appetizer like pakoras, samosas or paneer? Heck, worst case scenario they could eat naan and rice. It isn’t the end of the world.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If “curries” (by the way, this isn’t actually a thing – curry is just a spice used in many dishes)

            And those dishes are often colloquially referred to as “curries.”

            The appetizer option could be a good idea, except that the LW will be surrounded by people eating aromatic food when that aroma literally makes her sick.

            1. Former Indian Restaurant Server*

              I suppose it could be cultural because we don’t generally say “curry” in my country, but to me it seems very ignorant to call an entire culture’s breadth of dishes by a single spice name.

              Also OP said they could “barely tolerate” the smell, meaning it is tolerable. I don’t read that as literally making them sick.

              1. JSPA*

                A curry is a general catch-all term for a large variety of British-ized Indian (and then, by extension, other southeast asian) foods. India does indeed export pre-mixed spice blends for this purpose. I can also vouch that the anglicized description of dishes in restaurants in India (by personal experience, Delhi and Tamil Nadu) is also, sometimes, “[something] curry”–so the existence of a dish under that name is certainly not unknown in India.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            Would you want to just eat bread and rice at every work meal for your entire duration of employment while everyone else is eating something they really enjoy?

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Please don’t call people hysterical just because they disagree with you. It doesn’t really support your stance. And you’re missing the entire principle of the thing. It’s not that the OP has to eat bland food (in a nauseating setting) for one meal. It’s that (1) the meal is intended to be a treat, and (2) the new coworker is refusing to work with anyone to find a place to eat that could be enjoyable for all.

          3. Risha*

            Indian is the one cuisine that I refuse to eat for similar reasons as the OP. The last time I ate at a 4-star Indian restaurant I threw up in the parking lot. I don’t know what spice it is that triggers that reaction is me, but it’s widespread through the majority (but not all) of the dishes I’ve tried, including appetizers and deserts, is seemingly specific to that region (other south Asian foods might kill me with heat but don’t seem to present this issue), and without knowing what it is I can’t avoid it by picking my way gingerly through the simple items on the menu.

            (With that said, in the OP’s place I’d suck it up and show up and drink water and eat all the naan.)

            1. JSPA*

              fenugreek (methi) is quite distinctive to Indian food, as is asfoetida (which is a sort of latex-y plant sap, and could cause dramatic reactions) ditto curry leaf (which is not automatically found in “curry.”)

              The other common ingredients are more widely used. You’d presumably know if you were allergic to the various mustards, cardamom, coriander, cashews, or any of the various beans that are used in the form of bean flour in so many indian dishes.

      4. Smarty Boots*

        There’s a difference between accommodations (for religious or medical reasons) and preferences. It’s not clear that the OP needs an “accommodation” but rather has a preference. A *strong* preference, but not a need.
        Also, it may indeed be the case that restaurants that fit the co-worker’s religious needs are curry restaurants (I’m thinking the co-worker may be looking for halal restaurants? that’s just a guess of course).
        But as everyone is noting, the co-worker ought to speak to whomever is planning these outings so that the planner can take the various needs (gluten free, religious restriction) and, if possible, preferences too, into account.
        I don’t think the co-worker needs to run their needs by the OP, however. Really, it’s none of the OP’s business, unless the OP is the one doing the planning.

        1. LCL*

          It is OPs business, because OP is looking for a solution. It is rather high handed for one of the participants to have the attitude that his needs must be accommodated, then when others involve want to know what needs to help in the search for a mutually agreeable solution, he won’t tell you. This is a power play, the kind of thing that when done by people in authority makes the others subject to it apoplectic.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Meh – as you can see from the storm above, educating people about religious dietary restrictions has a lot of variable responses, including total dismissal (Let Them Eat Salad!). It’s not always a power play, it’s often just *exhaustion*, and sometimes fear. I wouldn’t assume worst behavior when it comes to non-mainstream religious (or ethnic / racial / gender / sexuality) education and discussion.

            1. Osipova*

              Yes! This.

              They probably don’t want to have to deal with OP or others saying things like “This seems stupid.” “These rules seem very weird.” or “Why do you have to follow this.” or “I know someone from XXXX religion and they don’t follow these rules.”

    2. Cary*

      I suspect his choice of restaurant is influenced by restrictions in how the food is prepared rather than it being a curry restaurant. When we hosted Islamic weddings at a hotel I worked at the guests usually brought in their own chefs since they practiced halal. That’s not something or regular kitchen staff could have handled.

      1. Reluctant Manager*

        Maybe OP could go once to the coworker’s suggested place and see before deciding. If coworker is Jain, which does have some unusual restrictions, it’s possible that the preparations will be different from what OP expects. It’s not obvious that OP eating something plain and dull is worse than coworker being unable to eat at all. (Besides, “curry” is such a general term it’s not really meaningful. There isn’t any one ingredient that makes something “curry.”)

        1. Elspeth*

          Unfortunately, though, it sounds as though OP actually gets sick just from the smell of curry, which is why it might be better to have food delivered, or at alternate places.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            But she said she has gone to curry restaurants in the past and been fine eating the bland, non-curry foods provided. She didn’t like them because they were boring, but diddn’t get ill from being in the restaurant.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              As someone who pukes when I get too close to the smell of curry, I had the same interpretation as Gumption. I let people know I can’t walk into (or have in my house) certain kinds of food, and I would absolutely make sure I mentioned it if I was OP. Since she didn’t specify that, my default is that it’s only nauseating when eaten, and she can get through a meal where the scent is around.

        2. TL -*

          A Jain would be really hard to accommodate at a non-specialized restaurant and there were probably be very few options for him to pick from. Thanks – I was struggling to think of one that would be hard to accommodate in a city like Boston and that is a good example.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yep, I thought of Jains too — and yup, it would pretty much only be Indian restaurants that would be able to accommodate a Jain.

        3. Michio Pa*

          This is a good example and also lines up with the idea that only restaurants that cater to this would serve curry (not trying to determine coworker’s religion, but this suggestion made it click for me why a religiously-compliant restaurant would only serve one kind of food).

          If that is the case, OP, if the smell of curry makes you physically ill… then you’re going to have to split up I think. But if it’s just a preference (and there are many kinds of curry, including degrees of intensity of flavor and spiciness, that may not trigger a reaction for you. Also there are SO many kinds of Indian food that aren’t curry and still have seasoning that you could try), then I think you should snack before/after and reframe this dinner as a chance to get to know your coworker.

          1. Temperance*

            But why can’t *he* bring his own food to a regular restaurant that suits everyone else, if we’re making this argument?

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              Try bringing your own food to a regular restaurant, and let us know how that works out for you *LOL*. I’ve not known ANY restaurant of any flavor that will allow outside food.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                We’re not talking about wandering into Pizza Hut with your bag from McDonald’s. Have you actually tested this theory by calling a restaurant and saying “we’d like to feed a group of 25, but one of our people needs a special meal that you can’t provide, so we’d like that person to bring food separately and you can charge us a set-up fee?” Because this is a thing.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It is not necessarily so.
          For many years after a food poisoning episode, I couldn’t tolerate beef unless it was admittedlying overcooked. For the first yesr, the smell of raw and cooking beef gave me heaves.

          Now give me a word in English that describes the entire class of combined spices that could be used by someone whose illness came from his or her first experiences with one or more of those spices.
          (And honestly OP’s bad experience could easily have been with Great-aunt Jane’s unrefrigerated dip that used McCormick Curry Powder. …All apologies to McCormick !)

          Now off to pack up the chicken biryiani I’m taking to my office’s pot luck…

          1. TL -*

            Well, curry is a really, really, really broad range of dishes and even within Indian cuisine, the dishes smell differently depending on which spices and what ingredients are used. And the word for a mixture of spices used in Indian food is masala – if you consider taco, kung pao chicken, and sauerkrat English enough words to accurately describe food, then we can certainly use masala too.

            I do think some of it is a UK/USA difference in the use of ‘curry place’, but on the other hand, the UK doesn’t have the greatest track record with Pakistani- and Indian-British communities. I don’t think it’s so easy to just dismiss these concerns, especially when multiple South Asian people are saying this is a common way in which racism is expressed towards them.

        5. Allergic to Curry*

          I’m not the OP, but I’m allergic to one of the spices in curry, and in my case, the allergy is so severe that the smell of curry alone is enough to produce an anaphylactic reaction (I also do the same thing with peanuts- the smell of peanut butter can put me in the hospital, or worst case scenario, kill me).

    3. veg*

      if not halal, i’d guess perhaps he’s jain, which means he can’t eat any animal products or any root vegetables (basically anything like onions or garlic or carrots that generally require the entire plant be uprooted for the vegetable)– that’s my best guess for why it seems like only a curry place will satisfy him. that’s really unfortunate though!

        1. Afish*

          If the colleague is Jain and it’s an Indian restaurant that caters for Jains (Jainism is an Indian religion), the curry wouldn’t contain onions or garlic.

        2. JSPA*

          There are jain curries, though. Which might be why there’s ONE restaurant, and only one, where someone make Jain-appropriate dishes (or claims to, anyway).

      1. LKW*

        But that implies that you could go to a vegetarian restaurant and order a dish made without certain ingredients and be compliant. Now, there’s obviously a risk if the kitchen isn’t listening. A discussion with the chef/ kitchen before the meal could probably resolve the issue.

      2. OfficeLife*

        Oh, that’s interesting, I had heard Jains have specific diets but never had looked into it, it was quite fascinating to read. I can see how that would be difficult to cater to something like that. I do think OP and the coworker need to talk about it though, and find a solution – perhaps getting food brought in or something else, or changing between different places… the whole point of the dinner is for morale, so I hope they can find a solution that helps everyone out!

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Methinks Coworker just wants curry.

      I have lived with DH’s religious (halal) dietary needs for almost 15 years. I have a really hard time believing that in any city of reasonable size that the *only* possibility of acceptable food is curry.

      Granted Coworker may not need halal food…I get that but I don’t know of any religious dietary restrictions that are “curry only.”

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I suspect that a little too. If he is unwilling to specify exactly what his needs are and are just demanding they go with curry, it seems like he is more excited about curry than some other possible choices and doesn’t want to bring them up. I’m not saying he doesn’t have restrictions – I’m sure he does – but he might be trying to use them to Bogart the choice.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes, if you are going to be this specific, it may help others to understand what your restrictions are. I”d still be disappointed at a place that only serves curry dishes, but if it was truly the only thing that accommodated him, I’d deal.

          1. PVR*

            But Indian restaurants serve many types of dishes besides “curries”! There are samosas, tandoori chicken, pakora. Also there are so many different types of “curries” too across regions other than India, such as Thai. There is coconut curry, green curry, red curry, is korma considered “curry”? To rule out an entire restaurant by just calling it a “curry” restaurant shows a bit of ignorance for an entire type of cuisine. My advice to the OP is to look at the menu ahead of time and find a “non curry” item on it to try.

            1. Frankie Bergstein*

              Yes, this! Calling a lot of foods “curry” has been really confusing to me throughout – what, indeed, is a “curry” restaurant? One that exclusively serves spicy stews (what a curry is) and, apparently, bland sides?

        2. Kes*

          I mean, that’s possible, but I think it’s also entirely possible that the only places that meet his requirements happen to be places that serve curry, and that he doesn’t want to specify because the requirements are complicated to explain and/or are easily misunderstood by those outside the religion (ie he doesn’t want to try and explain, just to have to deal with OP coming back with restaurants that seem to fit the criteria or say they do, but actually don’t, and then have to keep explaining why that actually doesn’t work, which would just be a frustrating experience for both of them). It may well be that the places he’s suggested really are the best (and possibly only) options that work for him.

          1. Psyche*

            I think that in that case they need to go though the frustrating process one time. Then the OP can see how hard it really is to find a place. Or the coworker will see that he is being too limiting. But it is much easier to accept a restaurant you dislike if it is actually shown that it is the only valid option than having someone dictate it.

            1. Kes*

              Eh, I mean I suspect coworker is well aware of how restrictive his diet is, but that’s not likely to change if it’s dictated by his religion. On OP’s side… maybe? But I suspect it would just leave her feeling frustrated and that she tried but his religious restrictions are overly confining, which doesn’t really leave them in a better place.

              1. Psyche*

                It depends. If her frustration is because she thinks that she would be able to find somewhere that would work if she were allowed to try it would probably help. It would at least dispel any feelings that he just likes curry and isn’t trying to find somewhere else. If her frustration is that no matter what she wants a curry free place, then it wouldn’t help.

                1. Name Required*

                  It would be incredibly left-field and bizarre for OP’s coworker to pretend to have a religious dietary restriction because he wants to manipulate all of his new coworkers into going to a place that has curry just because he likes curry. If that is what OP genuinely thinks, it seems incredibly uncharitable and aggressive, and I don’t think the answer is that OP’s coworker needs to explain his religious observances to “prove” he isn’t just forcing his coworkers to go to a curry place.

                2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  Name Required – I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the coworker is totally making up his religious restrictions. There is just a chance that his religious restrictions could be accommodated at a curry place, or a second or third type of food, but coworker would really rather have curry so he is telling them curry is the only place. People are saying maybe the reason he won’t explain his restrictions is because OP would figure out they could also eat somewhere else and he doesn’t want to go there.

                3. Name Required*

                  @MusicWithRocksInIt

                  I’m speaking directly to: “It would at least dispel any feelings that he just likes curry and isn’t trying to find somewhere else.”

                  And in your own comment: “People are saying maybe the reason he won’t explain his restrictions is because OP would figure out they could also eat somewhere else and he doesn’t want to go there.”

                  “He just likes curry” … “he doesn’t want to go there.” I’m not saying that people think he is pretending to have any religious observances, but it’s unkind to assume that he’s also tacting on personal preferences to a list that is supposed to reflect only genuine religious observances. I’m not sure how else to read what you and Psyche are saying.

                4. Psyche*

                  I wasn’t trying to say he was lying about his religious requirements. I was trying to say that he did not necessarily research every restaurant in the city because that would take an insane amount of time.

          2. Washi*

            Yeah, this is what I assumed – that when asked initially, he wanted to avoid explaining because he didn’t want a bunch of back and forth of “oh you can eat this then!” “No because X” “What about this?” “No because Y.” If he continues to refuse multiple times, then he’s being a pain, but I figured that maybe he’s found that it’s easier to just present the options rather than try to explain potentially complicated rules.

            Honestly, takeout seems like a much easier option than all of this!

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              I’m vegetarian, and I get that line of questioning sometimes. So do gluten-free friends. I imagine it’s worse if the dietary restrictions are complicated.

            2. Observer*

              Yes, this makes sense. Look at the number of people “explaining” how “simple” it is to get Halal and Kosher food in any vegetarian restaurant. Halal is less complex and it’s still not necessarily so easy. Kosher? No, not at all. If something is at the level of Kosher or higher, it’s really easy to see why someone would want to avoid the whole discussion.

            3. Zillah*

              Yes. I just go out with people and sit there while they eat, because I find the back and forth to be so profoundly stressful.

          3. LJay*

            This.

            Or he might be concerned about judgement about his religion or levels of religiousness as well. “Why do you follow rule X but not rule Y? Since you don’t follow rule Y can’t you forgo rule X just once?” “I know another member of [religion] and they don’t follow rule X s0 it must not be that important.” “What does rule X have to do with believing in deity Z anyway?”

      2. Aveline*

        Sigh.

        Again, for the record the assumption that a city of reasonable size only has curry as the option is dead wrong.

        In a lot of places in the US, the only vegetarian/Kosher/Halal acceptable places are Indian. This is A THING.

        The curry is incidental to the restaurant. Not that he chose curry. He chose a restaurant that happens to have curry.

      3. Observer*

        Given the number of people IN THIS THREAD who have actually pointed out at least one example of a religious situation where this makes sense, this sounds like you really have your mind made up regardless of facts.

      4. schnauzerfan*

        Well, it all depends on what you mean by “reasonable size.” As near as I can tell, the only place in South Dakota to get a Kosher meal is in a private home. So yeah. I second the “find some other way to team build and get takeout for those occasions when eating together is a must.” I frequently volunteer to be on the food committee, because that way I can be sure there is something I can eat. (many, many allergies and intolerances) and I work hard to try to get a mix of options for people… I’ve spent way too many meals nibbling on a carrot stick while watching others eat.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        Big assumption there…. See the discussion of Jainism right above your quote for an example that contradicts your assumption.

    5. Susan B.*

      As to what the dietary restriction might be, some practicing Hindus observe the restriction that you can’t eat food prepared by someone in a lower caste than you, or someone who’s outside the caste system. So, if you’re a Brahmin at the top of the caste system, you can only eat food prepared by another Brahmin.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          They know exactly who owns what restaurant and where they are in the system. I ran into that with a friend once. I had picked an Indian place and she said no because of this reason, but knew which ones she could eat at.

      1. A Hindu*

        This is not at all a common practice, especially outside of India. If a Hindu does practice not eating out for whatever reason, they will say so. This is not that situation, the coworker can eat out but cannot eat certain items.

    6. A tester, not a developer*

      I know ancedotes are not data, but I do know several people from South East Asia who have restrictions not only on what they eat, but how it is stored and prepared. They described it to me as something like keeping kosher. Imagine trying to find a kosher restaurant that doesn’t serve foods we associate with Judaism – it’s probably a similar struggle to find a restaurant that meets the co-workers needs that doesn’t serve curry.

    7. Batty ArtMonster*

      I’m going to echo what some of the others said: this sounds like a case of someone who can only eat kosher/halal and in my experience, these restaurants are few and far between. I live in a capital city and there are only 2 restaurants that are kosher/halal. I used to have a co-worker who could only eat at these restaurants (and yes, both were Indian) but only one was local to us so anytime we went out for a work event/dinner, that’s where we ended up.

      Suggestion for the OP: instead of always going out for dinner, would it be possible to arrange for catering/food delivery and have your event at a boardroom at your place of work? This is what we ended up doing so we weren’t always going to just one restaurant. We’d arrange for catering for the rest of the employees, and arrange for delivery from the halal/kosher restaurant from the employee who required it. It worked out really well to the point where we stopped going out at all because it was much easier to cater to everyone’s preferences/requirements and ultimately became a much more enjoyable event.

  3. Les G*

    Pretty surprised by the answer to #1. I would have thought that religious restrictons trumped preference (which, let’s be clear, this is–the non-curry options may be unappealing, but they are extant) every time–meaning that it’s not really on for the OP to say “this won’t work for me and we need to find something different.” If there is truly one restaurant that works for the coworker’s dietary restriction, I’m just not seeing a solution here that ends with the OP coming off well.

    I hope I’m not coming off too harsh here. Sounds rough, to be sure.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP says the smell of this restaurant will make her sick; it’s not just preference. If it was just “eh, I’d rather have steak,” then I’d agree with you but it sounds like more than that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Although I can see from comments below that other people are interpreting it really differently, so I’m revising the answer to account for the fact that I might have put too much weight on the “it makes me sick” line.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Not necessarily. The smell of lamb will make me violently ill. Every. Single. Time. It’s not just a preference.

          Plus OP says the only restaurantS … plural that Coworker finds acceptable are curry. I think the actual “preference” is Coworker’s.

          1. Approval is optional*

            I live in a town with a population of about 200,000 that has enough restaurants to have a Top 20 list, and there are three halal restaurants in the town and all three serve Indian cuisine, so it might well not be a preference for the coworker.

            1. Aveline*

              THANK YOU.

              Why do so many other rational, otherwise kind and thoughtful posters seem so stuck on the thought that there “just has to be” other options?

              There is a great overlap between Indian and vegetarian/Halal/Kosher in a lot of larger towns/small cities in the US.

              His choice of restaurant is not coincidence or mean-spiritedness. It may well be the only choice.

              It may not be either. None of us know.

              1. Psyche*

                But the problem is the OP does not know either. Even if it is complicated, the coworker needs to try to explain his dietary restriction. It may very well be that he knows curry places can most likely accommodate him so he only looked up curry places. There might be other options that he hasn’t found and didn’t bother to look for because he presented several perfectly good options in his opinion.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Meh, I don’t agree that the coworker has an obligation to educate. Look at how explaining dietary restrictions has gone over in these comments, where people are usually fairly intelligent, kind and aware of others’ experiences. Imagine you’re the coworker who has to do this explaining with every group meal, or at least every group meal with any new people. It’s logistical and emotional labor, that comes with an element of risk – the dismissal of ‘Let Them Eat Cake!’ is pretty hurtful.

                  Coworker and OP have to manage the religious / preference / medical aspects of this, but OP is best off if she *trusts* her coworker to know his needs, and assumes that his description / choice is an accurate reflection of his requirements (eg, This is the only place where coworker can eat).

                  And then OP can decide how she can work with those parameters – I really like the ‘delivery’ option, myself.

          2. pleaset*

            “Not necessarily. The smell of lamb will make me violently ill. Every.”

            But that’s not the OP’s situation. It seems clear *eating *the stuff actually made her ill and not the smell. She can barely tolerate it. Which is not good. It’s bad and very unpleasant. But it’s not the same as actually becoming ill.

            1. ValkyrAmy*

              Sitting through a meal, trying to eat flavorless stuff, while the odor of your fellow diner’s meal is barely tolerable and reminding you of all the times you’ve barfed while trying to eat curry is the *best* way to bond with your coworkers.

        2. HappySnoopy*

          I interpreted it as you first did Alison, but that may be because I relate. I like the taste of curry, but it physically makes me ill. Not sure if allergy or an intolerance like lactose. My mother becomes ill from the smell. I have to watch some seasoning (mix of spices)

          The challenge is both equally need accomodations, and the accomodations for one may well not accommodate the other.

          1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

            Yes. I like Indian food, but there is something that *some* restaurants use that makes me ill. I wish I knew what it was, since it’s definitely not *all*, but I can definitely believe that the letter writer is running into something she can’t eat.
            (Now, in my case, I just cautiously test Indian restaurants, because I like the food well enough to take the risk. And the odds are mostly in my favor, like there’s maybe a 75% chance it’ll be fine.)

            1. HappySnoopy*

              Reading comments below after, I realize I may have been insensitive by lumping “curry” into a catchall seasoning when it really relates to a type of dish. I sincerely apologize; I did not intend to offend.

              FYI, Im sure at least saffron and tumeric are spices affecting me. Not sure on others, and it is not fun experimenting–I dont like my newly reno’d bathroom that much.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      The thing about religious accommodation is that it has to be reasonable. “Only curry” isn’t that reasonable. Personally though, I’d let him have it once. I’d just sit this one out and be like “I can’t go there, the smell makes me sick,” and then get another restaurant next time. The guy can’t reasonably expect the entire office to stick to this curry house for the rest of time.

      1. Aveline*

        He didn’t say “only curry.” It just seems like that’s the only place in this town that can accommodate him.

        That’s true in a lot of smaller cities. It’s true in my city. If you want some types of food, it’s only Indian that will work. And only certain Indian restaurants.

        In the end, it doesn’t seem like OP and the religious man will be able to eat at the same restaurant.

        So they either have to have something catered or do separate dinners.

        1. Lexi Kate*

          This so much. When you have too many food accommodations in a group the easier solution is to order in from a few choices and with Door dash and Uber eats this should be quick and simple.

          We did this for our Holiday dinner and I was surprised how easy it was to ask my 4 people who have eating restrictions where they would like to order from and send out a email to the others to decide on a 5th option and have everyone pick meals from those 5 places. The food was delivered on time and no one complained about what end of town we were going to, or that they didn’t have what they wanted, or that they like a booth and not a table (because when eating with 19 people its easy to fit in a booth). The Door dash is going to be great for next week when my parents and aunts stay with us.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          “He didn’t say “only curry.” It just seems like that’s the only place in this town that can accommodate him.”

          Which means that the options for their dinner are only curry.

          1. Aveline*

            Nope it does not.

            Serving curry does not mean serving only curry.

            Most Indian places have other foods.

            1. boop the first*

              Yeah this is the thing I get stuck on – it’s like refusing to go to a sushi place because you hate fish. I hate fish, but I love sushi, because it’s NOT FISH.

            2. else*

              This is true, and I LOVE curry – but you know that if the issue is the smell the LW can’t go there. Curry is fragrant – that’s its entire thing. Also, a lot of the spices that are in a curry are also in other Indian/Pakistani dishes to varying amounts, so if the LW doesn’t know how to explain to the waitstaff what they need, they’re going to get a spiceless meal because the restaurant doesn’t know what else to try.

              1. Genny*

                This is what comes to my mind as well. South Asian cuisine heavily relies on very heavy, fragrant spices. If you know you get sick when you have curry, but don’t know which spice is causing it, you likely may not have many options. Cumin, tumeric, ginger, etc. are going to be found in most other dishes at the restaurant.

              2. pleaset*

                “they’re going to get a spiceless meal because the restaurant doesn’t know what else to try.”

                Yes. And I think “So what.” It’s not great but it’s just a meal. I’ve had plain bread and butter for a meal and plain rice (with salt and oil) for a meal. If I had to do that often I’d hate it. But on rare instances…..whatever.

                1. JessaB*

                  But that may not be true, look at the menu and call them and ask. If I can manage to eat one of the most mustard heavy dishes ever (Beef Welly has it slathered on to keep the mushrooms in place,) by calling and saying make one up without it. The OP hasn’t yet called the restaurant, at least maybe I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem they have. Maybe they can make the most awesome, I dunno garlic slathered chicken breast with naan bread and veg. Obviously not if the coworker is Jain, but maybe, it’s possible to have items that they can adapt for the OP. Now if the “smell of this is going to make me killer sick,” is at that level of discomfort, that won’t work. Still never rule a place out til you’ve been on an actual phone call to em.

            3. Traffic_Spiral*

              “Most Indian places have other foods.”

              Um, yeah, as per LW “unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips.”

              1. Aveline*

                That wasn’t a reference to this particular restaurant. It was a reference to her past experience at all types of restaurants,

                Had she said, I know this place, and I can’t do it, different story.

              2. Aveline*

                “But in most places, it’s plain, dull, uninteresting food. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips. I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat.”

                This is direct from the Letter. It’s clear that this is (1) past experience, not this restaurant and (2) related to her feeling deprived for not getting what she used to get.

                Those two sentiments may or may not be decoupled in the LW’s mind or experience. But she herself is presenting them as intertwined.

                That’s a real problem.

          2. Aveline*

            You know, this is no different than going to a place that makes great steak and eating the fish. Just because they serve curry does not mean that’s the only option.

            Now, it may well be this is the only option, but that’s NOT what OP said in her post.

            1. JessaB*

              Yep, or the chicken. I’m not a huge fan of beef. And I’ll only rarely eat it (I had to do the Welly at the Gordo place we went to, but not again,) because it’s really hard mouthfeel wise for me to stand anything less than mid-well, and that’s a high insult in for instance Peter Luger’s (and they won’t even bat an eyelash over it either if I were to order the steak, they’re classy that way.) On the other hand most of them can plate a passable chicken or fish or at least serve me the fish half of their surf and turf. On the other hand if I go to a Gordo place I know I can get other stuff. If I go to Peter Luger’s I expect to get a slightly less amazing meal. And unless my guests are steak freaks you won’t see me there, ever.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        That stuck out to me too. In a decent size group the OP can’t be the only person who would rather not with curry. Plus if they do that often enough – is it just curry forever? Other people will probably start to push back.

        1. Aveline*

          That depends upon this: Is the restaurant a curry house or is it an Indian or other similar cuisine where curry is part of a larger repertoire?

          We are assuming a lot based on insufficient information.

          I think, in the end, accommodating everyone is likely not possible. If that’s the case, religious preferences and DIAGNOSED medical restrictions take precedence over preferences and undiagnosed allergies.

          I say that as someone with a lot of undiagnosable allergies and inteolerances. My doctors believe I have them, but they aren’t “diagnosable.”

          In some smaller cities, there will likely be no restaurant that can accommodate everyone’s needs even if you exclude the preferences and undiagnosed issues. (Which I’m assuming are legitimate and not rounding up from dislikes and preferences).

          I personally have had to cut out a lot of sit-down fundraising dinners for this very issue. But I know that there is often no way to accommodate what I need without a major sacrifice by everyone else.

          1. Temperance*

            So you’re reasonable whereas this guy is not.

            I think food intolerances and allergies should be accommodated. There’s no reason to make someone suffer because medical science hasn’t determined the root cause.

            My husband has an intolerance to peanuts. He hasn’t had anaphylaxis, but if he smells them, he gets nauseated, and he’ll vomit if he accidentally eats any.

            1. fposte*

              I also think that the nature of this event matters here. This is an after-hours dinner supposed to be devoted to enjoyment, not a boxed lunch for a meeting. It really sucks to have to spend your own evening on a work “treat” that at best isn’t and at worst makes you sick.

            2. MsChanandlerBong*

              I am not allergic to peanuts, but ever since I started having gallbladder problems, I can’t eat them. Maybe it’s the fat content (although I can eat other fatty foods without a problem). Maybe it’s something in peanuts. Who knows? Regardless of the reason, I can no longer eat peanuts or peanut butter unless I want to be violently ill for the rest of the day. I had my gallbladder out almost four years ago, but the peanut issue persists (my surgeon did say that the foods that bothered me when I had a bad gallbladder will continue to bother me without a gallbladder–he was right).

            3. Aveline*

              MsBong

              It may well be the mold in the soil in the southern USA. It’s a known issue.

              I know people who can eat in Thailand with no issue but American peanut butter is a no-go.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, I have no dietary restrictions and love curry, but “workplace curry forever” would wear me out pretty quickly!

    3. Klo*

      I agree, and to be honest I think the OP is really out of order. Her coworker has a legitimate dietary restriction, and she is pretty much saying they should miss out on team dinners completely so she doesn’t have to eat bland food. This is so unfair to her coworker who shouldn’t be excluded because of what one person prefers.

      It’s not like the OP would have nothing to eat here, which seems like it would be the case for her coworker if they went to one of the OPs preferred restaurants. I think you really need to rethink this “perk” of having great meals out… you can always do that yourself outside of work when you can pick whatever you like!

      1. snowglobe*

        I don’t think the OP was suggesting that the coworker should sit out. OP was suggesting that the coworker should keep looking for restaurants that would satisfy his religious restrictions AND have something that the OP could enjoy. And if he doesn’t provide OP with specifics about his restrictions, OP really can’t say for sure if there are other alternatives or not.

        1. Smarty Boots*

          But we don’t know that the co-worker hasn’t spoken to the planner, just that they haven’t spoken to the OP. My religious beliefs are not anyone’s business; if they affect some work function, then I would discuss that with the planner or my manager. I don’t have any obligation to discuss it with my co-worker who wants to eat where they *want* to eat. OP is not giving their co-worker the benefit of the doubt — entirely possible that only places that serve curry fit the co-worker’s religious NEEDS. OP needs to suck it up — it’s not like this is dinner every day.

              1. fposte*

                Wow, ouch. There’s a line just above the commenting box that says “Be kind.” Could you try to do that in future?

          1. Name Required*

            Are you OP? Good gravy. Just because you believe that every restaurant can cater to every religious and dietary need doesn’t make it true, and there is plenty evidence in this comments section to support that it isn’t true; there is no evidence that OP’s coworker just wants to eat curry. It’s the most far-fetched and unlikely explanation.

              1. Zillah*

                It’s really, really great for you that you haven’t experienced this – but for many people, there are enough restrictions that it is a need. It can be inconvenient without the OP’s coworker being a liar.

          2. Observer*

            What you refuse to believe doesn’t define reality.

            It’s quite possible that the OP and the coworker have actual needs that cannot be met by one restaurant. Your personal beliefs in the matter don’t change that. There are people who “refuse to believe” that the earth is round (yes, they actually exist!) Does that make them right?

            I’m not claiming that you’re a flat earther, but it’s really not useful to blast people for not doing the thing you think they should do because you “refuse to believe” something you know nothing about. It’s also pretty ignorant.

      2. Kasia*

        I disagree.

        An allergy or an intolerance to a food is not a choice.

        Religion is a choice.

        And even if she just doesn’t want to eat at a Curry place every time, it is unfair to others to have to have their dinners ruined every time to accommodate the religious choices of one person. The fairest thing to do would be to rotate restaurants. She might have to eat the bland food this time, but the co-worker also needs to take his turn eating the bland food.

        1. Captain Radish*

          I am a tad bit cynical, but I’d be a bit suspicious of someone who won’t say what restrictions he/she has and homes in on only one type of restaurant.

          Tolerance should go both ways. Being tolerant of a religion is fine, but those who follow such religions need to be tolerant of people who don’t.

          1. Aveline*

            There are several religions where, in smaller towns, the only places they can eat are Indian places.

            You may be cynical, but I know this from direct experience.

            In some smaller cities and mid-size cities, Indian is the only option.

            I really, really want to push back on the notion that the religious dude purposely only chose this one place and there are dozens of other options. There may not be. We do not know.

            I am an athiest and an allergy sufferer and I think both OP and a lot of people on this thread are jumping to conclusions about what he can eat and his ability to be flexible without any facts in evidence.

            Yes, if this is London or NYC or LA, then he’s being unreasonable. If it’s Mobile, Alabama, well…I honestly have no idea and neither does anyone else posting.

            It’s entirely possible that there is only one restaurant.

            The question we should be asking is “what then?” If it’s true this is the only place he can eat and OP really can’t eat there (not merely doesn’t want to eat there). Then what?

            I also think it’s unclear if OP really can’t eat there or just doesn’t want to do so. On the one hand, she talks about curry making her ill. On the other, her real complaint seems to be about bland food.

            I think OP needs to get clear in her head what is truly a physical issue for her and what is merely preference.

            I don’t think any of us know.

            So I think we should really focus on helping OP parse that and parse what to do instead of coming down and saying that it’s impossible that there’s only one place for this dude to eat.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              If the coworker refuses to explain what the food restrictions are – then that makes them much harder to work with and the whole thing a little suspicious. If the OP is willing to do the research and find someplace else, the coworker should be willing to work with them a little, and if the OP finds someplace that doesn’t work for them they should at least explain what about it won’t work. The OP is willing to do the extra legwork here and is trying to find a comprise, while the coworker is not. In a world filled with all kinds of allergies and restrictions, you have to be willing to work on a compromise.

              1. Aveline*

                Agreed. But he shouldn’t have to tell OP.

                There should be someone else who is both neutral and will keep this all confidential.

                OP should not have to spill her guts all over the place, but neither should the man have to explain all his religious preferences to her.

                However, given that she doesn’t seem to have told her employer that she has an allergy, that’s the first step.

                She’s not on equal footing her in terms of consideration. Maybe she should be. But she needs to take that step and tell someone above both of them that “Curry is a problem because.”

                1. Adele*

                  Is religion and its food restrictions really something that needs to/should be kept confidential? It is not a medical condition. The curry-eating employee doesn’t need to get into a theological discussion, but he should be able to lay out his food restrictions pretty easily. I have several friends who keep kosher and they are very clear about what their restrictions are.

                2. Aveline*

                  Adele

                  I don’t know. Where do they live? Does the country have protections for him if he’s persecuted for his faith? For his skin color?

                  This isn’t a black and white answer

                3. Dweali*

                  @Adele…I can imagine in some places in America it can be…I live in Tulsa which is pretty liberal/progressive compared to the rest of OK (minus OKC and possibly Lawton) but even here I’ve seen people get side eye because they aren’t “good, decent, god-fearing christian”

                  Off topic of this particular nest but I got curious about my it and googled to see if I could find halal/kosher restaurants and it’s 1 certified kosher 3 others that claim (one of which I wouldn’t consider kosher since they serve ham), and 3 that are halal (1 being the kosher certified the other 2 being a mix of Indian/Mediterranean/Mexican and another one claiming it is but I’m really doubting the corporate Mexican food is but I could be wrong)

              2. Shiara*

                And it can be utterly exhausting to detail your extensive list of restrictions and after you’ve given your list to have a person suggest an option that they think will be fine but that fails in the details. So I can see why this co-worker might be trying to say no, this list is what will work rather than get into the nitty gritty with op. Especially if he doesn’t want to get into but this place is okay with other person of the same religion who follows less strict rules.

                1. Talia*

                  Yes. It is exhausting. That doesn’t make it not something he needs to do. That’s part of life with serious food restrictions. (And I say that as someone with serious food restrictions.)

                2. else*

                  It’s tiresome – and I have a LOT of food issues, so I also know – but the co-worker still has to do it. It’s impacting other people. That’s the line. Whether his issues are religious, medical, or ethical, when it impacts other people, he must disclose, even if that just means that he says that he has an ADA covered medical reason that HR is aware of, or whatever the right words are.

                3. Observer*

                  I’m with the others here. I TOTALLY get it – it can be exhausting. But, given the narrowness of the results, it’s necessary. Not because I think he’s playing games, but because in cases like this transparency is important. And so is a willingness to *be seen* as doing your best (not just ACTUALLY doing your best, which may very well be the case here.)

                4. Irina*

                  He’s not a child and yet is expecting others to explain things for him? Also this kind of comment hurts people who are adults who have to fight these kinds of things all the time and do.

            2. Smarty Boots*

              Yes. I just googled halal restaurant (name of my medium sized city with a diverse population) — I got Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Lebanese restaurants. That’s it. We have michelin starred restaurants here, I’m not talking about a rural or remote place. (And we don’t know that it’s halal, that’s just an assumption based on the vague type of cuisine the OP mentions.)

              Folks need to let go that OF COURSE there are other kinds of restaurants. And I think folks also need to understand that religious requirement outweighs a food preference, and that just because the OP isn’t getting all the details doesn’t mean the PLANNER isn’t getting all the details. And further, that while it would be nice and helpful for the co-worker to give the OP the details, it is not reasonable for the OP to insist on having them. It is nobody’s g-d business what a person’s religion is and what accommodations they need unless you are the person who needs to accommodate them (= event planner, manager, HR). If you aren’t one of those people, get your nose out of my business and eat bland food at a “curry restaurant” for this once in awhile event. That’s what we do at work: we compromise and do some things we don’t prefer because that’s how we get along with our co-workers.

              1. Aveline*

                Here’s the thing: If it’s really an allergy and not simply a desire to eat something cool she wants to eat, she needs to let her higher ups know about it.

                Trying to force this dude to make the change isn’t going to work and it’s not the correct avenue.

                1. Smarty Boots*

                  If it’s really an allergy then OP can get medical documentation and ask for an accommodation. Until then, it’s a preference on the OP’s part. It would be nice to meet everyone’s preference, but sometimes it’s not possible.

                2. Totally Minnie*

                  It’s not that easy. I have a sensitivity to certain fruits that doesn’t rise to the level of allergy, so even when I was tested by an allergist, I didn’t get a positive result. But eating those fruits makes me seriously ill for several days. So no, I can’t bring in a doctor’s note that says I can’t eat at the Hawaiian restaurant, but I really, really can’t eat at the Hawaiian restaurant.

                  It’s very possible that OP physically cannot eat this food, and also cannot get a doctor’s verification of that.

                3. Observer*

                  @Smarty Boots, that’s not necessarily true. There are a lot of genuine food sensitivities that you can’t really test for. That doesn’t make them real. To the point that my doctor commonly tells people “Figure out what foods make you feel sick and don’t eat them. Don’t listen to people who tell you that it can’t be making you sick.”

                4. Aveline*

                  @ SmartyBoss

                  Yep. I suffer from a lot of adverse reactions that my doctors cannot test for.

                  It took a lot of time to find one who didn’t think it was in my head.

                  I have great sympathy for her suffering.

                  Her approach needs work if she’s going to stick thelanding.

              2. Temperance*

                You’re considering her need to be a preference while his choice the follow a religious diet to be a true need. I think he should be accommodated within reason, but she also must be.

                1. Avelone*

                  I think it’s unclear from her letter how much is preference to have a meal she likes and how much allergy to curry.

                  I hope she comes back comments and clarifies.

                  “I dislike bland food “ is not the same as “The mere smell makes me vomit.”

                2. Emily K*

                  Replying to your comment because it fits here, but as a comment on this thread/attitudes in general there’s far too much of an attempt going on here to force a binary perspective that it’s either a need or a want, a choice or involuntary, when in reality these things exist along a spectrum.

                  Yes, a religious person “chooses” to follow a religious diet – but the consequences of choosing something different could quite likely be the unraveling of their entire social support network and familial ties.

                  A married person chooses to get married and remain faithful to their spouse. They could certainly choose to get divorced or cheat, but most will not consider that a realistic option.

                  Some people have minor food intolerances that cause real discomfort in the form of things like bloating, constipation, severe itching, headaches, etc, and they choose to avoid foods that cause that discomfort. Just because they won’t die or go into shock if they eat the food and so they could theoretically choose it doesn’t mean it’s the same as, “I don’t like broccoli.”

                  People who have jobs choose to work where they do, but choosing not to work in the one major Llama Grooming company in their mid-sized city could mean becoming unemployed, having to work outside of the field they trained to work in, or taking a huge pay cut and being forced to sell/downsize their house, all of which might be undesirable enough that working at the one major grooming company is their only realistic choice.

                  I often see people making the argument that people shouldn’t choose to have children if they “can’t afford them,” using a yardstick by which a majority of Americans in our vastly unequal society would not qualify (like they should be able to put all their kids through college without aid, or they shouldn’t have kids at all if they won’t be able to afford the very much higher than normal medical costs of a special needs child on the off-chance they have one). As if the decision to have a child is no different than buying a car and not something intimately entangled with social, cultural, and familial expectations.

                  For almost anything that doesn’t kill a person, you could make the argument that it’s a voluntary choice they’re making. But just because a person won’t die if they don’t do X doesn’t mean we can write off X is a mere “preference” that doesn’t deserve any consideration.

                  Just like we don’t want bosses to be in the business of deciding who’s reason for needing leave is more valid than another’s, the solution to this problem has to come from somewhere other than some arbiter ranking people’s requirements to determine whose is more voluntary or involuntary than another’s.

              3. Name Required*

                This, so much this! The key to OP’s preference vs. need is in the letter:

                “His response was, “Well, there will be a non-curry option for you.” Yes, there will. But in most places, it’s plain, dull, uninteresting food. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips. I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat.”

                Emphasis on “I don’t want to be sitting eating” …”plain, dull, uninteresting food.” As in, she ate curry, got sick, went back to restaurants with curry, successfully ate something else, and just didn’t find it exciting enough for her.

                OP, how would you feel if you 100% knew your coworker was giving you the largest select of restaurants available and they indeed all happened to serve curry? Can you choose to trust you coworker on this one?

                1. Totally Minnie*

                  This is why I think they should give up the idea of everyone going to the same restaurant at this point. If they were to pick three or four restaurants and order in, everyone could get something they could eat and enjoy.

                2. Name Required*

                  @Totally Minnie :-) Agreed that this could be a good solution, and that OP should go to the person organizing the event and ask if this is an option, as they can’t eat at the restaurants Coworker has provided.

                  I’ll admit that OP’s attitude in the letter rubs me entirely the wrong way. I’d be curious to know if she finds this an agreeable solution, or she would feel penalized not to be served at a fancy restaurant because that’s what she’s used to.

              4. SteamedBuns*

                Man, I never thought my city was much…but I did the same thing and came up with gyros, pizza, comfort food in addition to Somali, Indian, Turkish, and Nepalese. Guess I need to be more thankful for this big little city I am in!

                My advice to OP would be just to not go to the dinners or, if the group is large enough, to split up into two groups. Doesn’t sound like work is being done at these dinners. Sure, s/he’d miss out on some socializing and a free meal, but it seems like a better alternative to going and feeling ill from the smell and letting resentment of the religious coworker grow.

                Granted, the last thing I want to do after work is see my coworkers, free meal or not…so it’s easy for me to say, “screw em, I’ll just eat with my actual friends somewhere I like or I’ll just cook and eat alone watching Netflix”…

                Seems like a lot of fuss over something pretty inane to me.

                Last week my company had it’s end of the year luncheon…free food, free raffle, everyone gets paid to attend…and people complained about there only being three flavors of macaroons or that the the magician our ceo hired for entertainment didn’t come close enough to their table.

                Not everyone is going to be happy with the food arrangement. Sure OP seemed pretty content with the Gluten-free restrictions…but I guarantee there was still probably someone in the group moaning about how they can’t eat at Bread and Beer Bistro.

            3. Jules the 3rd*

              I agree that people (including OP) are making a lot of assumptions about what coworker’s restrictions are. Since coworker doesn’t want to do the work of explaining them (and it is work, folks!), and doesn’t want to face the risk of dismissal of his requirements, it’s in OP’s best interest to assume that coworker’s requirements are legit – that he’s done enough work to know the local limits.

              Then she can move forward with options like splitting the group or getting delivery from multiple places including his curry and what she likes.

              I love the mention of Jain though, I hadn’t thought about them, but yeah, they really fit what we know.

            4. AKchic*

              I have to agree here.

              Much as I am not big on religion or religious restrictions, the coworker has his right to them.
              Having said that, the right to be able to eat without ill-effects ranks higher than religious preference. What is more important to LW: the ill-effects or not wanting to eat bland food. Because they are two separate issues, and people with other dietary restrictions have had to deal with this previously when restaurant picking has come up. If going to the restaurant truly is a “I will physically suffer from entering the building”, then yes, something must be done. If it is “I will suffer because I will be disappointed at having to eat something bland rather than something as tasty as I am usually accustomed to” then the coworker truly has higher preference here.

              1. Aveline*

                Well, as someone who has a range of “ill effects” that depends entirely on what the ill effect entails.

                Food that makes me queasy or vomit = you should accommodate me (yes, I have some things that make me queasy for days)

                Food that I merely dislike b/c my body chemistry thinks it’s wonky is another story.

                We still don’t know just how serious OPs reaction really is. She hints that smell is an issue, but people here are making that into “she can’t go into the restaurant.” We DO NOT know this. That’s an assumption.

                If it is a valid asssumption, it’s a different scenario than if she simply finds it off-putting.

          2. Kasia*

            I agree. One of my best friends is Muslim and eats Halal but she doesn’t zone in on one particular type of restaurant and enforce that all meals with our group be eaten at that kind of restaurant only. Honestly I would be very irritated if she did. We find Halal options of various kinds of cuisines.

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            I can understand why someone who is very strict about the dietary restrictions of their religion would be reluctant to share, because it can lead to people challenging them. They tell someone they keep kosher, for example, and they get pushback about how they should be able to eat in any vegetarian restaurant, even though the person keeps strict kosher and requires a kosher-certified kitchen.

            If this coworker has dealt with people not respecting his dietary restrictions in the past, he may have learned that not disclosing the details is the better way to go.

            1. Aveline*

              Allergy sufferers get this as well.

              You wouldn’t believe the number of times people “test” me or try to argue that “you can’t be allergic to X.”

              People are jerks about other people’s bodies.

        2. Aveline*

          But if it’s a religious restriction, he can’t simple “eat bland food.” He likely can’t eat at her choice of restaurant at all.

          And “religion is a choice” is deeply unkind. I say this as an athiest and someone with pretty severe and wonky food allergies.

          He’s not trying to control what she eats. He’s only trying to stay true to his faith. That’s a huge difference.

          She is not coming off sympathetically to me. And I have been in her shoes more times than I can count. And I’m pretty intolerant of religious crap imposed on others.

          So, how do you think she’s going to look to her bosses if she goes in with the attitude conveyed in this letter?

          Personally, I’d either sit through one bland meal and lump it or I’d ask management to have everyone provide them with a list of everyone’s restrictions or allergies and make a neutral party come up with a solution. Even if that means you have to have more expensive catered meals in house.

          But mere food dislikes, which is what “it’s bland” is, don’t trump allergies or religion.

          I would be much more sympathetic if she’d been to this restaurant and knew absolutely that there was nothing she could eat and that the smell would make her sick. But she’s assuming both.

          She really needs to drop by the restaurant, go in, and see what, if anything, can be done. If nothing can be done and there’s nothing for her to eat or the smell makes her sick, then she needs to raise those issues.

          1. Emily K*

            I feel like the least-bad option here is catering from multiple places.

            The next-least-bad is to have two meals out, as mentioned upthread, but ideally they’d let everyone attend one, both, or neither. It’d be more expensive for the company, of course. But if you tell people they can attend one or the other, my immediate thought is, “What happens when it’s, say, a group of people who aren’t very adventurous eaters and they’re all accustomed to Western-style food, and when given the choice between a familiar food they like and a foreign cuisine that’s unfamiliar to them, they all decide to go to Western Restaurant and religious coworker is the only one who elects to go to Curry Restaurant and is left sitting there with the one or two managers who realized they had to go so there would be *somebody* eating with the religious coworkers? And not only does religious coworker know he’s been isolated this way, the managers are writing in to AAM about how they had to miss out on the big dinner with everyone else on the team in the restaurant they would have preferred in order to keep religious coworker company so he wouldn’t be by himself at this other restaurant.” But I think if you let people attend both meals, you’ll get a lot of people willing to try the curry house in addition to the Western place when they wouldn’t have chosen it over the Western place.

            1. KHB*

              This is getting into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory, I feel. There’s no evidence that the entire office is full of people (bar the religious coworker) who turn up their noses at curry solely because it’s unfamiliar – and in what sounds like a pretty cosmopolitan pair of cities, from OP’s description, I think it’s pretty unlikely to be the case.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                mmm – but looking at the number of people here who say that curry makes them nauseous means it’s a realistic scenario. Ordering in from multiple places is probably best.

                1. Aveline*

                  yes. I had no idea curry aversion was so wide-spread. I should say “aversion to Indian curry” as I think hat’s what we are actually talking about.

                  I don’t think most people are talking about Japanese curries here.

                2. KHB*

                  But that’s a different thing than Emily K is describing, I think. She’s imagining people thinking “I don’t want to try it because it’s weird and different and foreign,” whereas people here (including the OP) are saying “I’ve tried it, and my body doesn’t tolerate it well.”

                  I agree that ordering delivery is probably the best way to go for all involved, assuming there’s a space in the office where everyone can eat together.

          2. JB*

            “He’s not trying to control what she eats. He’s only trying to stay true to his faith. That’s a huge difference.” …. Yeah, right. When ‘staying true to your faith’ crosses over into what I do and how I live my life, then it’s no longer about you. He’s trying to force other people to obey his own personal religious choices. To hell with that.

            1. Aveline*

              No he is not.

              I’m an atheist and a food allergy sufferer and you are viewing this through very biased glasses.

              He isn’t forcing her to eat anything he’s eating. He’s just not providing her with her optimal choice.

              There’s a huge difference.

              Not seeing that doesn’t help wrt the religious wignuts that want to impose choices on us.

            2. Database Developer Dude*

              No, JB, he’s not. The OP has the option of the bland, uninteresting food if he/she goes to this dinner. Granted, it’s not much of a choice, but the choice is there.

              We just don’t know if this is going to be happening every single time or not. We need the OP to give more information.

            3. D*

              This is the third comment where you come across unkind and almost antagonistic about religion. I get not dealing with people proselytizing but this coworker simply wants to be able to eat. There’s a big difference.

        3. EnfysNest*

          I’m really getting frustrated with this “religion is a choice” line that I keep seeing in the comments section here. (I don’t know if it’s all you or if there are multiple commenters that keep using it, but I’ve seen it several times and it’s really bothering me.)

          Religious beliefs are a deeply rooted part of someone’s identity and in many cases, those who hold them believe that their religious observances have a permanent impact on their eternal souls. That’s not something that’s just taken off like a jacket when you feel like it. It’s like saying you don’t have to be stuck in a traffic jam because the shoulder is open, so you could have just driven on the shoulder the whole way to get around traffic, because “following traffic laws is a choice”. Yes, *technically* you choose to follow traffic laws, but that’s because there are consequences in terms of fines and tickets and your legal record. You can’t just decide not to follow the laws and have no consequences.

          And in the same way, when you truly, deeply believe that your actions, (be they food choices, working days, prayer times, or other elements that are part of religious accommodations) have a direct impact on your soul, it’s not “just a choice” whether or not to keep those observances. It’s a matter of spiritual health as far as that person is concerned, and at least in the US, our employment laws allow us to be just as entitled to take care of our religious needs / spiritual health in this sort of situation as we are to take care of their physical health.

          Both someone with health needs and someone with religious needs must be accommodated. If that is impossible with them in the same restaurant, then they either need to split up and go to multiple restaurants, or order food from multiple restaurants and eat together in another location. But you can’t just tell someone to stop following their religion because you see it as a “choice”, when to them, it truly isn’t.

          1. Dont take us back*

            Religion is a choice. It is what countries fight to the death over and people quit them all the time, but at the end of the day it is a choice of what you choose to believe. Please don’t down religious freedom, it is the reason some people live where they do so that they have those choices.

            1. Aveline*

              No. In your country it is.

              Maybe you are forgetting that a lot of countries mandate faith. And kill those who don’t adhere.

              We have zero idea where LW lives or where the coworker is originally from.

              So we don’t know how much free choice is involved.

              It may be absolute choice. May be no choice.

              I’m glad I get to be an atheist. Not everyone on this planet has that option.

          2. Aveline*

            You are aware that 20% of countries in the planet have mandated state religions. Some of those make it impossible to survive if you don’t join up. Some even kill heretics who leave the church.

            The world is not operating on the standards governing where you live.

            Religion may be a choice for you. It may be a choice for LW. It may even be a choice for coworker. But it is not a choice for everyone.

            I have a friend who immigrated from a country where a cousin was killed for converting to Christianity from his faith assigned at birth.

            So, no, it’s not always a choice.

        4. Parenthetically*

          “Religion is a choice.”

          Every time religion comes up someone says this. Religious identification can be cultural, familial, part of people’s ethnic or hereditary identity, the lens through which they understand themselves and their people, their origins, their place in the world, their ties to land or place, etc. Religious identification is a deep, multifaceted, and interwoven part of who many people are, and it is just so facile and unhelpful to blow off those people’s understanding of selfhood as “a choice.”

          1. President Porpoise*

            You are coming across as overly hostile to people with genuinely held religious beliefs. Can you tone it down, perchance?

              1. President Porpoise*

                Yeah – just overall hostile. Go get a coffee or something man – if you don’t mind me telling you what to do. :)

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            +1

            I’m an atheist, and I don’t agree with ‘religion is a choice’. It’s waaaaaay more complicated than ‘I’m going to drive a VW!’

            1. Parenthetically*

              Right? It’s not like people turn 18 with zero religious knowledge or exposure of any kind and then get, like, the Religious Options Spring 2019 catalog in the mail. “Oooh, Hinduism looks fun, but there’s that trendy new Muslim representative this year, maybe I should go with that one!”

              1. duh*

                Both of you are arguing against religion being a choice by choosing extremely simplistic examples of making choices. It’s ridiculous and disingenuous.

                Just because it’s a choice – a lifestyle choice – does not mean it’s flippant or not important, even critical. What it DOES mean is that the follower of the religion needs to understand that their beliefs have no control nor power over those who do not also follow. Get it? Just because something is a choice does not automatically mean it’s easily changed, should be changed, you can ethically flip-flop on it, etc. Stop discounting choices. But they’re still choices.

                Respecting others’ beliefs does not mean aligning with them. Just because it is intertwined with “the lens through which they understand themselves and their people” or “deeply rooted part of someone’s identity” makes no difference. Still. A. Choice. It’s not a bad thing!

                If you live in a religious dictatorship, you still have a choice whether or not to follow; just because the consequence is death does not mean it’s still not a choice.

                If your religion is part of your ethnic heritage it also doesn’t mean you have no choice; I’ve lost count of how many Jewish people I know who follow no faith whatsoever.

                My family is my family until I choose to no longer identify them as my family, for whatever reason I want. Nothing is set in stone in this life — or, very very precious little.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Obviously (obviously!) I’m not saying people can’t change religions, for crying out loud. Of course religion is a “choice,” technically. I’m arguing against the ultra-simplistic view of choice that a couple of commenters were putting forward as a reason to disregard religious identification in this decision. They were using the concept of religion as a choice in precisely the way I and others are reacting against — like it’s just something people can/should throw off for others’ convenience. People’s religious identification simply is not like other choices and it’s disingenuous to pretend that it is.

                  No one is asking OP to align with or identify with her coworker’s religion. That is ridiculous. The majority of commenters (including myself) think it’s incumbent on Coworker to be more flexible, more specific, willing to get takeout, or whatever, rather than insisting that Little India is the only acceptable restaurant but not explaining what his restrictions are. Coworker is being a pill. That doesn’t mean OP gets to say that his coworker’s dietary restrictions are stupid and should be ignored because all religion is based on made-up rules, as one commenter said. It’s possible for OP to push for a compromise while also recognizing that religious beliefs are complex and deeply held.

      3. LKW*

        Well, the OP is not making the argument that the coworker should sit out. I think the OP’s argument is that his restrictions and the OPs restrictions are at odds. So by accommodating him, for religious reasons, they exclude the OP, for health reasons.

        The OP can ask some questions about the religion to better understand the restrictions. As noted throughout if the issue is kosher/halal – then vegetarian is a potential option that doesn’t include curry. If Jain is the religion, than they should look to trade off bland meals. The OP puts up with rice and boiled meat and the new colleauge puts up with plain pasta or a bowl of steamed broccoli.

        Or take in.

        1. Aveline*

          “Vegetarian option that doesn’t include curry” depends really upon the city.

          There are a lot of places in the US where the only places for that are Indian.

          So, personally, if her curry aversion is so strong she can’t even be in the restaurant, the only option will be to either rotate these meals or to have catered meals brought to the location.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            You can 100% easily get vegetarian options in any Italian, Mexican, or *any* form of Asian restaurant – and I say this as a person who grew up in a very white-bread suburban town with literally two Mexican restaurants. Sushi places have vegetarian options. You can readily order vegan, kosher, gluten free at Olive Garden, for goodness sake. This is not a difficult thing to accommodate.

            I think the difficulty is the coworker wants a restaurant where *everything* on the menu caters to his specific preference (like someone with celiac who will ONLY eat at a 100% gluten-free restaurant and refusing to simply order any of the specially-prepared gluten-free options at other places), without considering that he can likely order a large number of dishes that meet his dietary restrictions at a large number of less-specialized but still suitable restaurants.

            1. Smarty Boots*

              If I keep strict kosher I can’t just eat at any restaurant and only choose some items. I have to eat at a restaurant where the kitchen adheres to kosher standards. (Just to get us out of the curry / halal rut we’re in).

              1. Calpurrnia*

                I’m confused now, because I definitely have multiple friends who are observant Jews and keep kosher; many of my neighbors in college were in Hillel and went to the dorm with the kosher kitchen for meals, and explained about needing separate cookware for meat and dairy that can’t cross over. Two friends have literally emigrated to Israel and return to the US for periodic visits, and all of them are quite capable of ordering foods that are kosher at regular restaurants. I’m sure they wouldn’t eat at an oyster house or something, but they’ve never had any problem choosing things at everyday restaurants that avoid combining meat and dairy, lack shellfish, are unleavened (at the times of year when that’s relevant), or are simply vegetarian. If they’re concerned about non-kosher meats (I don’t know the religious details, but it’s something to do with the method of slaughter?), they simply order vegetarian, which contains nothing that is not kosher and is therefore safe for them to eat. If someone is particularly picky about cross-contamination via cookware, the group can go to a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, where there would be no concern about needing separate pans for meats since no meats are served… or just hit up any restaurant with an extensive salad bar, where obviously nothing on the salad bar will be cooked in the wrong meat/dairy pan, because the salad bar isn’t cooked to begin with.

                I’m really really not trying to argue with anyone, I want to understand: what additional “kosher standards” are people referring to? If this were a meal during Passover, I know there are additional standards, but for an everyday meal, vegetarian and/or raw foods should be totally safe from any cross-contamination.

                Honestly, this is outside the bounds of the OP’s letter; in that context, I think they’re going to be way better off just ordering in from multiple restaurants than trying to legislate people’s food choices. I’m asking about kosher rules for my own education at this point, so that I can be more considerate in the future :)

                1. Aveline*

                  Kosher practices vary widely.

                  I’m not Jewish, but an ex was and my BFF converted.

                  Also, I, given to understand that a lot of more progressive American Jews are more lax on this than foreign counterparts.

                  So I think imposing the most lenient standards would be a mistake.

                  Also, as a reminder, we don’t know what the religion here is.

                2. Observer*

                  Well, your friend set combined with your range of options seems to have worked well for you.

                  But here is the thing. It can get much more complicated than you are aware.

                  Here is a list of ingredients that can be problematic:
                  Fish / seafood
                  Vegetables known for high insect infestation
                  Dairy
                  Wine
                  Meat – the kind of meat and how it’s slaughtered are an issue

                  By the time you are done with that, that covers a LOT of options.

                  And that assumes you’re not worrying about how this stuff was cooked – the concept is pretty much like cross contamination, which anyone with severe allergies or sensitivities will be familiar with.

                  Which is why a lot of people who are “strictly” kosher will only eat in restaurants that are certified.

            2. Aveline*

              No you can’t.

              Not if cross-contamination is an issue.

              And Olive Garden is not a the sort of place where it matters.

              And none of the types of places you cited work for Koshe for Halal.

              Why are you so insistent it’s that easy? Why are you so invested?

              Have you ever tried to arrange a meal for someone who keeps Kosher or Halal or is strict vegan?

              As someone who has, none of those options you listed work. They don’t.

              1. LKW*

                Actually I have, successfully. Now, I happen to live in an area that provides options for the kosher/halal community. And there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants where the owners are not Jewish/Muslim but who have reached out to get certified so that they can have a broader clientele.

                But from what it sounds like this isn’t a kosher/halal issue. I don’t know too many Kosher Curry places. Based on what some knowledgeable people have said, it’s less the preparation conditions and more the ingredients. I’m taking that and saying that if someone doesn’t have an issue with the prep, then they have options to eat food that contains no verboten ingredients.

                As someone who has worked with observant Jews and observant Muslims for years, I haven’t had the displeasure of someone who refused to review potential options and compromise where possible.

                1. Aveline*

                  I’ll revisit my answer to say “they don’t always work.”

                  I’m glad you made it work for you.

                  My underlying point is we don’t have sufficient info to know. So dismissing coworker for being overly restrictive and having lots of options is wrong,

                  We don’t even know what religion we are talking about!

              2. Calpurrnia*

                Okay so I genuinely don’t mean to sound argumentative and I apologize if my first comment did; I was responding to the mistaken idea that the ONLY food that’s vegetarian in certain places is one specific ethnicity/”genre” of food. There are very, very few types of restaurants that do not have vegetarian options on the menu, many of which have them specifically marked in a way that makes it obvious they care about accommodating those people. You can go to tiny towns in the mountains in Vermont, which is 97% white, and still find vegetarian options in Italian and Chinese restaurants. You can eat vegetarian and kosher in a place that serves nothing but pizza. Saying “there are places in the country where you cannot eat vegetarian except at an Indian restaurant” is straight wrong; my hometown in New Hampshire doesn’t HAVE any Indian restaurants, and folks can still get vegetarian / gluten-free / kosher meals out there. Olive Garden was an example of a place that a) is everywhere, even in white-bread towns with no ethnic diversity, and b) indicates vegetarian foods right on the menu; spaghetti and marinara sauce is certainly going to be both vegan (without cheese) and kosher (even with cheese added), and they also offer gluten-free pastas and sauces. I’m not advertising for them or something, just naming the first generic non-exotic food place I could think of that readily accommodates dietary restrictions.

                I have actually successfully organized meals for large groups of folks, including several who keep kosher and vegan (plus gluten-free and vegetarian, and someone who hates tomatoes)… by going to an Italian place with plenty of meatless options that those people could choose from. It wasn’t Olive Garden, we chose a specific place that could accommodate our group of 45 people, and the owners confirmed their kitchen doesn’t cross-contaminate the meat and non-meat dishes, or GF and regular pasta, so it was readily agreeable to the vegan, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant, Jewish, *and* the omnivorous attendees. There were even options for the people who prefer spicy meals and those who don’t.

                This is why I’m asking about this in earnest, because it worked great for my very diverse dorm floor in college, and as a result has become a go-to suggestion when I have to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions. Each person can find something that accommodates their needs and tastes: choose the base (pasta) that suits you, choose a sauce with ingredients that suit you, choose a topping or no topping that suits you, mix and match to meet everyone’s preferences. We had zero objections from a group of 45 people.

                And re: the LW’s perspective… while my personal intolerance for non-capsaicin-laden foods is certainly a “taste preference” and not a “legitimate medical/religious/ethical need”, I’d be miserable and/or angry if someone insisted that they needed to go to, say, a buffalo wings restaurant where the air in the entire restaurant reeks of hot sauce, and the waiters offered me some celery sticks for a work dinner as it’s the only non-spicy thing on the menu. I’m empathetic to “surely we can find a place where I can eat actual food versus an afterthought side dish the kitchen improvises for me”, medical need or no.

                1. Aveline*

                  Vermont and NH are light years ahead of this than a lot of other places.

                  I have eaten there with a Jewish boyfriend and been a-ok.

                  All I am saying is that just b/c it works where you live does not make it universal in the USA.

                  For the record, I have lived in more states than I can count on one hand. And an equal number of foreign countries.

                  Don’t universalize the experience that it works where you live.

                  FTR, I consider Vermont to be a real, real outlier on what is normal for white rural areas in the USA. The food options in Stowe and the small villages within a 30 minute drive of it are different than what exists in a lot of cities in other parts of the USA>

                  I’m so glad to hear so many posters say they made it work.

                  I’m very dismayed they think this is easy everywhere or universal.

                  It’s not.

                  That’s like saying that you can cross the street without any issues where you live so you can’t understand why anyone would have the issue.

                  Unless you have done this in multiple locations over the USA sufficient to make a data point, you are only arguing from a small subset of experience. Thus, those of us telling you it’s not easy where we live should be listened to as well.

                  I could accommodate a meal in Vermont easier than I could in a few Midwestern or plains states (though some are the bomb for food – shout out to Kansas City!). And there are some cities in the South where you can get Kosher and Halal and some where the vegetarian option is tomatoes on lettecue (ask me how I know that one).

                  Please, please just realize that just because something was easy for YOU doesn’t mean it is easy for everyone everywhere else.

                  Small to medium cities and rural areas in the USA are highly variant. If they are in the orbit of a major city, if they have a diverse population, if there are tourists, if there is contact with a lot of outsiders, then, yes, I’d expect this type of food. Not somewhere where none of that is true.

                2. Someone On-Line*

                  I live in the capital city of my state. The nearest halal and kosher certified restaurants are 45 minutes away from here.

            3. Observer*

              So, for one thing, you don’t know what this person’s religious needs are. For another, vegetarian options do NOT work for a LOT of kosher people and even for some people who are halal. They might, but might not – you simply cannot assume. Even *vegan* options may mot work – there are a lot of pieces at play. And that assumes that kosher and Halal are the only two religious traditions that might be coming into play.

              1. LKW*

                Actually I wasn’t assuming that at all. Since Middle Eastern Halal and Kosher foods don’t typically include curry, I was not assuming either was at the root.

                I mean, I’m sure there are Kosher or Halal Curry Houses, but when you think of those dietary restrictions, that’s usually not the reigning theme.

    4. Pinkie Pie*

      I physically cannot be around tuna or salmon. My body has a strong and immediate reaction to the smell.

      My husband has sensory issues with a ton of food. There are times that we literally get what we want and eat in the park.

  4. Approval is optional*

    LW4: some people are nickname users and seem to default there. I worked for someone who called his staff (male/female, old/young) nicknames along the lines of Penny-wenny and Bobby-wobby!!! The first time he called me ‘Approvie-woovie’, I asked him politely not to, and for the most part he stopped (old habits die hard, but he tried). While I was glad he did, I was a little sad I didn’t get to use my Plan B-Z lines (some were zingers!).

    1. Sami*

      I wonder if the boss is having a brain freeze about OP4 and is forgetting her name. Or OP4 looks like a friend whose name is Missy.
      In any case, politely and definitely push back.

      1. Marthooh*

        Missy is often used as a nickname for Michelle. It’s one of those diminutives that don’t seem to make sense, like Bob for Robert or Daisy for Margaret.

        1. Emily K*

          Also Peggy for Margaret (what’s with that name??). Jim for James isn’t as odd but I still remember being surprised the first time I saw Bones call Captain Kirk “Jim” which is barely saving any letters and no syllables. Jack for Jonathan also boggles me.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            I think it’s from Margaret -> Meg -> Peg -> Peggy. Kind of along the lines of, say, Robert -> Rob -> Bob -> Bobby.

            Jack for Jonathan baffles me too, though; that’s just straight-up calling someone a different name with only the first letter in common. It’s like pretending that, say, Julie is a nickname for Jennifer. :P

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Hmmm – yeah it is weird. I was thinking ‘maybe from French Jacques’ but French John is Jean. dig dig – Don’t know about the validity of the data, but one theory is John -> Johnkin (Little John) -> French dropping consonants especially n -> ‘Joc’ and ‘Jack’. Link in my name.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s a new one to me – I’ve only heard Missy used as a nickname for Melissa. And I abhor it.

        3. Database Developer Dude*

          In what area of the US is Missy often used as a nickname for Michelle? In my experience, it’s been only used as a nickname for Melissa. Something doesn’t pass the smell test. I’m originally from RI and live in VA now, close to DC. Never heard of this before today.

          1. SteamedBuns*

            I just googled nicknames for Michelle and this is what popped up:

            Nicknames for Michelle: | Mitchie, Mickie, Mish, Mishi/Michi, Mishy, Shell, Shelly, Shelley, Chelle, Mickey, Mich, Michy, Meko, Mimi, Elle, Ella, Melly, Miley, Mica/Mika.

            Another source lists Missy as a pet name for Michele.

            Origin of the name Michele:
            Feminine form of the French Michel, a cognate of Michael (Who is like God?). Var: Mechelle, Me’shell, Michele, Michella, Mischelle, Mishelle. Short: Chelle, Shell, Shelle. Pet: Missy, Shelly.

            I’ve me Elizabeths that go by Bethany. Charles’s that go by Skip. Warrens that go by Rory. Williams that go by Liam.

            Even if they aren’t commonplace nicknames, if someone is familiar with a Warren that went by Rory and meets another Warren that they want to connect with, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think they may just assume that it’s a typical/appropriate nickname.

        4. General Ginger*

          I’ve never heard of Missy as a nickname for anything other than Melissa. Is this a regional thing? I’m in the US, Northeast, btw.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Wikipedia lists Michelle ‘Missy’ Avila in San Jose CA, in the 80s, and Mary ‘Missy’ Cummings, a professor at Duke in NC.

            I also know someone who just got called that by her grandfather and it stuck. Her name doesn’t start with an M. But the word ‘Missy’ as a diminutive of ‘Miss’ has a definite characteristic in the US South – someone who is sassy and headstrong. Certainly part of Missy Eliot’s take on the name…

        5. Kelsi*

          Is it really? I’ve only ever heard it as a nickname for Melissa, so I was also thinking that the boss was maybe forgetting OP’s name (if I met someone who went by Missy, my default assumption would be that their given name was Melissa). But to be fair I don’t know many Michelles…the ones I can think of that nickname both go by Michi. (pronounced Mee-shee)

    2. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Agreed. Unless you’ve seen other evidence of them being sexist or agest, it’s a good idea to assume they just love nicknames! Or possibly that they’re having trouble remembering yours. Say something, by all means (its your name after all), but for your own piece of mind try not to jump to ‘My boss is belittling me’ unless there’s more stuff going on than you’ve mentioned.

    3. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      A nickname is also a sign of “I really like you” as a coworker. But I hate the diminutive of my name so I don’t care how much you like me (but I do care because I like being liked at work!) but call me by my full name, please. Some of the nicest folks need multiple reminders.

      1. Alexis Rose*

        My parents SPECIFICALLY chose names for my brother and I so that they didn’t have a cutesy short-form/diminutive. Their names are like Robert (so got called Robbie all the time, even though he preferred Rob or Robert) and my mum is like Amanda (didn’t like “Mandy”, wanted to be referred to by her full name). It drove them NUTS growing up so they chose names for us accordingly.

        1. Parenthetically*

          This happened with a friend of mine! She and her sister and brother all have names with no obvious diminutives… and they still ended up with nicknames!

          1. Alexis Rose*

            ………. My brother has a one-syllable name and I add “-ie” to it. It drives my poor father bonkers, which only encourages it. My mum slipped up one day and called him the -ie version and the LOOK he gave me was priceless.

            1. valentine*

              A nickname is also a sign of “I really like you” as a coworker.
              That’s better shown by seeking consent.

              1. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

                No, not that kind of like! More like, I can see that you work hard, and your personality is fun and nice and you’re nice to people and gosh, I just like having you as a coworker. LOL

        2. Emily K*

          Whereas I always envied my sister Laura, for whom the diminutive Laurie is seen as a perfectly acceptable adult woman’s name, whereas Emmy is more typically seen as something you coo at a baby and a lot harder to go by as an adult and be taken seriously. Parents always try to save their children the problems they had with their own names but really just trade them in for other problems. I know folks whose parents gave them a really unique name because the parents had grown up always being one of 5 Lauras in their class and hated it, only to have their kids wish they had a name that you could find on keychains in gift shops like all their classmates did, and vice versa.

          1. Emily K*

            I also have a cousin, Christopher, whose parents were very adamant that he was to only ever be called by his full name and would forcefully correct anyone who tried to shorten it, only for him to decide around age 12 or 13 that he preferred Chris.

            1. Kelsi*

              Trying to force your kids to use a certain version of their name is an exercise in futility.

              Reminds me of I kid I grew up with who went by Andy. Around the time we were 12 or 13, his grandmother started pushing him to go by “Drew” (and also trying to get his friends to call him that) because she felt like it sounded “manly.” (In retrospect I think she was actually trying to imply that it sounded sexy–she was kind of weird about it.)

              It will surprise no one that, last I heard (when he was in his late 20s), he was still going by Andy.

        3. SteamedBuns*

          My friend did that with her kids. Leigh and Ryan….They are only 4 and 1, so she’s hoping it’s just people’s need to baby-talk and that the nicknames don’t stick, but they get called Leelee, Leia, Libby and Rylie, Ray, and Yanni by grandparents, babysitters, and neighbors.

          Not gonna lie…I am a little guilty of calling Ryan “Yanni” now that I know how much it bothers her. I wish I knew more people named Ryan so I could call them all Yanni.

      1. EnfysNest*

        That’s exactly where my mind went first, particularly because she is played by actress Michelle Gomez. I wonder if there’s any chance of a connection there, like the boss thinks they’re making a joke based on the show, assuming Michelle is in on it when she’s not. Or it’s likely that they see it as a shortened form of Michelle.

        Regardless of the reason, though, simply saying you prefer not to use the nickname and prefer to use your full name should be enough for anyone even vaguely reasonable.

        1. JustaTech*

          But if it *was* from the show, like, is that really who you want as an employee? An amoral homicidal maniac? A very fun-to-watch amoral homicidal maniac, but still.

          Personally I’ve never experienced “Missy” as a nickname for anything. In my head it’s only used in the sentence “now look here missy!” and that’s 100% negative.

    4. LKW*

      I grew up in a family with no nicknames. Robert was Robert. His wife asked me if I had seen “Robbie” and I was like “who’s Robbie?”

      1. Gymmie*

        If I see someone’s full name written out, I never ever assume they go by a nickname until I see if from them.

        I’m actually just Beth, but you would be surprised when people actually think my real name is Elizabeth and automatically use that on “official” documents.

        1. LKW*

          I always ask -Do you prefer Robert or Bob or Rob etc. My sister’s name is a derivative of a longer name/feminine version of a male nickname. People always assume it’s the longer name. Always.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      My grandmother used to call me Missy. It is not at all close to my name, just Miss with an ey at the end, like I wasn’t yet old enough to be a Miss. She used it interchangeably with little miss muffet, so to me it sounds more like something you would call a kid than any kind of nickname based off a real name, but that is based on my own life experience. Either way, just ask her to stop in a super casual way.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, my friends and I will often use “missy” with each other as a pet term of endearment, but I agree it’s totally out of place in a workplace. But even if that’s what’s going on, the best approach is probably to act as though they’re shortening your name and breezily say you prefer your full name, Michelle. The message will get across either way and it allows a bit of face-saving if they were in fact trying to call you by a pet name at work, and in the workplace the approach that allows for face-saving is usually best to try first before escalating to “it’s really gross and inappropriate to call me a little girl’s pet name” regardless of which of the two is the true underlying cause.

      2. HollyWeird*

        This was my first thought as well, I’ve never heard of it being used as a nickname for a specific name, but where I am from you might call a young girl this instead of Miss. If someone called me Missy it was usually if I was in a bit of light trouble. I wouldn’t like being called it at the office unless in jest by a friend.

      3. Totally Minnie*

        This is where my mind jumped as well. I don’t have an M name, but people sometimes call me Missy. It feels like it’s in the same category as honey, sweetie, mija, or other things that adults sometimes call young girls.

        But in any case, I think OP is better off just informing her boss that she’d rather not be called Missy, and that her preference is for her full name.

      4. LL*

        I hear “missy” sometimes around my office being used by women to each other, in the same friendly/social way women sometimes use “lady”, like this: “Hey lady! How’s your day going?” I agree that ‘missy’ is a bit patronizing, since it does remind one of “little miss” and would be more appropriately used to a young female child, but my sense is that it’s being used here as a joking/friendly/informal way of addressing the LW, not as a nickname. Hard to know exactly how to ask for it to stop without seeming unfriendly, but maybe responding as if it’s a nickname (using Alison’s script) will get the job done either way. =)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Late to chime in, but I’ve usually heard ‘Missy’ used in the same patronizing way ‘young lady’ is – definitely a term used to make sure the young lady knew her place in the discussion. Which was not equal to the speaker. My ex used to call me ‘young lady’, just one of several reasons why he is my ex.

    6. Kes*

      Ugh, that’s a nickname you might call your kids when they are small – I can’t believe your boss thought it was a good idea to call adult employees that.

      I can see where people might use nicknames that are literally just shorter forms of the name, although you should still just find out what they actually want to be called. Using a different name as a nickname without their permission, even if it is a common nickname for that name, is just a bad idea.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      This is true. I worked with a guy like that. He wasn’t my direct supervisor, but he was the operations manager so he was essentially my boss even though I didn’t report to him. He loved nicknames and used them indiscriminately. If your name didn’t lend itself to shortening, he would find a weird way to pronounce it to make it like a nickname. He was perfectly respectful and professional in every other way, he just liked to say names weird. At the time it didn’t actually bother me, but typing it out now makes it sound strange and icky.

  5. Michio Pa*

    Oh man, OP1, I really feel for you. I know my friends and coworkers can’t always help their restrictive dietary needs and preferences, but as someone who loves to try all kinds of food, I would really struggle with feeling resentful that I used to have all kinds of food and now I’m stuck with Curry House Sad Side Menu. So I sympathize with your feelings, but also realize that you have to approach this carefully so you don’t come off as heartless (“I don’t want to eat Sad Side Menu, so you have to eat Sad Side Menu”).

    “The other employee won’t accept my looking for an alternative restaurant, as he says I don’t know enough about his needs to find one.”
    This is where I would push back. He must be explaining his needs to the restaurant, yes? Either he is going off a code word (Kosher, Halal, Smiling-God-compliant) and relying on the fact that the restaurant has the same understanding of the word. In which case you can use the word, problem solved.

    Or, he can give you or a third dinner-organizer a checklist of what he needs (“Food must be prepared at a properly-blessed bloodstone circle, food must not have been touched by angels, etc.”). You can share your checklist of needs (“Must have X number of food options that are not curry”). And together you can make a list of restaurants that accommodate you, plus your gluten-free coworkers as well.

    1. Les G*

      Kinda feels like you’re mocking folks’ religious observancr? Which, fine, it might seem silly or arbitrary to you or me, but it’s also protected by law so it does. Not. Matter.

      1. Michio Pa*

        Not at all. I am merely using a fictional religious substitution, rather than wade into actual religious references, since I don’t know the religion in question.

        1. Les G*

          My apologies. The reference to food being touched by an angel, which is obviously ludicrious, led me to assume you think the actual rules people follow are equally ridiculous.

          1. Airy*

            The Smiling God, bloodstone circles and domestically-inclined angels are all references to the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. The angels may also change lightbulbs for you if you ask politely.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Thanks for this info, I’ve just started listening to podcasts regularly and am looking for new ones to try.

      2. LilyP*

        That’s a really harsh assumption! I think they were just trying to give sample language that doesn’t single out any actual religion or speculate on the coworker’s actual religion.

        1. poolgirl*

          I disagree, it came off as flippant and biased. Especially to people who aren’t going to pick up on the obscure reference.

      3. JB*

        He doesn’t have to eat what the other people are eating. If they go to a restaurant he doesn’t like, he can bring a sandwich. Or eat ahead of time. Or find something on the menu that he WILL eat.

      1. Harvey P. Carr*

        Yoko Ono: Do you have any special thoughts at, for Christmas?

        John Lennon: Well, Yoko, it is Christmas and my special thoughts of course, turn towards eating.

        Yoko Ono: All right, so, eating. Well, what do you like to eat?

        John Lennon: Well, I’d like some cornflakes, prepared by Parisian hands, and I’d like it blessed by Hare Krishna mantra.

        – from The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I am not familiar with many religious food restrictions other than halal, kosher, and fish Fridays so forgive this question – do any religions restrict vegan food?

      1. Michio Pa*

        I’ve heard that vegan food tends to run bread-y, which could conflict with the gluten free people. And alcohol restrictions (like mirin in sauces). But in principle, re:fruits and vegetables, I don’t think so.

        1. Vegan Doughballs*

          They only run bread-y if you lack imagination. Depending on how well you’re willing to travel, I can recommend a great pub near Milton Keynes, UK that caters to vegans, coeliacs, and meat/gluten-loving people all at the same time. It can be done.

          1. TL -*

            Eh, I can’t eat wheat (or nuts or corn) and honestly, vegan/vegetarian places are generally difficult, while steakhouse are usually really easy. Even just the gf limits me more at a vegan/veg place than at a steakhouse.

            But rule of thumb: the more restrictions you pile on, the harder it is to find food, so gf and vegan/veg is going to be more difficult than just one or the other.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Some religions focus on how the food is prepared. So vegan food that isn’t prepared in the right type of kitchen would still be out.

      3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Jains aren’t supposed to eat onion or garlic in addition to being vegan. That’s the only example I can think of off the top of my head.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There are a few religions that have additional restrictions beyond veganism. Folks have mentioned Jains, and there are some Hindus who have similar restrictions re: alliums (Hinduism is incredibly diverse, however, so you could easily have two practicing Hindus with different restrictions). And then there’s always the preparation concerns, which may apply regardless of the style of the cuisine.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Jainist Hindus are extremely strict on anything that might harm the incidental creatures living in & around the food and not kill _the plant itself_. Sometimes you split a worm when using a shovel…and you dig up the entire plant to harvest most root vegetables like potato.
        So they avoid root vegetables.
        My Jainist college housemate kept a separate microwave to avoid food spatter, and didn’t go for watermelon because it had too much life in it.
        Fascinating conversations!

      6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        In the comments above people mentioned Jainism having restrictions on types of vegetables

  6. Thursday Next*

    LW#1, if it’s at all possible for you to sample some of the non-curry items, please give it a shot, perhaps even before a company event. Maybe you’ve had bad luck at other restaurants you’ve tried, and those experiences are the outliers.

    I have to say…I’ve heard a lot of curry comments in my life that were thinly veiled racism (I’m South Asian), and while I’m not accusing you of being racist in your objection to this restaurant, I think you should be aware of this context when framing your objections, in case it’s relevant either to this coworker or any of your colleagues.

    1. Les G*

      Yeah, this, plus the OP needs to realize that their not eating curry is not even *remotely* equivalent to the coworker’s own dietary restrictions. It feels like they think this is dueling accomodations when it’s just, well, not.

      1. Michio Pa*

        Let’s not play oppression Olympics and pit one dietary requirement against another. In foodie cities like OP describes, there are surely great options that can make everyone happy.

        1. Les G*

          This isn’t Tumblr, it’s a workplace. There are laws protecting religious people and there are not laws protecting people who don’t want ro eat underseasoned chicken. The requirements simply are not equivalent.

          1. valentine*

            Why does the religious obligation take precedence over OP not being sick? It’s not mere preference. They literally can’t stomach curry. (I’m not saying the colleague should break his vow.)

            1. NotoriousMCG*

              But they also acknowledge that alternatives at those places are available – they’re just bland. That’s not a dietary restriction.

              1. valentine*

                I completely forgot about the alternatives they described. I now see what Les G means.

                OP1: If you’ve found places in your city that work for both of you, see if his city has any of those.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  However they did say the smell of curry makes them ill. I can believe that. The smell of lamb makes me violently ill. So that’s not a preference.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Because religion is a protected class. Also not liking the limited options isn’t the same as not being permitted to eat something due to their religion.

              1. Zillah*

                Religion has nothing to do with restaurants.

                What on earth are you talking about? A lot of religions have a lot to do with food, and the point of restaurants is food.

          2. Susie Q*

            There is no law that says the company has to choose a restaurant that meets everyone’s dietary standards.

        2. NotoriousMCG*

          Yeah, OP just isn’t really describing a dietary restriction. Just an aversion to the non-curry alternatives that are available.

          1. Mari*

            This feels like such an important distinction to me too! I was surprised at the AAM response given. It obviously sucks that the dietary restrictions make the evening less fun and less tasty as far as the LW is concerned, but who among us hasn’t been to a work function that served bland food? Obviously a compromise is the way to go if one exists, but it doesnt feel like beginning that conversation with the position that the alternative potato meal is non-negotiable is especially respectful or tolerant of the religious requirements of others.

          2. Susie Q*

            Isn’t a religious restriction just a dietary standard.

            No one forces you to follow a religion. It’s not like Crohn’s disease or other food allergies. It is literally a choice.

            1. EnfysNest*

              Many religions include a belief that there is a higher power that influences your life and/or your soul based on whether or not you follow certain religious observances. It’s not simply a choice when you truly, deeply believe that your actions will have an impact on your life or your eternal soul or your reincarnation or how your god views you. It is something much deeper.

              To those with religious beliefs, this is like saying that following our government’s laws are “just a choice” and “no one forces you to follow the law”. Sure, you *can* choose to break religious law just like you *can* break governmental laws, but there are consequences (and other considerations, of course, as many religions aren’t based on just legalism, but I’m just trying to simplify).

      1. alienor*

        That’s what I was thinking. I love curry and eat it often, but I also understand that there are some people whose stomachs are upset by those specific spices, and it sounds as if that’s OP’s issue.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Same with my mother – she adores it but needs a TON of yogurt/cream/milk to calm down the spice blends but was recently diagnosed with a dairy allergy.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Bread may also work to calm down the spice blends. Also, my ex-husband has a dairy allergy. I introduced him to Lactaid pills and they worked for him. (If your mother can’t have gluten or Lactaid doesn’t work for her, please ignore.)

      2. Thursday Next*

        This will be the only time I wade in to defend or explain my comment. I did not dispute the legitimacy of the LW’s inability to eat curry. I said that LW should be aware of the way that phrases referencing curry have been used as code for anti-South Asian comments, and to frame their comments with some sensitivity to that history.

        I am a South Asian, a South Indian no less, who cannot tolerate spicy food. I was the object of my cousins’ jokes on every visit I made to India. When we traveled to India together, my white husband ordered chettinadu food in Tamil Nadu, while I ordered spaghetti. I understand not everyone can eat everything.

        But I’ve also been the target of curry comments meant to devalue my legitimacy as an American, and sometimes even as a person, and I think that is more important information to have than “some people can’t eat turmeric.”

        1. 1.0*

          +1

          Racism often comes veiled in talking about food/how certain food practices are dirty or uncivilized, and this (especially considering what kinds of religious restrictions would make curries the most viable option) is worth being careful about, frankly!

        2. Anonym*

          I think your comment will be very helpful to the OP in responding to this situation in a way that will avoid unanticipated issues and misunderstanding. Thanks for sharing!

        3. Aveline*

          Let’s also not forget here that his religion might be strongly correlated w his ethic or racial background or country of origin if his ancestors.

          So there’s a lot to unpack here beyond just OP wants to eat food X and Coworker wants to eat food Y.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        It’s not that disliking or being allergic to curry is a problem – you can’t help your preferences and allergies. It’s the way that people talk about that that can be problematic. Think:

        “There won’t be much for me to eat at that restaurant – I have a bad reaction to some ingredient that’s in a lot of curries and it makes me very ill.”

        vs

        “Ugh, not THAT place! I hate Indian food, it’s disgusting – even the smell of it makes me sick!”

        To be clear, I doubt the LW is saying anything like the second option – but a lot of people do frame their own dislike of ““”ethnic””” foods as really unpleasant and often racist value judgements about the cuisines of entire cultures.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Coming back to add that IF the LW actually has been framing the situation in a manner that is coming across in this type of “ugh, that gross smelly food makes me sick” way, that may well be part of why the coworker is reluctant to spend time explaining his religious beliefs and dietary requirements to her.

      4. logicbutton*

        Sure, digestive systems aren’t racist. However, when people have racist tendencies they tend to latch on to justifications for them – so if I just happen to feel uncomfortable around South Asian people for some totally undefinable reason that certainly isn’t racism at all, no sir, I might be excited to hear about OP1’s problem, because now I have a reason to criticize a common type of South Asian food that I can tell myself (and/or others) isn’t about me being racist, but about supporting OP1.

        Except, of course, my support actually is rooted in racism. And if OP1 doesn’t present strong evidence to the contrary, coworker and any anti-racist colleagues may wonder if that’s the root of OP1’s issue, too. So if OP1 doesn’t want their objections to be written off as racist (thereby making no one happy), they need to be proactive about avoiding that – showing that they took the time to see whether there was something on the menu they could tolerate, only offering alternatives that preserve coworker’s agency in observing his religion, etc.

    2. Coffee and Cake*

      Curry is a very strong spice and while I want to say the OP should suck it up because they do not have a religious or allergy I cant. I would let my boss know that a curry heavy restaurant is not something I could do, and offer to bow out for the night.

      Curry and anchovies are 2 things I really can’t handle smelling or eating.

      1. qkate*

        Note “curry” is not a spice. Curries of various cultures are made from a variety of spices. Even within a particular culture, different spices will be used for different dishes that white people call “curry”.

        (And before anyone gets all ‘blah blah why you gotta hate on white people’–please note that I’m white and even I hear “curry” as a code word for maybe-racist leanings. Not accusing, just saying that when I hear a white person say “curry” my first thought is “I don’t think this person is knowledgeable about this food”.)

        1. qkate*

          I’m not denying the fact you may have an intolerance to one of the ingredients commonly found in “curry” (which most white Americans use to mean “Indian food”), but it it probably worth figuring out what exact spice it is that bothers you, rather than blaming, vaguely, “curry”.

          1. Ana*

            For those that have severe issues with Indian food or “curry” (as often referred to by white Americans) it may very well not be worth figuring out the particular spice that causes the problem. I love Indian food, but I can’t eat it. It makes me extremely ill and I will be in the restroom for hours afterwards followed by a day in bed. Whatever the spice is that I have a problem with is primarily found in Indian food (it isn’t uncommon for cuisines to use a particular spice frequently). Taking the time to engage in a elimination plan/diet isn’t worth the hassle given how sick it makes me. This isn’t about racism as I have several couples from India I am close to. We’ve found vegetarian options we can enjoy together and they know I wish I could enjoy their cuisine. When life isn’t so hectic and down time won’t be nearly as problematic, maybe I can try an elimination plan. At that time I might be able to figure out what spice or ingredient bothers me at two monasteries I visit regularly.

            1. Eve*

              I am someone who has a throat swelling/hives allergy to something in some curry dishes. It took 3 ER visits to figure out the allergy trigger was curry since I developed it later in life after eating it for years.

              By elimination I can tell you some things I know it’s not. It’s literally my only food allergy and my doctor said it’s easier to just avoid. Since I don’t know what it is and since curry is a spice mix that can vary restaurant to restaurant I just avoid any place with curry so it’s impossibly with have no cross-contamination.

              1. Smarty Boots*

                That;’s not the OP’s problem however; OP is not allergic to the food in question and does not require a medical accommodation (I am assuming this, of course, because I think if OP *did* have a medically documented need, it would have been stated in the letter).

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  I beg to strongly differ. OPs reaction sounds just like a food allergy – they become nauseous. You don’t have to go into anaphylactic shock in order to have a food allergy. It can show up in tingling lips, swollen tongue, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramping, gas, projectile vomiting, etc.
                  Moreover, people often don’t know about the allergy because it isn’t anaphylactic. It’s not enough to trigger a doctor visit. And getting tested for allergies is extremely expensive.
                  Also, you can gain and lose allergies across the years. So you can be fine until you’re not.
                  (Yes I have food allergies)

                2. bonkerballs*

                  Pretty sure “every time I eat it it makes me sick” makes it clear there’s a medical issue. Lots of food allergies and intolerances don’t get “medically documented” the way you seem to want.

                3. fposte*

                  @EG–it sounds like a food *reaction*, but most of those aren’t technically allergies. I don’t think it has to be technically an allergy to need accommodation, but nausea at a food is pretty common in people without allergies, too.

                4. Engineer Girl*

                  @fposte – lots of “reactions” are actually undiagnosed allergies.
                  I know about some of mine because they were exposed during skin tests for other more severe allergies. For example, my allergies to blue cheese was exposed because I had a severe penicillin reaction. Ironically I can eat cheap US blue cheese because there isn’t enough mold in it. I had some in France and immediately had to down some benedryl when my lips tingled and swelled up.
                  Minus a true allergy test it’s hard to tell.

              2. JessaB*

                Yeh cause most curry places won’t actually give you the list of their spices, it’s kind of like a state secret in some of them. Now if you ask does it have X in it they’ll say yes or no, but trying to eliminate to figure out the one or two things in there that are making your life miserable. Really really hard

          2. Rasha*

            Thank you for this comment. As someone who is South Asian and has religious dietary restrictions (though I suspect it’s a different religion than OP’s coworker) this vagueness around “curry” is what’s really bothering me among the comments.

            Even if an Indian store has a spice they’ve labeled “curry,” it’s usually a shortcut to indicate between 4-7 different spices that have been pre-mixed for you to use. I get that this can be confusing for non-South Asians, but I wish people would ask vs. assume. *insert all the jokes about “smelly Indian food” here*

            1. Coffee and Cake*

              Maybe this is just me not being culturally empathetic, or not wanting to divulge my bathroom needs after the spice blend(thank you for that information qKate) smell or taste or most likely both from this thread. However I would never think to take the time to research or ask about something that I don’t like or that makes me sick to smell. I am aware that I may have an allergy to it but with the cost of healthcare in the US I have a cheap alternative to fix it by not eating at a restaurant that when I look at the menu has curry in the majority of dishes, and to not buy the spice mix when I’m at the grocery. To be honest I feel like most people are in my same boat if I have a severe dislike or aversion to something I don’t normally use or have in my life its cheaper and easier to just not go somewhere where that is the majority.

              On another note I would feel culturally insensitive commenting on not liking Curry because of the white stereotype “Smelly Indian Food” so I would most likely never ask an Indian person about it. Side note my boss is Indian and we talk about her trips India, what she does while there etc but I would feel a like I would need to apologize or profusely announce that I don’t mean it racially to ask about the Curry. I have never told her my aversion to Curry, we live in a small town and she hates the 3 Indian restaurants we have so it has not come up naturally.

        2. Marie*

          Yeah. This discussion is making me crave Thai yellow curry. Which is nothing like a red curry from Tamil Nadu.

          What a lot of white folk don’t grok is that curry is a catch all term for savory sauces. So there’s massive variety in what could reasonably be called “curry”. Indeed that Thai curry I mentioned has a proper name in Thai that I just don’t know.

          1. Mags*

            And there’s Japanese curry… And Indonesian curry… And Malaysian curry… And Vietnamese curry… And…

            1. No curry for me*

              Argh now I want curry! But I can’t have any because it’s half nine in the morning and I’m in rural England.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                5am in rural Connecticut and I just packed up biryiani to take to a holiday potluck. InstantPot for the win. ;)

        3. Hiring Mgr*

          People only know what the restaurants say is in the food.. Indian, Thai, etc. restaurants usually just list “curry” on the menu, they don’t break it down into individual spices for indivudiual dishes.

          1. amapolita*

            Most Indian restaurants do not list “curry.” They specify the type of sauce or preparation (jalfrezi, korma, vindaloo, makhani, tandoori, etc.). Sometimes places will also have a general “mixed vegetable curry” dish but it’s not very common. It’s true that they don’t list a breakdown of all spices, but “curry” is just a style of cooking, and it’s really a catch-all term in the West that isn’t used in India.

            Thai restaurants tend to more generally list “green curry,” “red curry,” etc.

      2. Its one meal vs a life commitment*

        This is a common misconception.

        Curry is a mixture of spices. There is a large range in variety. Similar to the range in variety of peppers between Asia, Africa and the Americas.

        I think the first step is for OP to actually look at the menu instead of assuming at what the palateable options might be. The second step would be to approach this with a much more open mind. I get the impression other things were said before the coworker said OP doesn’t understand their restrictions.

        Going back to the beginning and starting this process over with group input is more likely to get a happier result. But if push came to shove i would always back the religious restriction over personal preference. Its one meal a day, and no kne is requiring it to be the biggest either. Maybe go for a nice breakfast.

        1. Colette*

          There is a wide range of peppers in the world, and I will get sick if I eat them. Maybe not 100%, but I don’t enjoy getting sick enough to want to figure out which ones are OK.

          The OP has said she gets sick if she eats curry. Maybe there is a rare blend of curry that would be OK – but it’s not reasonable for her to get sick trying all the ones that aren’t.

          Now, she should see if she can work with her coworker to find another option – but if there is no other option, she should suck it up and go at least some of the time. But it might be worth looking into whether she can skip these meals and do her own thing some of the time as well (once she’s given it a fair shot).

    3. Rasha*

      I’m wondering about this as well since I’m confused given how many different kinds of curry out there with all kinds of different ingredients that are not common to all curries. Are we talking East Asian curries… South Asian curries… Caribbean curries…

      I don’t know, maybe the context is the co-worker picked an Indian restaurant that only serves curries. But then other Indian restaurants should exist that fit the dietary restrictions AND have significant non-curry options since “Indian food” is not curries only and there’s a wide diversity in types of dishes…

      I’m sure we’re just missing details, but from what have, it sounds like a lot of “either/or” thinking happening on both the co-worker’s and OP’s part.

      1. Michio Pa*

        “it sounds like a lot of “either/or” thinking happening on both the co-worker’s and OP’s part.”
        This is exactly it. “Either we have curry/boring food which OP hates, or we have food religious-coworker can’t eat.” There’s got to be more food options here that can make everyone happy.

          1. qkate*

            I’d push back a tiny bit on this–I’m surprised that OP claims to live in a ‘foodie’ type city and is knowledgeable about food themselves yet use the term “curry” in the way that they did.

            No one is allergic to “curry” — they are allergic to tumeric or cumin or coriander or any of the myriad spices that (I’m going to assume they inaccurately mean “Indian food” by saying “curry”) Indian food may contain, depending on the dish.

            I still agree it sounds like coworker is being a bit inflexible or maybe just good-faith-oblivious, and that it’s still worth OP digging into it with coworker to find some better options that will accommodate them both–I’m just trying to emphasize that I think OP has a bit of self-education to do, too. (Many Indian restaurants offer many things besides “curries”–tandoori and biryanis and maybe even South Indian dishes like dosas, too. It would behoove OP to figure out what their intolerance actually is–even many non-Indian restaurants use the exact same spices as “curry”! If they don’t know what they are intolerant to, they are likely getting sick from more than just “curry”.)

            1. Clare*

              But in the process of “self educating” she is likely to contine making herself sick until she figures out what the cause is. Why would anyone put themselves through that? Honestly some of these comments are coming across as really patronizing.

              1. Name Required*

                They don’t have to, but it’s odd to be upset that someone won’t tell you their specific religious needs when you won’t do the work to designate what your actual food intolerance is — “no curry” is just like saying “no stew” or “no sauces” … it’s vague and meaningless. It’s not patronizing to recognize that vague restrictions are difficult to accommodate, especially when they aren’t partnered by any medical documentation and OP acknowledges that restaurants that serve curry often have other food that she can eat, but doesn’t like.

                1. Observer*

                  Not really. Keep in mind that the “work” that the OP would need to do to “self educate” to find out what specific ingredient is a problem is likely to be expensive and hard to get (medical testing that would be hard to get because it sounds like most of the time avoiding curries is a reasonable option) or risking getting sick by eating on variety after another and seeing what makes them sick.

                  That’s just not a reasonable set of options.

                2. Name Required*

                  @Observer Or she can just eat the other food at these restaurants that don’t make her sick, which is what I think she should do.

            2. Alica*

              Hi!

              As someone who now avoids “curry” cause it makes me spend the night throwing up, I don’t want to have to try and figure out what I’m allergic to. As it will involve a lot of me being sick! Trust me, after seeing it in reverse several times, it’s enough to make you want to avoid it all together. I now associate it with that and frankly am happier not risking it. FYI, I tried biryani and had exactly the same reaction! Thank goodness I can stand the smell though (I lived very close to Curry Mile in Rusholme for 2 years).

              (as an aside, mine is definitely not tumeric, cumin or coriander, as I use those in other cooking with no issues).

            3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              She didn’t claim to be allergic to curry. All she knows is she eats curry = she gets horribly sick. She has tried several times and it keeps happening. She doesn’t know exactly what is making her sick, but is taking common sense precautions to keep it from happening again. There is nothing wrong with that – and no one should ever pressure her to try more to find out exactly what it is.

            4. a heather*

              Dude, I *loved* canned ravioli as a kid. I ate it one time in college and it made me violently ill. I tried it again a few years later, because I did in fact love it, same thing happened. Now I do not wish to ever repeat that. It’s a standard human reaction to NOT want to eat things that make us sick. There is no actual need to eat curry (or canned ravioli), so why would someone want to put themselves through that to maybe one day be able to?

          2. Rasha*

            But it seems like the OP is also engaging in black and white thinking – possibly stemming from ignorance. There are hundreds of types of curry from around the world and they don’t all have the same ingredient. So how can you be sick from literally any curry?

            And no culture has ONLY curries in their cuisine. So yes, I can see maybe a specific restaurant that’s been chosen specializes in only curry (maybe in the UK somewhere?) but then another restaurant that is from that same culture’s food must have curry and non-curry options that are also not bland/subpar.

            I guess I’m just wondering if the OP is defaulting to “all Indian food is curry and I don’t want to go to an Indian restaurant, period” or something similar that unfairly characterizes an entire region’s cuisine and then knocks out all restaurants from that category. Coworker would be rigid for insisting on ONE specific restaurant and OP would be rigid for insisting on NOT THAT entire culture’s food.

            As an example, Indian restaurants frequently have non-curry options since hey, some of us who are South Asian also don’t like eating curry for every single meal and there’s a wide variety of dishes in the subcontinent for all kinds of food preferences. Me personally, I love food and would totally not be off-put by someone who said “oh, there’s some spice or something that really makes me sick in a lot of the Indian food I’ve had before…” and then us working together to find an option on the menus of places that I could go to. But to pre-emptively say that none of the menus will have anything that is both tasty and will work “because it’s all curry and all non-curry options are bland in Indian food” is black and white thinking.

            1. Elspeth*

              I really don’t think that’s the problem – OP literally cannot stomach the smell from curries – I’m not sure if she’s talking about turmeric, cumin or other spices, though.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I assumed she was using it as shorthand to mean “this specific curry place specializes in the type of curry that makes me feel ill.” But you’re right that in talking with her colleagues, it will be better to be more specific so that people understand it’s not an overstatement.

              1. Less Charitable*

                That’s … quite the assumption! It’s certainly not the impression I got from the letter. Perhaps you are obliged to put the most… kindly interpretation on things as the site owner, though.

                1. Aveline*

                  Yes, I’m an allergy sufferer and atheist and I found her unsympathetic and rigid.

                  So I think she needs to tread lightly because I want to be on her side here.

                  She needs to pick her objection carefully and specifically and give a lot of thought to presenting it in a way that doesn’t denigrate Coworker’s religion or race or that of the restaurant owners and staff.

                  Further, she needs to decide how much this matters. Is it severe enough to spend political capital?

            3. Genny*

              Since curry is a blend of spices and those other spices are heavily used in other South Asian dishes, LW may not be able to eat any of those dishes without severe gastrointestinal discomfort. LW may not even know what about curry makes her sick. If that’s the case, she can’t work with the restaurant to find something she can eat, because the restaurant has no idea how to accommodate her (which may be why she ends up with bland dishes – the restaurant tried to avoid triggering an allergen by removing all the spices).

              Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being wary about an entire cuisine because you’ve had bad experiences. I hate fish sauce. Southeast Asian cuisine relies heavily on it to the point where even vegetarian dishes have fish sauce in them. That means I have to be especially cautious eating at a SEA restaurant (learned that one the hard way). Now because it’s a preference for me, I would still go to a SEA restaurant and try to find something if that’s what the team wanted to do, but if I had something more serious, I’d absolutely cross SEA restaurants off my list of options.

          3. Smarty Boots*

            But Alison, the co-worker’s religion may require “either/or”. If I keep strict kosher, it’s completely yes or no if I can eat at a particular restaurant. I don’t think we can criticize the co-worker for “either/or” thinking without more information. And as I mentioned above, I don’t think the co-worker has to share their needs with the OP. Unless the OP is the planner for these events, which it does not sound like they are.

          4. Aveline*

            I think you are being too kind here to the detriment of OP.

            There are other things she can eat, she just doesn’t want to. She never says that merely being in the presence of curry makes her sick. Just eating “curry” makes her sick.

            Also, by conflating curry with “all items” served at a place where she’s NEVER eaten, she comes off as either rigid or ignorant of what the food actually is.

            She also might come off as racist in the wrong context. If she’s white and coworker is not, she needs to tread very carefully.

            I think she shouldn’t even use the term curry. Just say “every time I eat X cuisine, I get ill afterwards, which is a shame because I love the way it tastes!”

            If she says “yucky curry” that would read as small minded and racist in a lot of contexts.

            I also question whether or not her past experience in blandness is unduly coloring her POV here. As someone who has been there with weird allergies, I have done this.

            I am skeptical that a place with curry would serve bland non- curry dishes. In fact, I would personally worry that the spice I was allergic to would be in those other dishes.

            So in her shoes, I’d not frame it as a “curry” issue at all. I’d say that “some spice in X cuisine causes me gastric distress. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to isolate the exact spice. That a shame, because I love X dish and would love to be able to eat it again.”

            Framing matters a great deal to making traction in this matter.

            1. Walter White Walker*

              This is so well-said. OP 1 is not coming across well here at all, and glossing over it is doing her a disservice.

            2. Jennifer Juniper*

              I am learning lots more about Indian food than I ever knew! You are all so lovely and well-informed.

              1. Aveline*

                Oh, I’m learning so much reading this as well.

                First, that there are parts of the US that are so much better at this than one might expect.
                Second, the racial implications of the term “curry” in the UK.
                Third, that so many people have issues with Indian curries. And that Tumeric is the likely culprit.
                Fourth, that I dont’ always come down on the side of fellow allergy sufferers.

                I have to go now as I have court :(

                I’ll come back and read this all later, but by then, I’m sure everyone will have moved on, so I’ll just say thanks to everyone who has been arguing in good faith and forgiveness to those who had comments removed.

                Hope everyone has a great holiday season and that OP finds somewhere she and her religious coworker can Hakuna Matata together (sue me, Disney, you jerks).

                One last thing: if she ends up going to this restaurant and having nothing to eat, she may have a better shot at dealing with it next time. Right now, it could be read that she’s being too rigid. That is, assuming, that merely going into a place with curry spices isn’t an issue. All comes down to how the smell actually effects her.

      2. qkate*

        Yeah, I agree that almost everyone using the word “curry” here deeply misunderstands Indian food _as well as_ the problematic implications of categorizing all Indian food as “curry”, and likewise, all “curry” as Indian food.

        1. Aveline*

          It’s like saying you won’t eat Japanese food Because you hate sushi. I had someone tell this after I’d served them homemade pork tonkatsu. A dish made for western palates, but still Japanese.

          There’s a wide range of food in cultures that make “curries.” It would be odd if OP. It would be weird if OP could eat nothing else that culture offered.

      3. TL -*

        I’m also curious about this – there are tons of different types of curries! But also I do know Indian food restaurants that serve primarily curry, so maybe that’s what she means? Most of the ones in my current town do, though it’s a smaller college town in NZ and I would expect more variety from, say, a nice Indian restaurant in Boston that is serving either a primarily Indian community or marketing itself as authentic regional cuisine.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I find it confusing because “Indian food” is not monolithic, and neither are “Indian” curries. Curry is a word that the British made up and applied in a slap-dash way to refer to a broad range of foods with very different spice mixtures. Curried dishes exist in East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), Southeast Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese) and South Asian (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka).

          1. TL -*

            Right, but just like Chinese restaurants in American can serve authentic/regional Chinese cuisine, fusion cuisine, or American Chinese cuisine (which would be the default assumption if someone says “want Chinese?”), there is definitely a type of Indian restaurant that serves mostly Punjabi curries that pops to mind if you say “want Indian food?” here in NZ and also in the USA.

            And the OP might be British from the mention of chips? I think curry is more of a catch all word in the UK, in that people seem to say things like, “The curry place” whereas in the USA you’d say “the Indian place.”

            1. Agent Diane*

              We do use “curry” as a catch-all in the UK, but most of us are also alive to the variety.

              If OP1 wants to take this further with their colleague, they may want to soften their language and be more clear. For example “unfortunately even the mildest of kormas causes a reaction” is more useful to explain the situation to their colleague than “I can’t eat curry”.

              But OP1 may need to accept this is the only choice that meets both the religious and gluten-free needs. As a vegetarian stuck eating boring options at meat-focused restaurants, I sympathise. But the other requirements trump “I don’t want to eat bland food”.

              1. Aveline*

                Yep. She needs to be very careful not to come of as rigid or even racist.

                And it’s very hard for a lot of us to do.

            2. londonedit*

              You’re right – in the UK it’s very common to refer to an Indian/South Asian restaurant as ‘a curry house’, or talk about ‘going for a curry’ rather than ‘going for Indian food’.

              There absolutely is the racist association of ‘people smelling like curry’ in this country too, but at the same time there is a huge and long-standing tradition of South Asian food in Britain. The joke is that chicken tikka masala is the nation’s favourite dish – that’s not even an authentic Asian dish, it’s something that was made for British palates by the Asian immigrants who came over and set up their own restaurants, but it speaks to the British love of all things ‘curry’. Going for a curry is a staple part of a boozy night out; getting an Indian takeaway is as common on a Friday night as getting fish and chips from the local chip shop. Britain has a huge tradition of South Asian food that stretches back something like 200 years.

              1. Jennifer85*

                These type of restaurants do indeed often sell only things described as curry and a few bad ‘english’ options – Eg omelette and chips – for the English customers who can’t handle spice at all. But if it’s a foodie city I’d expect there to be options that sell both ‘curry’ and more exciting non-curry options, though that wouldn’t really solve the problem of the smell making them feel ill.

            3. BluntBunny*

              Ahh I didn’t catch that. There might be a Buffett style restaurant that do multiple cuisines under one roof that do Indian and Chinese etc

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m with you, Thursday Next. It’s such a common dog whistle that OP should be mindful and aware of that when pushing back. Even if OP’s reasons are not based in racial stereotypes, their objection could be interpreted that way if OP speaks too broadly about their aversion.

    5. Mujj*

      I’m really surprised that Allison didn’t address the racial component of this. “Curry” is a really unspecific term that people use a replacement for “smelly ethnic/Indian food.”

      I’m a vegetarian for moral, but non-religious, reasons and I’ve put up with plenty of bland, uninspired meals without comment. Ultimately, it’s my choice and I realize not everyone will care or accommodate that. Unless the OP has some “curry” related illness, his response comes off as entitled and tone deaf.

  7. Les G*

    #5: Ah, the sweet smell of “work for us for 32 hours a week so you can’t possibly have another full time job and a personal life, but also we don’t have to pay you benefits.” Keep your eyes open, OP.

    1. Elmer Litzinger, spy*

      It really depends on the place. I picked up a part-time job for 15-20 hours a week about 20 years ago. I was good at it-catalog sales- so they gave me more h ours until I said “you know, I only wanted to work here 15-20 hours a week”. I’d go back down to 15-20 for a few weeks and it would start creeping up again. Rinse, lather, repeat until I moved away. I think they kept forgetting I was full-time at my other job.

    2. kittymommy*

      I’m wondering if the reason they have more hours is because of the holidays. Typically retail stores increase hours of employees at this time, so the schedule might go back down in a couple of weeks (if not sooner).

      1. Someone Else*

        Yes that’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s so so so common for nearly all retail gigs to have increased hours between Thanksgiving and November. Normally it should’ve been made clear to her during hiring it’d be a more all hands on deck type situation for that period, but it’s possible the bosses thought this was self-evident for people applying to retail jobs? I don’t know. But assuming there wasn’t a major offset between when the letter were submitted and now “a couple more weeks” might well be all they intended to keep her scheduled this loaded anyway.
        That said if she has a specific cap on hours she intended to be available, she should make that clear to them if she didn’t during hiring. It’s tricky because some retail gigs, if you say you’re only available, say 20 hours a week, even if those 20 are flexible, they’re fine to work around it because there are so many part timers with different availability. But others are jerks and would be like “we only want you if you’re willing to sometimes accept 10 hours and sometimes do 30 and not knowing which it’ll be until a couple weeks before.” So she should communicate, but it’s also possible this job might turn out to be a bad fit for both sides once she does.

        1. LCL*

          OP should definitely talk to the boss. This is retail, increased hours are standard this time of year, if you can’t do them for too much longer tell your boss. OP mentions that this is a small business; it is common for small businesses to not hire for busy times that have a definite end. It’s a lot of work to hire someone, and having to lay off people is hard.

      2. EmployeeHotlineBling*

        As someone who still works part-time retail in addition to full-time office work, I feel for OP #5, but agree, it is the time of year where it’s all hands on deck!

        Some things that have helped me in my 10+ year retail career, both in sales and management:
        1. Definitely address scheduling issues as soon as the schedule is released. Frame it as your scheduling manager’s oversight, but be understanding. They are trying to manage your coworkers’ scheduling preferences and needs of the business, which can be tricky to juggle.
        2. If this doesn’t help, remind your scheduling manager that you have other things going on outside of work, and you fear that with a consistently heavy schedule you may burn out. I frame this by telling my scheduling manager I really love my job and that I want to be able to keep it, but I need it to work for me too. Leave out details about what you have going on outside of work unless it directly pertains to scheduling constraints (other job, appointments, dependents, etc.)
        3. Book some days off! Having at least one dedicated day off a week with no obligations can really help you recharge if you’ve got a lot going on or your job is more physically demanding. It’ll also make your schedule more consistent and it will make it more difficult to over-schedule you.
        4. If you’re flexible to cover shifts when things are busy or someone is sick, let your scheduling manager know. I am the first person my scheduling manager texts with shifts that need coverage, but they also know that it is way more likely that I can cover a shift with when they let me know the day before.
        5. Make sure your preferences are documented. I always email or text my scheduling manager when I find scheduling conflicts or change my availability so that nothing can be lost in translation.

        Good luck!

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          I’ve been the manager doing the scheduling and I agree with all of this. It can be hard to coordinate multiple people’s requests and remember each person’s individual scheduling needs while ensuring coverage and doing the rest of your job. Mistakes happen, and if you don’t tell me otherwise, I’ll assume the schedule is fine. The sooner you bring a problem to my attention, the easier it is to solve. The nicer you are about it the better. Nothing worse than an employee being snotty over a scheduling issue at the last minute. Written scheduling requests and conflicts are also really nice because I can refer back to that when I make up the schedule. And yes, tell me if you want more or less hours! I had an employee in your situation who was reliable and did good work so I ended up giving her more hours than she actually wanted. She didn’t say anything so I thought it was okay, and who doesn’t want more money? When she finally worked up the nerve to tell me it was too many hours for her, I felt really bad. The last thing I wanted to do was drive away a good employee over an easily fixable thing. So please speak up if there’s a problem! The sooner the better.

    3. xarcady*

      I’ve seen 30 hour a week “part-time” jobs. And the store where I have my second job classifies “full-time” as 28 hours a week.

      You really do have to clarify what the employer means by full-time and part-time, because it usually means what the employer wants it to mean.

    4. atexit8*

      I once interviewed with an employer who split a receptionist/secretary job to 4 hours per person per day.
      Obvious attempt not to pay benefits.

  8. NotoriousMCG*

    I’m a bit surprised at Alison’s response to OP#1 – by advising them to push back pretty heavily on this coworker’s restaurant choices and using language like ‘that place won’t work for me, unfortunately’ it sounds like she is placing OP#1’s general aversion to bland food on par with religious dietary restrictions?

    1. mark132*

      Meh, what makes his religious beliefs so special that it trumps someone’s love of good food? I don’t see why it should be more protected than LW1 desire to enjoy food she likes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s not mockery; that’s someone saying he thinks religious beliefs shouldn’t get special protection. The law happens to disagree, but it’s not mockery to take that stance.

        2. mark132*

          If it’s open war on religion on my part because I don’t appreciate having my dietary choices constrained by someone else’s religious beliefs. I guess I’ll own it.

          Personally I think the best option in this situation is to have some give and take. This time go to the curry restaurant, next time other people’s preferences should be more important.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I’m with you. Religion ultimately is a choice unlike say skin color, sexuality, national origin, etc. Dietary restrictions that go with that choice shouldn’t impose on others.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yeah, this is my take on it as well. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well take a few turns. Curry today, Italian next time. I’m sure there were a few times when someone else in the group ate the sad side salad.

            Religious guy gets some consideration for his beliefs, sure, but the law requires *reasonable* accommodation, not carte blanche to run the office according to one’s spiritual whims. If there’s a few reasonable food accommodations (someone wants to be able to order a decent veggie, halal, or kosher dish at the restaurant) sure. But IMO, once it moves from wanting a few decent dish options to “the entire restaurant must be run to my preferences (AKA no alcohol anywhere, the entire kitchen can’t have pork or meat or onions in it, etc.)” you’re moving into unreasonable territory.

            So yeah, he’s new and it’d be a good idea for him to be able to fully participate in his first big get-together, so he can meet everyone else. For that, I’d agree to it this time. However, it’s reasonable to go “ok, we’ll give you this one, but FYI, you can’t expect the entire office to only go to curry places for the foreseeable future.”

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Oh, come on. “carte blanche to run the office according to one’s spiritual whims”? Really?

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          Why should a belief…any belief be treated as special? It’s a belief not a fact. Just because someone believes X doesn’t make it Truth.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Not everyone has that privilege. In some theocratic countries, you can be imprisoned or killed for openly practicing anything other than the official religion.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              Practice and belief are not the same thing at all. A religious government can force you to participate in a practice and it can forbid you from other practices. It cannot force you to believe. It cannot make you have faith. It does not have that power, nobody does. Only you can decide what to believe. Thus, religious belief is a choice even where religious practice is mandated or forbidden.

        4. LadyCop*

          Alison makes a fair point that this may not be mockery, but i do agree that the commentariat tend to lean towards the “oh religion” *eyeroll* category…

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Because of the law. But we also make other decisions about how we order people’s food preferences. For example, the law doesn’t protect vegetarians (unless vegetarianism is part of your religious practice), but many of us would be willing to accommodate a vegetarian. Personally, I think it’s reasonable to try to find common ground between the coworker with religious restrictions and OP.

      2. pleaset*

        In the US at least, religion is taking more seriously then taste – appropriately so in my opinion.

        They’re not analogous – religious is about deeply help beliefs.

        I’m completely non-religious myself BTW.

      3. Smarty Boots*

        Fortunately, in the US religion is a protected class and someone else’s food preference isn’t. Props to OP’s employer for understanding this and following through, and shame on the OP for not understanding it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It isn’t necessarily a competition. The OP is interested in seeing if she can find a restaurant that works for everyone, and the coworker is telling her “no, you can’t even look because I’m not going to share the information you’d need to do that.”

      1. NotoriousMCG*

        I think my issue is that the advice doesn’t seem to err that way. More just ‘No, that won’t work.’ as opposed to, ‘Could we please work together?’ or even OP taking some of the emotional labor, researching the religion on their own, and beginning a discussion from that lens?

        1. TL -*

          Alison might be drawing from the kosher discussion we’ve had before; keeping kosher can mean a wide variety of things so researching kosher food might not be a super helpful jumping off point. I’m unsure if other religions have as wide a variety in practices, though.

          1. NotoriousMCG*

            And I think that’s fully legit – but from our perspective where we don’t know what the actual thing is, adding a lot of back and forth of ‘Well how about this?’ ‘No, because of this’ adds a lot of emotional labor to the coworker that it seems they may be trying to avoid by saying ‘Let me choose’

            Or I could be projecting. Overall I think that OP needs to ask for/encourage more collaboration and perhaps proactively take on some of the labor.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              So it’s ok to ask OP to do the emotional labor but not for the Coworker to just inform her? It wouldn’t even require much if any emotional labor from him.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Or the coworker could just Tell OP what he needs instead of her needing to di emotional labor or extra unnecessary research.

          1. Smarty Boots*

            Why does the co-worker need to tell the OP anything? The OP is not planning the event. The OP is not the manager. It is none of the OP’s freakin business.

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I would not encourage the OP to research the religion on their own! Most religions have about a billion different interpretations and sub-sects and rules that are followed differently. And the OP coming up to coworker and saying “Well google says that this is what you can and can’t eat” is a very bad look. If you are asking people to respect your diet restrictions, it is on you to explain them to the people you are limiting.

          I am allergic to seafood and I know it is on me to tell people “These are the things I can’t eat” and it is on me to warn restaurants when there is fear of cross-contamination. Even if a seafood restaurant has other options , if it is 90% seafood I don’t like to eat there due to fear that avoiding cross-contamination is impossible. Plus I don’t want to have to put work like that on the restaurant.

        4. Aveline*

          In fairness, it seems she quickly dismissed his proffer that there were items other than curry being served.

          They both dug their heels in.

          Had she framed this as “I can’t eat Indian” rather than a curry problem, her refusal to try other thing might not have come off so rigid.

          This isn’t either-or. Both can be too rigid here.

          But we don’t have him before the tribunal, as it were.

      2. NotoriousMCG*

        Sorry I’m doing so many double-comments tonight – I think a better way to phrase my point is that I didn’t see the advice given as indicative of the collaboaration you seem to be encouraging in this response, but just simple pushback which would put a food aversion (not liking blander options) on be level of religious accommodation.

      3. Ginger ale for all*

        It seems like a solution to mull over is to see if the writer can ask if his co-worker could ask his local religious leader for a short list of area restaurants that the religious leader knows that fit their theology. Or would asking that be too intrusive?

      4. 1.0*

        Honestly, though, I have a hard time blaming him — I don’t have religious restrictions but I do have allergy/food intolerance issues, and the number of times I’ve had someone assure me that they know how to order for me, don’t worry, etc, only to discover (once it’s too late for me to make other plans!) that they’ve dropped the ball is uncomfortably often. And my food stuff is very straightforward, while the dietary laws around strict kosher can be much more opaque for outsiders.

        1. Genny*

          Normally I’d agree with this, but the co-worker is making his religious belief a thing (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

          Let’s pretend for a second he was gluten-free. He tells everyone he has a health issue and wants to pick the restaurant in order to accommodate that. He selects a restaurant, but someone else in the group has a problem with it. That person asks if they can help select the restaurant or even do the research for him. He refuses the offer saying he doesn’t want to explain his health needs.

          Normally, we’d say he doesn’t have to disclose his health needs to his colleagues, but in this case, it just makes sense to give a condensed version of them to expedite the restaurant selection process. I see religious dietary requirements the same way. He doesn’t have to justify why he has them or how they fit into his religious practice, but he should state what they are.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          The coworker is demanding an accommodation for a religious restriction that puts a burden on someone else. I think it’s reasonable for the person being burdened to ask for help understanding the restriction precisely so they can help accommodate it without it becoming an unreasonable burden. And since reasonable accommodation is all that’s required, someone who refuses to help find one (by refusing to discuss their reasons for it) is already being unreasonable.

          1. Name Required*

            But Coworker has already provided the restriction: “Can’t eat from restaurants other than these.”

            Using the gluten-free example above, it’s as if OP was told, “These are the restaurants I can eat at safely as a gluten-free person” and OP comes back with, “I can’t eat curry, which is served at these restaurants, and I think the other options are bland. Explain to me exactly how and why you are gluten-free so that I can come up with other options that work better for me.” If anyone is placing an undue burden on someone, it would be the person who can eat someplace but doesn’t like to.

            1. Genny*

              But in your example, the dietary restriction has been explained. It doesn’t matter how or why he’s gluten-free, just that he is. In the LW’s question, the dietary restrictions haven’t been explained (based on the info LW has, commentors have suggested coworker could be Jain, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish). Clearly co-worker needs to give a bit more guidance on what their dietary restrictions actually are. Now maybe his restrictions are incredibly complicated such that he can’t describe them all. It’s still on him to explain the ones that are most difficult to accommodate. For example, he doesn’t have to explain the intricacies of keeping kosher, just that he can’t use plates/utensils/cookware that have been contaminated by non-kosher food. He doesn’t have to justify the caste system, only explain that he can’t eat food cooked by someone of the same caste as me.

      5. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        I feel like one of my big confusions with this letter is that it doesn’t necessarily seem like OP is the one who picks the restaurants. Is it possible that the person who DOES make the final decision on where they go out to eat has the information they need to pick? Is the co-worker required to supply OP with that information as well?

      6. Name Required*

        Coworker already found find restaurants that work for everyone, though. OP isn’t in HR, isn’t coworker’s manager, and isn’t planning the event — why is she entitled to know about coworker’s religious observances? OP doesn’t like those restaurants as much as the ones she ate at in the past, and while there are options she can eat, she’s assuming they will be bland based on past experiences. No one is forcing her to eat curry, it’s just an option.

        Unless OP is saying that restaurants she can’t go to any restaurant where any type of “curry” is an option on the menu in case someone orders it and the smell makes her ill? That’s not how I read the letter, though.

      7. Quickbeam*

        I’d probably contact the restaurant and ask what they could go to provide me with a decent meal. Give them options. See if they can accommodate. It’s a restaurant, they cook. No need to settle for something tasteless on the menu. That would be my first action plan before anything else. Advocate for myself.

    3. Approval is optional*

      LW1: did you actually tell your colleague that the smell of curries made you feel sick or did you just frame it as a problem with the blandness of non-curried options? His response that there would be things you could eat, makes me think that perhaps it was the latter.
      If you didn’t mention the illness, then perhaps if you do, he might be more willing to look at other venues than he was when it seemed ‘just’ a food preference you had. Not ‘the smell of curry makes me sick’, but perhaps more along the lines of, ‘unfortunately there is an ingredient in all the curries I’ve come across that has an odor that makes me feel physically sick’. Who knows he might know what the likely ingredient is if he knows a lot about curried foo, and you might be able to ask others at the table to only order dishes that don’t have that ingredient in it. (Long shot I know but nothing ventured.)
      In the end though – as some people have said elsewhere – there may not be a restaurant in his town that can meet both your requirements.

  9. Procrastinating*

    OP1: what’s the exact reason you can’t eat the non-curry options? Because you might get boring food? I don’t feel sorry for you for some reason.

      1. NotoriousMCG*

        That’s not the reason why they can’t eat the NON-curry options that they acknowledged in their letter.

      2. NotoriousMCG*

        Sorry, I just re-read and they really do say that their main issue with the non-curry options is that it makes it feel as though the dinners are less of a treat for them. Which is not on par with a religious dietary restriction.

        1. Coffee and Cake*

          Actually op said “ Curry is — literally — the only thing I cannot eat. I’ve tried so many times, and been sick so many times, that now I can barely tolerate the smell.”

          So it’s not just less of a treat

          1. NotoriousMCG*

            “But in most places, it’s plain, dull, uninteresting food. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips. I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat.”

            Yes – they acknowledge there are other things to eat and that they are bland and less of a treat.

            1. Coffee and Cake*

              Taking op at what she says as truth, She also says the curry smell makes her sick. It’s not fair to say get over your aversion but not mine. Especially when it’s a work event.

              1. Critical*

                No, she says that she can tolerate the smell but eating it makes her sick. Nowhere did she say “The smell makes me sick.”

                1. Coffee and Cake*

                  where she states “ Curry is — literally — the only thing I cannot eat. I’ve tried so many times, and been sick so many times, that now I can barely tolerate the smell.”

                2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  She says “….that now I can barely tolerate the smell.

                  His response was, “Well, there will be a non-curry option for you.” Yes, there will. But in most places, it’s plain, dull, uninteresting food. When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips. I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat”

                  It doesn’t make her sick since she has eaten in curry restaurants just fine in the past. She just doesn’t like the non-curry options

            2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              ^ This right here. I get it. I hate being stuck eating boring food because that is all my co-workers will eat (not for religious reasons, narrow palates and no interest in trying something new), but I do it because the point of these things isn’t the food, it is whatever business related team building that is supposed to be going on. In this case, the coworker literally has no other options if they ever want to go to these meetings due to religious restrictions, but LW1 can eat at the restaurants, she just doesn’t like that she has to switch from food she liked to edible for her, but bland food. IMO, the coworker’s needs take precedence over her not wanting to eat a bland meal.

          2. NotoriousMCG*

            The beginning of the quote: “His response was, “Well, there will be a non-curry option for you.” Yes, there will.”

              1. ceiswyn*

                No – but until restaurants have good options for all dietary restrictions, or workplaces stop doing team dinners out, someone is going to end up with few, or unattractive, options. It strikes me as better if that is rotated around the team rather than always being the vegan/gf person. And it sounds from the OP’s description of previous meals that this is the first time it’s been them, and they think they shouldn’t have to take a turn.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      The whole point of going out is so everyone can have a good time. A reasonable person would try to find a solution that accommodates everyone.
      At a minimum people should go back to the drawing board because it isn’t working. Saying “it sucks to be you” isn’t conducive to team building.
      This is a problem to be solved jointly, not my way or the highway.

      1. Woodswoman*

        Exactly. I’m thinking a non-adversarial, cooperative approach could be very helpful. OP, can you try again to invite your co-worker to have a friendly discussion to see what options there might be? It’s possible that he has been a target based on his religion so that’s good context to think about when you’re approaching him for a conversation. Perhaps you can find a way to address that respectfully in your conversation, mentioning that you’d like to see what the two of you can come up with together while accommodating his religious needs.

      2. Aveline*

        Yes, but it may be that it’s impossible for everyone to optimize their enjoyment and still go out. The choice may well be that she eats bland crap, but tries to enjoy the company, or they don’t go at all.

        We don’t know that yet and neither does she. This is why someone other than OP or coworker needs to wrangle everyone’s issues and then choose.

        Because we are all forgetting that these aren’t the only two people here w food issues.

        The company may have to move to a non-food based treat. Or multiple dinners or catering.

        Sometimes there are situations where not everyone can have the best time possible. If I’m allergic to cake and you are allergic to pie and Jane is allergic to ice cream and those are the only options in town, we just have to skip sharing a dessert

    2. RHmouse*

      Agreed. OP says: “I don’t want to be sitting eating that when previously we had lovely evenings with steaks, Italian, or Chinese food, and it was a real treat.” Well… your coworker needs to be able to keep his religious practices, so… that sounds pretty important. If I were in this situation, I’d just remind myself, “These yummy dinners were never ‘owed’ to me and have just been a nice perk. I can always buy steak, Italian, or Chinese food for myself, since I really value it.” I do understand it is a bummer, though, and it would be great if you could maybe talk more in depth with your coworker, but not a hard push.
      I appreciate the comment that these dinners are for everyone to enjoy, but sometimes someone just has to give. I value religious tolerance more deeply than the occasional tasty my meal is.

        1. Marthooh*

          OP said they can “barely tolerate the smell”, which may mean physical illness but maybe not. The takeaway I got from that was “I have tried powering through my dislike, but it backfired.” The rest of the letter emphasizes that these events won’t be fun for OP anymore.

      1. CatCat*

        It doesn’t sound like the OP is valuing a tasty meal more than religious tolerance. OP has been sickened by curry to the point where even the smell of it is nearly intolerable. That plus the concerns about only bland options is salt in the wound. Meanwhile, the coworker has not shared what the required religious dietary accommodations ARE.

        There’s a difference between:
        “I choose the curry place and that’s that. You can’t look for an alternative because you don’t understand my religious dietary needs that I haven’t actually told you.”

        And:
        “My religion has X, Y, Z dietary rules.”

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          This. The coworker is being unhelpful. He has decided that they will have what he wants because…religion.

          1. JessiBee*

            Why does the co-worker need to explain his religious restrictions to OP, who is not in charge of organizing the event?
            Either OP has a preference to not eat the non-curry foods at the restaurant or she has a dietary need, neither of which is particularly clear from her letter. Either way, she needs to speak with her own manager or the organizers to work out accommodations, not the co-worker.

            1. CatCat*

              Who *is* in charge of organizing the event? Sounds like it has been worked out informally amongst colleagues in the past. If he doesn’t want to explain his religious restrictions to OP, that’s certainly his choice. He has to explain them to someone though because without the specifics, there’s nothing really the accommodate.

              What if I demanded all my coworkers only go to the taco place because because My Religion? Meanwhile, my one coworker is nauseated by Mexican food. Turns out My Religion actually just required food to placed in a flat bread and folded in half. I just happen to prefer to fulfill that with tacos. Do I get to just insist on the taco place with no further exploration of additional alternatives because I say my coworkers just won’t get it?

              1. Name Required*

                But this examples assumes that the coworker is using their religious observances to force other preferences on their coworkers, which is so unkind and strange to assume.

                1. CatCat*

                  The example is not meant to make assumptions about the coworker. It is an example to highlight why not sharing what the restrictions are is unreasonable, and that actual engagement on what needs to be accommodated has to happen here.

              2. PVR*

                Why are so many commenters trying to find the loophole in coworker’s dietary restrictions while also assuming that someone who has zero experience in his religion somehow knows better and can find a better solution? Many religious dietary restrictions have many nuances to them and some may adhere to the rules more strictly than others.

      2. Kasia*

        Maybe I am being the harsh one, but religion is much more of a choice than a type of food making someone sick. Personally, I am sick of how the CHOICE to be religious needs to be tip-toed around. It is a CHOICE to be religious and a CHOICE to only want to eat food prepared a certain way, and a CHOICE to essentially get to force those preferences onto everyone else.

        1. Overeducated*

          I’m not sure that’s fair. The idea that religion is something you choose as a free agent based on intellectual beliefs is a fairly culturally specific idea, I’d go so far as to call it most commonly Protestant. For others, religion is something you’re born with, part of the family and culture and traditions. What you “believe” in a pure intellectual sense is not as important as what you practice and who you practice with. You CAN give it up or choose another, but it’s a big ask, bigger than you might realize.

          It can also shape your food tastes in a way that doesn’t feel like a choice. My great-grandparents on one side immigrated from a Muslim country where they were a religious minority. It has taken until my generation to cook pork. It’s not against our religion, it was just something we didn’t eat. For three generations. My mom would say it makes her sick, too.

          1. Kasia*

            Religious practice is still something you ultimately choose. For every person my age I know that is still Catholic, I know 2 or 3 who were raised Catholic and have chosen not to be Catholic as they got older.

            With literally every single person I know who identifies as Catholic, they pick and choose which parts of the bible/Catholic teaching they want to follow. They will point to the bible when they want to discriminate against LGBT people or force women to be pregnant against their will, but conveniently ignore the parts that say you should welcome immigrants and treat them well, the part that says “no tattoos” or that they should not cut their hair, get divorced or engage in premarital sex.

            Religion is a choice. And I am sick of people’s choice to practice religion being given special treatment as if it is something like a disability or an allergy or someone’s sex or sexual orientation, which are not choices.

            1. Smarty Boots*

              Well, if you’re in the US you’re going to have to be “sick of people’s choice to practice religion” because religion is a protected class and a smart employer will accommodate that “choice.”

              1. Kasia*

                I am not in the US.

                But I believe there comes a point where people who choose to follow a certain religion need to understand it is not fair to push their religious rules and restrictions onto everyone else all the time and expect special treatment (and yes, expecting to pick the restaurant every single time IS expecting special treatment).

                1. Smarty Boots*

                  It’s a once in awhile event, so even if it’s every single time, it’s not putting the OP out that much. And sometimes, a co-worker’s needs outweigh my wants every single time. I’m a grown-up and a professional, I ought to be able to handle that.

                  TBH I’m disturbed by this idea that others are pushing their religious rules, expecting special treatment, etc. (not just you, Kasia, others are expressing this too) I personally think that accommodating someone’s religious needs is an important value, particularly when not accommodating those needs means they can’t participate at all. I don’t know the laws outside the US, so can’t comment on that. But I would hope that even where religious accommodation is not a legal requirement, employers and co-workers will accommodate in this way. It sounds like OP’s employer does this.

                2. Seacalliope*

                  The thing is, none of this would matter in a country where the dietary restrictions of a particular faith were the mainstream norm. So you are calling for people of minority religions to shut up and take it because it is their fault they are not the majority. Accomodations of religious differences are important for maintaining a civil society where the minorities are given equal consideration to the majority — removing that consideration may make things much easier for the majority, or when there are apparent conflicts with other minorities, but it most certainly does not make that society better.

                3. Delphine*

                  The OP’s coworker isn’t pushing any restrictions on the OP–the OP is not even willing to try the non-curry options (which exist) at a restaurant she’s never been to. Nor is the coworker asking to pick every single time.

              2. Susie Q*

                It’s protected in the sense that you can’t discriminate against someone for being a certain religion and they are allowed to practice the religion.

                However, there is no law that says a company has to choose a restaurant that accommodates religious dietary restrictions.

                1. President Porpoise*

                  Actually, they are required to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, provided that they do not cause undue hardship to the employer. Courts have made that ‘undue hardship’ clause a really high bar to meet. So, if your employee can’t work Sundays, and you believe that it causes undue hardship because then that employee always gets a guaranteed weekend day off – the courts wouldn’t agree. I doubt they would agree that a occasional meal at a curry place or delivery, rather than a more enjoyable/fun/palatable option for a person with a (so far) unprotected food accommodation request would be an undue hardship either.
                  Another option is they could just stop eating out together. Given the angst, I think that’d be justified.

                2. President Porpoise*

                  And to be clear, if the employee’s sincerely held religious belief required them to only eat pasta and meatballs to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster at all their meals – well, that’s not undue hardship either. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a common tenet of the religion either, provided that the belief is sincere.

                3. Creag an Tuire*

                  IANAL, but I’m pretty sure if a company has regular team-building/networking lunches at a restaurant that you can’t eat at for religious reasons, that would be an EEOC violation — you’re being excluded from work events because of your religion.

              3. RUKiddingMe*

                Sure freedom to believe and practice and not be denied job or educational opportunities, but forcing others to accommodate a particular diet because you believe it to be The Right Way To Eat shouldn’t get special protection. My right to not have to eat eggs and potatoes based on my religious brliefs is just as valid as that guy.

                1. PVR*

                  But this is not true. Whatever the coworker’s restrictions are, which we don’t know, could be halal, kosher, or any number of things. We know the restaurant accommodates the restrictions but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something you would order from that same restaurant would also fall into one of those categories. If we are indeed talking about Indian food, Indian food is diverse and there are usually many options other than curry to choose from that are not typically tasteless lumps of food.

            2. Thursday Next*

              Religion is a legally protected class in the U.S.

              Also, for many people, religion is not so easily separated from cultural—or even racial—identity. I’m dismayed at the number of commenters treating this like it’s a simple “choice.” It may be for some people—so far, the examples have cited Christians. I think that many Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu people would disagree.

              1. Kasia*

                I am not in the US.

                But I believe there comes a point where people who choose to follow a certain religion need to understand it is not fair to push their religious rules and restrictions onto everyone else all the time and expect special treatment (and yes, expecting to pick the restaurant every single time IS expecting special treatment).

            3. CheeryO*

              Catholicism isn’t a particularly good example of a religion that is more of a culture. Most Catholics I know do pick and choose what to believe, although I see it going the other way more often – people who are much more politically liberal than they “should be.” But even as someone raised in an old-fashioned Catholic family, it isn’t entrenched in my identity in the way that my Sikh relatives’ religion is. I don’t think it’s fair to call religion a choice, in general.

              1. Susie Q*

                It literally is a choice. You chose to follow a religion. For all the religions out there, there is NO one way to follow any religions. Those people make a choice. True in a lot of cases, it is a choice that comes with a lot of cultural and societal factors, still a choice.

                1. Zillah*

                  I think that when we’re talking about someone’s internal belief structure, it’s really important to be respectful – which includes not making assumptions about how much of it is just a choice.

                  I frankly find these conversations baffling. My lack of belief in god is definitely not a choice.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  @Zilkah Belief is not a choice. Practice is. Forcing others to observe one’s practices is just wrong.

                  *Fellow atheist here.

                3. Zillah*

                  Belief is not a choice. Practice is. Forcing others to observe one’s practices is just wrong.

                  I agree, but that’s not what’s happening here.

                1. Zillah*

                  I strongly disagree, and that’s not what you said directly above – but Alison has also asked us to leave the ‘religion is a choice’ stuff here.

            4. RUKiddingMe*

              Exactly. And since religion is a choice it’s not that much of a leap to then say his food restrictions are really a preference based on a free will choice.

        2. gecko*

          Say you are put in a similar situation, and you decide to eat at a nonkosher restaurant and some kosher-keeping person in your group should just deal with that, because they can just choose not to keep kosher. To be clear, that is also a “CHOICE” you are making based on your cultural history and your religious history.

          It’s fair to say that someone’s extreme physical reaction should outweigh another person’s religious restrictions and another adjustment should be made.

          It is historically not fair to argue that non-majority religions & cultures should choose to assimilate into the majority culture and religion.

          1. Zillah*

            It’s fair to say that someone’s extreme physical reaction should outweigh another person’s religious restrictions and another adjustment should be made.

            It is historically not fair to argue that non-majority religions & cultures should choose to assimilate into the majority culture and religion.

            Yes this!

        3. Aveline*

          Not everyone gets to choose. Maybe this guy did.

          There ARE places in the world where you are the official religion or you die.

          Religion in North America, the U.K., and Europe and Oz is a choice. That’s not universally true of the 6 billion humans on this planet. More than 20% of countries have mandated state religions. The citizens and subjects of those countries don’t get a choice.

          So, as an atheist, I’m begging that we dial this down a notch and realize that “religion is a choice” is not an accurate statement for potentially a billion people on this rock.

          1. President Porpoise*

            Or your ability to graduate from certain colleges, etc. Real, lasting, life changing and expensive ramifications for religious disloyalty (as it were).

          2. Aveline*

            I’m athiest. I’m not out to most people I know.

            It would be career suicide.

            When asked, I say “I don’t talk religion because I was raised by a mother who was X and a father who was Y.” Thre are two predominant strains of Xtianity where I live that HATE each other. Think Irish Catholic and Southern Baptist levels of vitriol. I’m neither. So I say, that I’m another religion (e.g., think Presbyterian or Lutheran).

            It’s not as easy for everyone as some commenters think.

            I LOATHE what evangelical b.s. has done to this country. But let’s not pretend that everyone gets the same choices.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              One of the reasons I choose to live where I do (there are many reasons) is that “atheist” doesn’t even get a second look for the most part.

              Even if I lived somewhere like you describe though, I could never say I was X religion becsuse career or not it would feel like I was a fraud.

              I’m not judging you. Do what you need to do for you. I’m just pointing out that you are making a choice…go along to along.

              1. Aveline*

                I don’t know where you live, but even in San Fran and NYC, I have had people react very negatively to atheism.
                .
                I choose what I choose, but being athiest isn’t easy universally anywhere in the US.

                I have no doubt about what you say about where you live and people in your circle wouldn’t bat an eye. But I don’t know of anywhere in the USA where it’s universally acceptable by everyone who lives and works around you.

                When I lived in SF, my friend and social colleagues wouldn’t care. But I ran into a lot of religiously intolerant assholes in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Judgmental religious types exist everywhere. And you never know when they will feel the needs to go after you.

                The best place I ever lived for that was SoCal. But it was far, far from universally cool even there.

          3. Aveline*

            PS I know of a lesbian woman who lost custody to her ex-wife because the ex, while lesbian, was Catholic and the woman was athiest.

            Male Catholic judge thought the athiest was worse. Even though she was professional and kind.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization of OP’s position. Nonetheless, I do think there’s a universe where OP and their coworker could find a restaurant that works for both of them, and it’s ok for OP to ask for advice on how to try to reach that outcome.

      1. LavaLamp*

        I have some smells that make me violently ill some due to PTSD and some due to having been violently ill off of whatever the smell is. If someone opens a Pepsi near me I will start gagging and have to move away or ask them to move for example.

        This coworker has religious requirements. It sounds like the OP wants to accommodate that but this guy has decided that the curry restaurant is it and wont communicate. That’s pretty rude regardless of what religion you are.

  10. Jess*

    #1 – it is legitimately possible that there’s not a restaurant that will meet everyone’s needs. It’s also possible that the only way to meet everyone’s needs is for one or more people to be stuck eating food they *can* eat, but that is majorly disappointing. It’s also possible that you find the perfect place that works for everyone, and then someone new joins with a whole different set of needs.

    If all else fails, perhaps it’s time to meet somewhere other than a restaurant and get takeout from multiple places?

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I agree. OP, could your bosses rent a room somewhere cool and fun, and pick a handful of restaurants people can order from?

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Or hire a professional catering company. A lot of them can accommodate special meal requests, like Kosher for instance, by subbing that out to another provider. The catering company can take on all of that responsibility to coordinate it. Restaurants don’t tend to do that, but I suppose you could ask the restaurant if they would allow an outside meal that isn’t something they can provide — like bringing in your own special wine or a birthday cake — some restaurants allow it and some don’t. If your group is large enough they would be more willing.

    2. CM*

      I agree with this. My main question about #1 is, what alternative is the OP imagining? Going to a restaurant where the coworker can’t eat instead? “Let’s all order takeout from separate places and eat together” or “Let’s hire a caterer” are both better alternatives.

  11. mark132*

    @LW1, I think the problem here is finding a restaurant everyone likes is just very difficult or impossible. It may be worth it to concede this restaurant with the deal the next restaurant is your choice.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      No because the coworker will always have “but religion” as a way to force everyone to capitulate.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        Yes, but it doesn’t sound like OP’s pushed back. If OP talks to their coworker like Alison suggests, there’s nothing to say that coworker won’t be open to switching off.

      2. Les G*

        This is an effed up thing to say.

        Alison, when folks are complaining about anti-religious sentiment, here’s a very cut and dry example.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            In the US, being anti-religion opens you up to inadvertently coming off as racist, xenophobic, and culturally insensitive, unless you are on a freethinker internet forum.

  12. CatCat*

    #1 The other employee won’t accept my looking for an alternative restaurant, as he says I don’t know enough about his needs to find one.

    So this seems like a place to push back. “Can you help me under the criteria then so we can work together to find an option that works for the whole team?”

    It’s fine if he needs a religious accommodation here, but it would be unreasonable for him to keep secret what exactly the needs are.

    1. qkate*

      +1 — if you want to be accommodated you can’t keep your restrictions a secret.

      (At the same time, OP is keeping _their_ restrictions a secret too, by inaccurately using “curry” as a blanket term instead of investigating exactly which spices/ingredients they are intolerant of.)

      1. Elspeth*

        OP states that the smell of curry makes her sick, so not sure if she’s bothered by the smell of turmeric, cumin or other spices commonly used in “curry” dishes…

        1. Thaleia*

          She should probably go to an allergist, since food allergies are pretty serious and most people cannot actually reliably self-diagnose them.

          1. Kasia*

            Or she can continue to do what she is doing – avoid the kind of restaurant/food that she knows makes her sick. Allergists are expensive where I am from. It is not my job to pay for one to accommodate a random co-worker’s religious beliefs.

            1. WellRed*

              Man, question 1 really brought out the ugly today. And I don’t mean just about the food. It’s very disappointing in this particular forum.

                1. Kasia*

                  @ Les G

                  I’ll stop being annoyed about religion when religious people stop trying to impose their beliefs onto others on matters such as abortion and LGBT rights.

                  Believe what you want. But stop trying to impose it on others, and stop expecting to always get special treatment because of it while atheists and the casually religious just have to go “ok ok then” and bend over backward for you every time.

                2. Zillah*

                  I think that it’s really, really important that we not equate religious people trying to impose their beliefs on others and religious people just wanting basic accommodations. I’m bisexual and pretty much an atheist, and I tend to be a bit wary around people I know to be religious until I’ve determined whether or not they’re safe to be around, so I sympathize – but people’s individual beliefs around prayer or food are not the same thing as their individual beliefs around abortion or LGBTQA+ rights.

          2. On Fire*

            Or she could just not eat the literally one thing that makes her sick. There’s no reason she should have to use a sick day to incur the expense/discomfort of an allergist visit. That does not fit the requirements of “reasonable accommodation.”

          3. Temperance*

            Okay absolutely not. Allergists can test for severe reactions, not intolerances. Even severe ones.

            I have bad reactions to foods that are high in histamines. Allergy tests will not figure this out.

          4. UKDancer*

            Or she could just avoid the food. I know there is something in Indian curries that makes me sick. I do not want to try and put additional pressure on the scarce resources of the NHS to ask them to try and find out, nor do I want to pay someone to have it tested privately. It doesn’t materially affect my life, I simply avoid Indian curries.

          5. Talia*

            Allergists aren’t as reliable as people think. The test that diagnosed my intolerance didn’t *exist* six months before I took it– very cutting-edge. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a food intolerance that restricted my eating before that, just that it was undiagnosable.

          6. Totally Minnie*

            An allergist can tell you what you’re allergic to, but not what you have sensitivities to. So if OP’s reaction to the Indian food they’ve had in the past is a sensitivity rather than a full on allergy, this won’t help.

          7. Observer*

            Except for the fact that this tends to be expensive even if it would be covered by insurance. And, many food intolerances are not allergies.

            I had a fried who would get doubled over with pain (to the point of people calling an ambulance for her on at least one occasion) when he ate certain foods – and it wasn’t clear exactly what was setting her off, so it was really hard for her. It took YEARS to get a diagnosis of Krohns. That was life changing because she got treatment and she also had a better sense of what foods were likely to set things off.

            Allergy test would not have helped, because there is no allergy. And the lack of diagnosis doesn’tman there is no problem.

          8. Jennifer Thneed*

            Food making a person sick is not equal to that person having an actual food allergy.

            If I eat duck, I get very ill and have to live in the bathroom for awhile. This isn’t a food allergy, but I certainly avoid eating duck these days.

    2. MsClaw*

      It’s possible that the coworker has had a ton of experience with people who think they understand his dietary restrictions, but who actually do not. Just looking at this board, I see a lot of well-meaning people who think ‘if you’re kosher, you can just have a salad’ which is true for some people keeping kosher but not even remotely true for people who keep strictly kosher. So ‘I don’t know enough about his needs’ to find an option, could be completely and totally true if he has a strict set of rules he goes by.

      1. CatCat*

        That’s all well and good. But if the coworker is asking for an accommodation, he has to say what exactly the needs are. The employer doesn’t need to accommodate someone who refuses to engage in the interactive process for finding a reasonable option. That obligation is a two-way street.

        1. MsClaw*

          Presumably he has told someone what his needs are — he’s not obligated to explain his dietary needs to everyone he works with. And again, it’s entirely possible that *even if he said what he needs were* that the LW might not understand them well enough to find alternatives, and will therefore waste a lot of her time and his bouncing alternative ideas off him. If his diet is strict enough that there are two places he can eat in the city, there’s not much point in her trying to track down non-existent alternatives based on misunderstanding his needs.

          There are better possible alternatives (brown-bagging as a group, two separate group meals, etc) but I don’t think fruitlessly searching for another restaurant is a good use of anyone’s time.

          1. CatCat*

            Presumably he has told someone what his needs are

            Gonna stop you right there because there is nothing in the letter to support that at all. You’re making a ton of assumptions. OP asked if she can push back and she CAN because the coworker is dictating the restaurant without any effort to work together on a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution.

            This is not coming from some higher level who have talked to the coworker about this issue and decided curry it is from here on out, that’s a reasonable accommodation for his religion. It’s just the coworker imposing his will on others without getting into specifics on what the needs ARE. If he doesn’t want to go into that, that’s his choice, but that doesn’t mean his preference wins. What may be reasonable here and what the coworker wants may not be the same thing. Impossible to know if he will not engage on the topic.

            1. Name Required*

              He told OP what will work for his needs: this group of restaurants. There’s no reason for OP to doubt that he understands his needs and has made an effort to find options that work for him and everyone else. It’s really condescending of her to ask to “check his work” because she finds the non-curry options that she can eat at these restaurants to be bland.

              1. CatCat*

                You don’t seem to know how reasonable accommodations work. They are not something dictated by the person seeking the accommodation. It is an mutual process.

                It does not need to happen with the OP and can happen higher up, though if the coworkers could just work it out informally, that would be pretty ideal.

                1. Name Required*

                  Where in the letter does it say that OP engaged Coworker in a legal process for reasonable accommodation and was refused? Are you saying that asking OP to eat food that isn’t exciting to be an undue hardship that would override Coworker’s request for reasonable accommodation if they were engaged in that process?

  13. Holly*

    LW 1: I have to say I’m quite baffled with the descriptions of food here and I would like to take LW at their word but I can’t help but wonder if there’s some assumptions being made here? “When I’ve tried this in the past, I’ve been served unseasoned chicken lumps and potato, or egg omelettes and chips.“ I can’t for the life of me think of a nice restaurant that would serve curry and then… chicken lumps that aren’t seasoned or omelettes. Is that a non-US thing?? I can’t imagine an indian/Jamaican/thai place that would serve *unseasoned* anything. I would check out the menu if you haven’t already – it’s possible you’re making assumptions about the restaurant that isn’t correct and there would be plenty of options for you. Unless I am crazy and this sounds like a normal restaurant to anyone else?

    1. Robin Q*

      I was wondering about that too-the only thing I could thing of were hole in the wall places/small stands/food trucks, which don’t seem like a great place for a large work gathering. It’s possible they could exist in other countries though!

    2. qkate*

      Nope, you’re not crazy, and I thought the same thing, too. That weird “these were my only other sad options” description made me smell “curry” as even more of a code word tbh.

      I do also wonder though, if OP is describing a non-US city.

        1. Thaleia*

          At least in the US it’s fairly common for the smell of “curry” to be involved in racist comments directed toward South Asians. (E.g., “ew, you smell gross!”)

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            That is disgusting on so many levels. It’s not polite to tell people they smell gross.

            I also have a very weak sense of smell, on the other hand, so if I smell BO, that person really, really, really needs a shower/clean clothes/a doctor.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        All the ones I have been to in the US will generally have “American” options like burgers and fries, grilled chicken, etc., so this confused me too

        1. xarcady*

          The one Indian restaurant in my city has no “American” options. Unless you know exactly which spice/spices affect you, your choices are a cucumber salad and plain rice.

          I could see eating that on occasion, but not every single time the team goes out for dinner.

          It’s also possible that a restaurant can make something without the Indian spices but also more flavorful. A call to the restaurant beforehand might enable the chef to come up with something.

    3. Rasha*

      The only thing I can think of is UK restaurants that are only curries/heavily curry-only (South Asian). But then the UK has so many South Asian restaurants – Bengali and South/North Indian and Pakistani, etc. – that it shouldn’t be a huge “no” from the the co-worker to just pick a different South Asian restaurant, since there’s such a diversity among South Asian dishes while also sticking to religious restrictions (whether that’s Hindu, Jain, Muslim, etc.).

      The OP shouldn’t have to eat a bland non-curry dish. And that doesn’t mean saying “no South Asian restaurants!”

    4. alienor*

      Egg and chips are a popular combo in the UK, so if that’s where the OP is located, I can see a restaurant that serves South Asian food offering it as an alternative for people who don’t like or can’t tolerate spices.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, I don’t think non-UK people understand what it means when a UK person says “sad and bland.” It’s like getting someone from Minnesota to say it’s really cold outside.

          1. Perfidious albion*

            Two things

            While “traditional British food” might be bland, the actual food Brits eat isn’t. In fact the average white British person probably has a spicier palate than the average white USAian.

            I doubt the OP is british, because if they were, the post would be “All my coworkers want a curry and I don’t. How can I push back against their pity and patronising disapproval ?”

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Considering the way she describes curry houses and “omelette and chips (not fries, chips)” side dishes, she is most very likely british.

            2. Manya*

              “In fact the average white British person probably has a spicier palate than the average white USAian.”

              What are you basing this assertion on?

                1. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Americans also have hot-pepper-eating-contests and made both tabasco and sirracha. Like, Britain, I love you for some things, but I went to Oxford (Christ College) and don’t act like our countries are on the same spice level (unless you’re gonna have your Indians fight this one for you).

      1. Rasha*

        This is interesting because that could point to the specific miscommunication around the broad use of ‘curry.’ Because if OP is walking into an Indian restaurant saying to the waitstaff/chef that they can’t do “any Indian spices/curries” then I can see a chef serving unseasoned chicken lumps or eggs with NO spices at all since “curry” = multiple spices and the chef would be confused as to what they can/can’t use.

        If it’s just “I can’t do turmeric,” that’s one thing to leave out and the chef can use other things. But if it’s “I can’t do any curry spices” then that means no coriander, cumin, ginger, mustard, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, etc. since all of these can and do go into various curries. So the chef would be like, well, here’s some chicken with some salt because I don’t know what you can/can’t handle and you said “no curry.”

        1. Washi*

          Right, if the OP is using curry = Indian spice blends, then I could see how it would be difficult for the OP to find something on the menu and for a chef to accommodate that. In the US, I’ve sometimes seen spaghetti on the menu at Indian restaurants, and I assume it’s also not particularly tasty.

        2. Holly*

          Yeah, I definitely was confused because at all of the casual indian places near me curry does not mean anything with gravy – there’s curry and then there’s tikka masala, korma, etc. and then there’s all of the non-gravy and non-spicy indian food like tandoori chicken or rice dishes. I didn’t realize that there’s a typical “curry house” like OP described where maybe those things aren’t available.

    5. desi*

      this does feel like a british thing where at balti houses (which are big on the curry) they’ll often have a baked chicken or fish and chips option for like, kids, or the one finicky eater. also referring to an indian restaurant as a “curry place” is something i’ve heard exclusively in the UK, so my guess is that’s where OP is writing from (or she is british herself)

      1. Kasia*

        I lived in the UK for 3 years and my first thought was that OP is British. At least where I was from, “a curry restaurant” was used as a blanket and non racist term to mean an Indian restaurant and sometimes used for other South Asian cuisines, like Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi restaurants. And the couple of “token” non spicy options for kids/the person who doesn’t like spices are really bland, usually some flavourless chicken tenders or fish and chips for double or triple the price you’d pay for it at a fish and chips shop.

    6. Mystery Bookworm*

      A lot of the spices that are used in say, a Punjabi curry would often be used in other, non-sauce based dishes, like tandoori or dosa. So if the OP has an adversion to a spice (which I suppose is what it would be, since curry is made up of many spices) she would probably get bland food rather than the restaurant trying to guess which spices are OK and which aren’t. After all, if you’re going to season something, you need to know what to season it with.

      That’s my best guess. But I agree, this question leaves me with questions!

    7. HollyTree*

      In the UK, the non-curry options at a curry house will be this exact kind of awful. My favourite serves omelette, plain rice or chicken nuggets. And, in the UK there is a big difference between a curry house and an Indian/Bangladeshi/Punjabi etc restaurant. Many curry houses really do serve only dishes specifically labeled as curry, and precious little else.

      While I appreciate that ‘curry’ comments can indeed be veiled racism and this mY or may not be the case here, there seems to be a massive difference in culture between what you US folks are describing as common South Asian cuisine available in the US and what’s common over here. And what OP describes sounds British in the extreme.

      I would get the guy to work with you and see if there’s not some kind of different restaurant though that’s suitable. If it’s religious obervances in a big UK city here should be at least two or three restaurants that are suitable.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. It’s so common in British Chinese or Indian restaurants for there to be items on the menu to cater for ‘traditional’ tastes, and they are usually awful, because they’re only on the menu as a nod to Steve who ‘won’t eat foreign food’ but who gets dragged along by his mates on a Friday night and would moan if there wasn’t something beige for him to eat. Non-Chinese options at a Chinese restaurant/takeaway, for example, are usually omelette and chips or some sort of plain chicken and chips. Because why the hell should they bother making something nice out of the beige options when they’ve got a whole menu of Chinese food for people to choose from?

        Also can we please not go down the ‘British food is awful’ route, because while that may have been the case 50 years ago when we were still attempting to emerge from post-war rationing, it is absolutely not the case now.

          1. londonedit*

            Wasn’t referring to your comment but to Robyn further up who said ‘If they’re in the UK then seriously the beige options will be bland and horrible.’

            I admit that the beige options in curry houses are usually pretty horrible, but that shouldn’t be extended to all British food!

            1. Catleesi*

              I took that as them confirming that the “beige options” in the curry house would indeed be blank and horrible, not that it was a blanket statement on all British food.

    8. Project Manager*

      I don’t eat spicy food of any kind because it makes me sick (even the seasoning on the fries at Fuddruckers has made me sick when I ate too much of it). The one time I ate at a South Asian restaurant was in London. I ordered something called “American chicken”, and it was indeed what the OP describes, and believe you me, it takes a lot for ME to describe something as bland.

      Note: The “American chicken” had been prepared in the same kitchen as spicy food, so while it was bland itself, I still got sick.

      As for how to handle the situation, I have no advice. I’m embarrassed about my picky eating and feel terrible if other people have to miss out on stuff they like, so if everyone else wants something spicy, I just tell them not to worry about me and I’ll catch up with them later. Doesn’t sound like that will work for the OP – and I’m not sure what I would do if EVERY meal was something I couldn’t eat.

      1. Holly*

        I had no idea that this was a thing, thank you. It’s funny, because it may be called American Chicken, but that sure doesn’t exist in American Indian restaurants! Here there’s plenty of non spicy options like tikka masala or tandoori chicken.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Just FYI Anerican chicken is not bland as a rule unless it’s like boiled (no one really does that) or something.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m actually surprised that so many people assume the OP is in the US. The use of “chips” is one indicator (and a pretty big one). But yes, it’s my understanding, as others have said, that many Indian restaurants in the UK will have a “British” option for those who don’t want such “exotic” food.

      Honestly, it reminds me of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, where a lot of the customers ordered things like “rogan josh and chips” and I thought that was insane, but then, I didn’t grow up in the UK in the 70s.

      1. Holly*

        The term chips I assumed meant OP could have been in UK, but my question still stood – I am unfamiliar with the concept of a curry house that would serve French fries and unseasoned chicken. Where I live there are tons of fancier Indian places with a lot of different types of indian food that’s not just curry (in fact most options are not curry…) some spicy and some not, and they don’t serve bland chicken, so I was deeply confused at the type of place being referenced even assuming it was UK!

    10. vonlowe*

      Often in the UK, takeaways also offer ‘english’ food (like omelettes) so you can say you’ve had Indian/Chinese (for example) even if you aren’t a fan of it…

      In bigger cities I’d imagine this doesn’t happen as much because there’s a bigger range.

      Often in more rural areas the only cusines available are Chinese or Indian (at least a British interpretation of those), often a chippie as well but that’s traditionally from the UK.

    11. FD*

      To me it sounded like, if the LW is finding the smell of curry makes her ill, then it would be logical to request that the food be prepared without the common spices as likely one of them is what she’s reacting to (though she likely doesn’t know which one). This would have the side-effect of making pretty bland food.

    12. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was wondering the same thing. I have eaten at Indian, Thai, etc restaurants, ie, the ones that mainly serve curry. There are a lot of non-curry options that are delicious. OP, have you checked the menu online?

    13. LadyCop*

      You clearly haven’t been to many restaurants if you can’t envision a place that serves unseasoned food! And that goes double for places that specialize (or claim to) in cultural/regional cuisines that are renowned for having lots of seasoning!

  14. Sandy*

    I am thoroughly in disagreement with Alison on #1.

    My advice to the OP would be to reframe this in your head, with the emphasis on it being a work dinner rather than an opportunity for culinary exploration.

    You go to the curry restaurant, you order whatever non-curry dish that they have so you don’t get sick (even if it’s bland and/or boring), and you fulfill your work responsibilities. After the dinner is over, if you want to go explore the city’s culinary options that appeal to you, go have fun — you’re off the clock.

    1. Elspeth*

      No, the whole point of going out to eat is so everyone can enjoy themselves. LW states that the smell of curry alone makes her very sick. No reason that the workplace can’t order food in or even alternate restaurants.

      1. Dogsnroses*

        For a lot of people with dietary restrictions 99% of the time that they go out to eat with other people, they have to eat bland/non-enjoyable food. If you have a large enough group of people there will always be at least one person who gets stuck with a bad option. Even ordering in/catering, unless you’re allowing each employee to order from individual restaurants (which is cost prohibitive for most employers) someone is going to get stuck with a plain salad or wrap. Maybe the “point” is for everyone to enjoy themelves but unless it’s like 4 people that’s never going to happen.

        1. Elspeth*

          Yes, however, coworker does not want her to even look for another restaurant that may also accomodate his dietary restrictions. No reason that food couldn’t be ordered in, or the group split up, or they even alternate restaurants.

        2. TL -*

          I think I’m frustrated by the coworker’s stonewalling – maybe what he said was, “I’ve already looked pretty extensively and these were the only three (or whatever) I could find,” and if so, I’m totally in his camp.

          The way the OP presented it made it seem like he put in a bare minimum of effort after she requested more options and that’s the part that’s causing some frustration in the readers, I think. Had the response been (told to us as) “I looked; this is honestly it,” or “I need X, Y, and Z so if you see something, flick the contact info my way and I’ll check it out,” the commentariat would probably be more sympathetic towards him.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            In some countries, you cannot eat in public during Ramadan without legal penalties. Religious choice is a privilege.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If it gets this difficult, I can see an office just ceasing company meals as thing. If two people lock horns, it’s not worth it.

    3. Kasia*

      Why should the OP’s coworker’s choice to be religious mean they get to essentially ruin what is supposed to be a treat and an enjoyable experience for his coworker’s every single time? It would be one thing if they rotated restaurants, but it is not fair if his choice to be religious gets to trump everyone else’s needs and wishes.

      Religion is choice.

        1. Kasia*

          Until religious people think they have the right to try and impose their beliefs onto the law and actively work to strip women and the LGBT community of their rights, I will go there as often as needed.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s off-topic here so give it a rest here, please. (Same with the many posts declaring religion is a choice; you’ve said your piece and I don’t want people just repeating their comments over and over.)

        2. Delphine*

          Why do you think someone choosing a restaurant they can eat at–which has a variety of options for other people–is “inflicting” their religion on others?

      1. Delphine*

        This is what people mean when they say “curry” has become a dog whistle. It immediately suggested to JB–and many others–that the OP’s coworker was probably South Asian, and possibly Muslim. These guessing games are unhelpful, racist, and I am not surprised that it devolved into a stream of comments that framed “choosing a restaurant that meets OP’s coworker’s needs” as “forcing religious beliefs on everyone.”

  15. Phoenix Programmer*

    #2 It’s absolutely not cool that someone told your boss you applied – especially since it sounds like they reached out to you!

    It’s also not cool that your bosses are having you explain yourself. That’s not a great reaction from them. I’d down play the job searching thing for future meetings with leadership. Say something like – “honestly I am very content here but my friend recommended I look into this role and I wanted to learn more.” “Im not job hunting but I like to keep my options open” “Eh the right opportunity may pull me away but i am pretty happy here”

    1. Approval is optional*

      I read it more that the director wanted to see if there was a resolvable problem that was making the LW look elsewhere, rather than the director issuing a ‘please explain’.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I thought that too until I saw the “and I know have meetings with my bosses boss to explain what happened” part. That’s too much.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          Actually, OP said they “also plan on talking to my boss and boss’s boss”, so its a proactive meeting, not one OP was called to.

          1. OP2*

            A few clarities:
            – The ones I suspect ratted did not come after me for the job. I reached out to them saying “I saw the Teapot Maker job at ABC Co. and wondering how you like it there”
            – I chose to reach out to my boss/grandboss in case this person also reached out to them
            – I actually commend the Director for saying “We can’t fix what you don’t tell us.” It was super awkward, but I appreciated his candor.

            1. Construction Safety*

              My response to the boss would have been: “but have been told my ability to move up in my area of the organization may be limited”

      2. Bostonian*

        Yeah, but the director can have that conversation in a 1:1 meeting where he or she solicits feedback from the OP without explicitly saying that they know OP applied for another job. The director has no way of knowing if OP is actively looking or just applied to this 1 place because it looked like a great opportunity

    2. Maggie May*

      this is my exact situation and made me wonder if I had put in a letter! I drunkenly told someone I was looking, and they narc’d to the manager. so then I had an impromtu 1:1 with them (in past comments) about why I’m leaving etc etc. like dang, I just want to move on in/with my career and there are no options here. manager even mentioned that.

      all tattling on me did was put me in a bad position and make me resent the team even more.

  16. JJ*

    Indian here. There is more to Indian food than curry or lumps of potatos and omlettes. Seems to me like you haven’t eaten at the best Indian places. All Indian places have samosas, pakoras, chaat (sometimes spelled chat) and briyanis which are excellent options if you don’t like a traditional style curry. Always ask for non-spicy. Many have buffets which would be a great way to try whats on offer to find something you like.

    1. Rasha*

      Yes, it’s like “curry 101” = these are common spices that are all added to make “curry”:
      – Cumin
      – Coriander
      – Black mustard
      – Cayenne/chili powder
      – Turmeric
      – Cardamom
      – Ginger
      – Garlic

      If you tell a chef you “can’t eat curry,” it makes sense they would offer you something that has NONE of these spices and is therefore super bland.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I’m veggie, dislike spicy food and coriander makes me very ill – and I’ve always found something to eat at Indian places. Also, especially if it’s a large meal, calling in advance usually results in something really awesome I can eat :)

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Don’t forget the fenugreek! When I started using fenugreek in the curries I make at home, it was a revelation. My food is now much closer in flavor to what I’ll get in an Indian restaurant.

        I wonder if it’s the fenugreek that people are sensitive to, since it’s not common enough for people to recognize it and, I believe, it’s supposed to be not so great in large quantities.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Dosa could be a really good option as well, since it would be easy to customise what chutneys, etc. came along with it.

      1. TL -*

        Back when I could eat bread, I considered fresh naan a meal in and of itself :)

        But I do think what’s commonly on offer may be quite different in the USA versus the UK. I know it is for Indian and Chinese casual joints in NZ versus the USA.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          That is true. When I lived in the California Bay Area, I knew a few dosa places. But I haven’t seen one in my new London hood.

  17. The flying piglet*

    I have religious dietary restrictions. There are many many situations for me in which I’ve been to an event in which I can literally only eat the bread. So, if the restaurant is truly the only available option for LW#1, well, I sympathize but do try to imagine what it is like to be on the other side of this situation, and constantly having to feel like a jerk to be asking for accommodations to be able to actually eat with other people?

    I have in the past explained my restrictions and how they work to many. It is not a fun experience and I avoid it at all costs. People often do not fully understand, or they look at me like I have three heads, or they say things like “will you be struck by lightening if you eat such-and-such” or “you’re really missing out.” It wouldn’t surprise me if coworker just wanted to avoid those conversations, not least because if they are complicated enough, it may be hard for a non-follower to get it right.

    That said if I were coworker, and LW1 came to me with an earnest wish to find a solution — meaning being open to learning, considerate, and kind, and explaining that if there is an issue with sickness or food allergy that made the restaurant choice untenable, that we could work together to find a solution that worked for both of us.

    1. Susie Q*

      But IMO your religious dietary restrictions are a choice that you make.

      OP getting sick from the smell of curry is not a choice.

      1. DArcy*

        But religious dietary restrictions are protected by law, OP’s food preferences are not, and as multiple posters have insightfully posted the blandness is substantially self inflicted by insisting on no curry as opposed to naming an actual spice or ingredient.

    2. Zillah*

      I agree with all of this.

      I also think that for people who have food restrictions, there’s a lot of past baggage that adds up in ways that it’s not always possible to see from the outside. That doesn’t exempt you from trying, but I think that approaching the issue from a place of empathy rather than wanting to be right makes a big difference. The OP comes across to me as assuming that their coworker is wrong, and I think it’s important to go in understanding that he might not be wrong. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no issue, but it probably means that something about the way the company has done things in the past has to