13 July 2012
When I started working at the restaurant, I began noticing that in nearly every item on the menu, there were little symbols, like "gf", or "ns", or "sf". Bossman and I talked about it, and I mentioned how amazing I thought that the convention of marking clearly on the menu what is and isn't safe for the big allergens was. It's the same reason that we get the restaurant Kosher. Same reason that we try to aim for making specials that are safe for as many people as possible: it's just good hospitality.
My mother has been cooking for years. She's been cooking for so long that she does little things without even realising that she does it. For example, when it's a new person coming to her house, she quickly assesses who they are, where they're from, what kinds of things they may enjoy, and their level of spice tolerance. She'll still make one or two things suited to the rest of the family. However, for the guest, she'll make sure that the food is accessible to as many people as possible. She won't use the weird, bitter, or strangely textured vegetables. She'll avoid anything too spicy, or too difficult to wrangle. She'll stick with things that have excellent flavour, but don't have loads of hot peppers or black pepper.
Then, once the person has come over a few times, she'll adjust as necessary. However, for large groups of people, such as when she makes food for the temple potlucks, or for large gatherings of friends, she'll still stick to those basic rules: no major allergens (dairy, gluten, soy), no challenging flavours (very bitter, or very hot and spicy), and lots of flavour.
So when I came to Chow, it was like coming home. When I have guests coming over, I do the same thing. I'll ensure that I make something that everyone can enjoy. If a friend of mine is gluten intolerant, I don't make just one thing for that person. I'll try to make the whole meal gluten free. Why? Because to see that look of happiness when they can eat (almost) everything on the very well-filled table is gratifying. You feel good, knowing that you've made that person feel special. Meanwhile, the people who aren't gluten intolerant can still enjoy gluten free food! Everyone wins!
When you do have a friend with a* diet issue, please just challenge yourself to do everything in your power to cater to that person, and have the whole meal follow that plan. At the end of the day, what does it hurt to just try it out for a bit, and see where it leads you?
*Notice the "a" diet issue. I'm not asking you to turn into a hospital, where folks who are deathly allergic to soy, gluten, nuts, grains, raw vegetables, coconut, spices, oil, and herbs ALL AT THE SAME TIME feel like they need to have you jumping through hoops. There comes a point where someone just starts making stuff up, or where you're just not able to accommodate them. If your body hates you that much, I can't really help you. I'm willing to learn, of course. So if you are one of these folks, let me know what you eat, and I'll see what I can do.