Sometimes it does not take much to make someone feel loved. However, in my mind everyone is worthy of experiencing the unconditional love of others. A friend of mine has avoided coming over for dinner several times. Her excuse has been that she is a picky eater. The truth is that she is on a restrictive diet to help her live without severe migraine headaches. The other day, I asked her to send me a list of all the things she cannot eat. I asked her if she would consider coming over for dinner if I made a meal that honored her dietary needs.
When I saw the list, I knew I had a choice. I could either back away from the challenge or embrace it. As I looked at the list, I was reminded of a game I saw on Guy’s Grocery Games. In this challenge, he had instructed the chefs to make lasagna and then gave him a list of all the ingredients they could not use in making their lasagna. For example, no pasta, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, etc. So here, I had the opportunity to accomplish a few things in my life. First, I got to challenge my culinary creativity and create a un-ingredient meal of my choice not using any of the things on her list. Second, I got to express my love for my friend by honoring her and her efforts to stay and maintain her health. Third, I got to create a safe space for her to come and share with us.
When I sent her a few proposed menus, she was flattered that I would embrace the challenge. It made me wonder how few people had taken the time to say sure I can create something so that you feel welcome at our table. Sometimes it does not take much to make people feel loved. Those simple random acts of kindness can make such a huge difference in people’s lives.
The list my friend sent me of foods to exclude were the following: garlic, onions, cilantro, beans of any kind, lentils, peas, beef, veal, coffee, chocolate, asparagus, beets, mayonnaise, spicy seasonings like Mexican/Indian/Buffalo flavoring, peppers of any kind, aged cheeses like blue cheese, fishy kinds of fish. As I thought about this list, I realized that there were two proteins she had not mentioned – pork and poultry. So I had a starting space to begin to create a meal she could eat, enjoy, and feel safe about eating.
The challenge for me is that garlic, onions, cilantro, and beans are some of my go to ingredients. What I realized though was that being able to serve and feed my friend was more important than my being able to stay in my own culinary comfort zone. So I began with a simple dish that seemed safe, albeit not exciting roasted chicken with smashed potatoes and zucchini noodles with pesto sauce. Then my creative juices started to kick in and I remembered making a rolled and stuffed chicken breast that my family loves. So I sent this menu to my friend for consideration, as I really wanted to make her something not quite so ordinary. So I offered to make her a chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, cream cheese, and pears. I was originally going to use Brie, but then I realized that Brie is one of the many cheeses she cannot eat because it is aged. I am also going to make some butternut squash noodles with a brown butter and sage sauce. I am hoping she will choose the latter, but either way I will be blessed by having embraced the challenge and performed an act of kindness for my friend.