Menu madness

— In a fit of organizing last week, I began to clean out a tightly packed recipe box that I’ve had since I was a young bride. Those were the halcyon days when we entertained with enthusiastic and elaborately planned dinner parties that started with no less than four cooked hors d’oeurves (was I nuts?) At the time I subscribed to, Cuisine, a magazine that lavishly researched and lusciously presented a wide variety of food traditions. I loved, read that last word with emphasis, that periodical.

Each month the editors of Cuisine presented a seductive gastronomic spread on the fare of other places, some near, some not so near. Pouring over what seemed to be exotic then, and by that I mean that we thought that romaine was an ethnic vegetable and that parmesan cheese came from Kraft, I would pull together a menu for a party from the magazine’s recipes. Then I would turn to the guest list. The logistics of the coming event were a delightful.

Now, looking back, especially after I began the clean out of the recipe box, I wonder if I didn’t have too much time on my hands … Good Lord, I even made out a card for everyone who attended a party at our house, noting the dates of the meals and what I had served. Nowhere were there any notations about dietary restrictions or allergies aside from those of dictated by religious choice.

Today? Well, it’s a good thing that I learned how to manipulate spread sheets because the dietary limitations of my friends has exploded, exponentially. If I construct a sheet with names down one axis and things that can’t be consumed on the other … well, consider this: Most of my friends are lactose intolerant, as am I, but many can accommodate a little dairy once in a while and for them I always have some Lactaid in my purse or in the medicine chest. But, within that group is a subset that is also allergic to milk proteins in any form…so, if they are guests, I have to read every label because these proteins are often used in other foods. So for this group…no milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, etc. or even items that contain caseins (a milk protein). Then there are those who claim to be vegetarians. This appellation is a mine … or is it mind … field because what constitutes meat varies from person to person. For some meat means all things with a face, for other it exempts fish, seafood and/ or chicken. These latter people, unless they are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins will consume eggs and dairy products. The vegans will only eat plant based foods. Check out the natural food sections at Wegmans and look for all of the ersatz meat products made from soy or, the latest love of the vegan bunch, quinoa. To further complicate matters, one of my doctors has told me to stay away from soy. Rounding out my spread sheet I have to add those who have specific allergies to such things as tree nuts, oil, (read olive or any oil), fatty fish, soft cheeses, legumes or tomatoes. What is left to eat? Pasta? Potatoes? Not for those on low carb diets!

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