Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan chili -- it's what's for dinner

I'm making chili for Lawrence Road Hospitality House Vespers dinner tonight.  Not just any chili, not the chili that I've been throwing together for years from whatever happens to be in the pantry.  That chili might have meat in it, and wheat products, and it might be served with corn bread and a spicy cheddar cheese.  And it might make someone sick, very very sick indeed.

No--tonight I'm making gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan chili.  That's the new reality of cooking for a group, not just of young adults, but any group, really.  Food preferences, food sensitivities, food allergies so bad that to ignore them could spell disaster.  No longer can you grab a tray or three of Mrs. Stouffer's best, bung down some salad-in-a-bag, grab some ice cream bars and call it dinner. Now, even for the simplest menu, an internet search of ingredients is an essential step in preparation.  Did you know that even ice cream can contain the dreaded gluten? And it's not just a matter of being nice.  For some folks, it is literally a matter of life and death.

The problem is that gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan chili is the only gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan thing that I know how to make. Of course, I could buy a gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan cookbook, or search one of the thousands of gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan websites for recipes.  Or I could make the mistake of asking folks for suggestions.  But I did that once, and flattered as I was by the suggestions I received, the reality is that I'm just not that good or creative or out-there or dedicated a cook to figure out how to make lentils taste like food on a weekly basis.

So I'm thinking buffet from here on out.  I'm thinking that a little bit of this and a little bit of that will, in the end, make a meal where everyone can find something to eat that feeds the body and the soul, where the food on the table will celebrate the diversity in the room.  And the fact that we're eating that food together, carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian/vegan, and gluten-free that we are, will stand as a sign to the world of the important things that bind us together. 

That feels like real, radical hospitality to me.


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