Friday, November 18, 2011

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

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*Admittedly, this post was supposed to go up last Wednesday, but I was on my way to California with my main squeeze and my kiddos. Ah... Glorious distraction!

As a vegan, I’m aware my diet is different from others. Still, it’s always perplexed me that when I’m invited to dinner, my dietary restrictions seem to boggle the minds of people who are accustomed to preparing “normal” food. I prepare vegan meals for my family every single day, and don’t bat an eyelash. It’s not difficult, so what’s all the hubbub, Bub?

Myself excluded, I’ve never planned a meal for someone with a special diet. All that changed last week, when Mr. and Mrs. Editor came for dinner.

I consider the Editors a couple of fine and discerning taste. They are, after all, friends with me. So I was thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase my not insignificant culinary skills by pulling them away from the chaos and busyness of running a newspaper, and giving them a chance to relax and enjoy a fine meal and a drink or two.

As is my custom, I contacted my guests, asking if they had any food allergies. Mr. Editor replied, indicating no food allergies, and a preference for “only fruit for dessert.” Talk about crushing news! I’m writing a vegan dessert cookbook, and my guests don’t want dessert? Not satisfied with the idea of a peel-your-own course, I created a delicious cherry balsamic reduction to serve with fresh sliced Pink Lady apples from the tree in our little orchard. Not terribly gourmet, but a little fancier than just plain fruit.

I planned a delicious Eggplant Pomodoro as the main course, and Mr. Wright insisted on cooking off a hunk of organic dead cow. He calls it “prime rib.” I call it “carnage.”

A couple days before the big day, I spoke with Mrs. Editor, who informed me her husband wasn’t exactly accurate in his report that any old food would be fine. Turns out the Big Guy was in the middle of a bout of elevated blood sugar, brought on perhaps—and this is only a guess—by a night of imbibing glorious cocktails with his favorite columnist. Okay, I’m guilty. But his blood sugar levels meant certain foods were strictly off the table, so to speak, including wheat, beans, tomatoes, sugar, and a whole host of other things I can’t imagine living – or cooking – without.

“You’d better cook a double portion of that carnage,” I told Mr. Wright.

I know healthy food. I don’t always choose it, but I know it. I have a pantry full of brown rice, quinoa, millet, couscous and other healthy grains. Turns out they, too, were off the menu, along with the fresh fruit. I decided to leave feeding Mr. Editor to my husband. Mrs. Editor, the kids, and I would enjoy the scratch-baked dinner rolls, Eggplant Pomodoro, and dressed-up apples.

That day—like so many, when you run a newspaper—wasn’t an easy one for my friends. That afternoon, I said, “The dinner rolls are rising, the carnage is thawing, and it’s peaceful here. Come enjoy it.”

Maybe I was stretching the truth a bit on the “peaceful” part. Twenty minutes before our guests arrived, the eggplant was crisping in the oven, the warm rolls nested in a pretty wicker basket, the carnage was nearly roasted to the Department of Health’s “safe” temperature, and fresh, pretty apples waited on the counter to be sliced for dessert. I decided to grab a diet soda from the cooler in my office.

Big mistake.

Mr. Wright was at his desk, trying to get some last-minute work done. Boy, howdy—there’s nothing more attractive than a man providing for his family. I took a minute to flirt a little with him, and he took five minutes to flirt back, and I took...

Fifteen minutes later, I sashayed back into the kitchen to find smoke filling the oven, rolling off the charred, blackened slices of eggplant. A brawl broke out between Curlytop and Snugglebug over a cheap metal bit of jewelry. I began yelling out ingredients for Mr. Wright to fetch for my “meatless balls,” which would have to replace the eggplant over the pasta, while alternately yelling at the little ones to stop yelling. Just as the situation reached an honest-to-goodness riot level, the doorbell rang.

It was the best night I’ve had in a long, long time.

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