How do you handle mealtime when your guests follow, by need or by choice, a special diet? It’s become pretty commonplace among the people we know and love. In the past week, those dining with us ate Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and near-vegan.
Whew! That’s quite a lot of scrambling daughter Heather, our household’s chef extraordinaire, had to do to come up with a menu that would feed every one of us sittin’ round our rectangular dining table. That meant the non-contenders were: meat—though she could have served meat alongside, just not in the dish, so the rest of us meat-eaters could indulge—no cheese, milk, whole wheat, rye, barley, corn, potatoes, rice. That meant no hot dishes (a Minnesota fave; some might call it a casserole) because those recipes usually call for cheese to make everything stay together during baking. But that actually turned out to be a bonus, a good thing. That day our hungry group was all together was a pretty warm day. The A/C was on, and the oven didn’t have to be.
Dinnertime at our house without company is a pretty tasty daily event. We enjoy the occasional mashed potatoes with skins-on, or forbidden rice (black), or basmati rice. Not only are those meals delicious; they give off that “I’m-full” feeling at meal’s end.
So how did Heather’s search for a compatible-meal-for-all end up? “I had to inventory what foods were left, and decided on a big veggie salad,” she told me.
Prep time took a while. Guests roamed in and out of the kitchen, chatting briefly, as Heather moved into full cutting-frenzy mode, chopping tomatoes, scallions, cukes, green pepper, carrots, butter and Romaine lettuces. When she’d chopped her last pepper, she dressed the salad with a guacamole recipe she’d run across, containing avocado, fresh garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper and a couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice—actually, quite a few squeezes, as in half a lemon’s worth. With our Paleo diner’s agreement, Heather added a couple handfuls of crushed, gluten-free corn chips, gingerly stirring them into the bowl of fresh goodies, and serving to the hungry group.
Voila! Lunchtime was a smashing success. The topper? A pan of fresh-baked, gluten-free brownies—and scintillating conversation. I ask you: Does it get better than eating good food and sharing good conversation?
I’ve heard it said by hostesses who will entertain guests having food allergies that it’s their tough luck, they’ll have to eat whatever is served. Spoken by a person who has never met an allergy of her own! Fact is, persons having food allergies don’t want to stand out for what they can’t eat. Does anyone really believe someone would choose to have a food allergy?!
As we proved at our house, adapting a meal plan that fits several eating styles begins with a handful of fresh veggies. Heather’s choice was to make a gigundo salad, but you can take a handful of veggies to several delicious places! Here are a couple ideas that might spawn ideas of your own:
- Veggie lasagna – replace pasta with zucchini lasagna
- Veggie soup – cold or warm. Asparagus, carrot, tomato, green peas …
- Stir fry
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