I love entertaining, giving parties, cooking for friends. Making a meal for someone is a creative, personal gesture. Using your hands to pat, mold, shake, stir and bake food for your guests to ingest is, well, a downright intimate act. And one to take seriously. Of course, not everyone does as I was reminded when I read an article in the New York Times about the challenges of cooking for those with dietary restrictions.
I understand that it can be a pain to modify a menu for dinner guests. But that’s what you do for guests, right? I’ll never forget the time I went to a girlfriend’s house for dinner. I had told her beforehand that I didn’t eat red meat. Halfway through a meal of elaborately concocted turkey and vegetable wraps, I discovered that she had snuck thin slices of pork into the mix. Later she bragged about fooling her vegetarian-leaning friends this way because she thought their dietary preferences were “ridiculous.”
Rude, right? But not just rude. It’s reckless to serve a dinner guest a food s/he chooses not (based on moral or religious beliefs) or cannot (due to allergies and health reasons) eat. I remember one Christmas when I presented a neighbor with a plate of cookies. I was feeling pretty good about my gift until my neighbor spit out the bourbon ball she had almost swallowed. Not knowing her that well, I had forgotten that she was a recovering alcoholic. I felt terrible. She was forgiving but the memory has stayed with me for years. Same goes for the time I served an acquaintance (who later became a dear friend) a dessert made with regular white flour. I had overlooked the fact that she was allergic to gluten. Not good.
I’m much better about noting—and remembering—the food preferences and/or intolerances of my friends now. I’ve learned their food restrictions are a lot more than just “picky eating.” When one of my favorite couples came to dinner recently, I made two meals—fish for her (the only animal protein she would eat) and chicken for him. I didn’t serve nuts either as both were allergic and I didn’t want to send them to the hospital.
So, I try. But to intentionally serve a guest one of their forbidden foods as my girlfriend had not only done but delighted in doing? The word, “sadistic,” comes to mind. Needless to say, I didn’t share many meals with her after that stunt.
A few years ago, I heard she adopted a couple of kids. I sure hope they don’t have any food allergies.