Tag Archives: hosting

Emergency Preparedness IV; Storing supplies/Hosting

I have heard from a number of people, (some commented here), on how they had not realized how unprepared or vulnerable they are. We don’t need to panic or live in fear, I’d just like to see everyone be a little more comfortable in a power-outage, with or without extenuating problems,(extreme cold or heat, for example).And many of the extras I suggest can be very handy when you have guests.

I have practiced what I preached, as we had a major thunderstorm and tornado warning last week. It was dark and I was alone. I placed a large candle-in-a-glass in the middle of my table and a flashlight next to it. Twenty minutes later, when the lights went out, I could find my way to the flashlight, which led me to other candles,(see the previous post on candles and safety).I lit enough to allow myself to read until my husband came home 40 minutes later. When we retired, I left one candle in a jar burning in the bathroom, in front of the mirror to reflect and so, magnify, the light, on the porcelain, away from anything flammable,(and where the cats would not jump up).

I am going to suggest more things to have and put aside for such a possibility but the first questioning your mind may be where do I put it? Even though I suggest that all of the food and other items be what you do like and usually eat or use, you should put the ones that you store for emergencies where they are easily found, especially in low light. If you have room, you can dedicate a shelf or two in your kitchen cabinets, linen closet and/or utility room. OK, now that you have stopped laughing, we’ll find the room, even in a small apartment.(You wouldn’t believe how stocked I was in a tiny apartment we once had in a charming little Gingerbread-House, a converted farm building.)
Even though my kitchen cabinets here are crowded, I found room for small boxes in the back recesses. I don’t understand the people who built this house; there are deep corners where the cabinets fit in next to each other and those sections are useless except for storage. As a certified, (or certifiable), ‘foodie’, I have most of that space occupied with extras found on sale and things I don’t use very often. Perhaps you have a cabinet that is hard to get to, like over the refrigerator? That’s a good place for storage.

If you have little space in your cabinets, look up. Do you have an open area between the cabinets and ceiling? No, I don’t suggest that you stack up cans there, but you can find attractive, square baskets, fabric boxes or cover your own cardboard boxes with contact paper, fabric,(glue it), or decoupage them and store extras there. However, avoid putting your stored foods just above or next to your oven. Avoid heat when possible.
For small packages, boxes, tea candles, etc. I use these decoupaged cans; I have made larger boxes for storage in the same manner:decoupage cans

I also use them for pasta and grains, flours and nuts, tea and coffee, (those that come in packages, such as beans that I grind.) I store small holiday items in some, nightlight bulbs in another. I made some for my family. One has airplanes and I have small military items my son has stored from his Air National Guard service.
These are simple to make. I do them when watching TV or movies on the computer. Cut out pictures from catalogs, books, magazines, calendars or greeting cards, use simple white glue on the front and back of the papers. Overlap the pictures and allow them to dry. Spray them with clear spray paint and allow to dry. Spray the bottoms of the cans to stave-off rust. (You can use decoupage medium such as ModgePodge and/or spray the cans afterward with acrylic craft spray, but these are more expensive.

Storage boxes 006

How about your closets? I have small closets with even smaller doors. There are difficult recesses and they have space on the high shelves that can only be used for storage; you can store boxes there, but if it gets hot, store the food on the floor. If you get low boxes, you can even put your shoes on top of them. Put other essentials,(which I will talk about soon), on the shelves.

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Mix and match boxes and baskets.If you buy any used, please make sure they can be thoroughly cleaned before you use them.

Consider low boxes that fit under your bed, or even under a sofa. (Make sure they slide out for cleaning purposes.) Consider using old, hard-sided suitcases. I have plastic ‘flats’ for plants that I have cleaned that slide under my beds. I use them for smaller boxes and shoes; they slide out easily.
Thin boxes can go behind doors. Better yet, thin cabinets or shelving can go behind doors and you can use the suggestions for over-the cabinet, pretty boxes to store there.

You can find inexpensive over-the-door canned goods shelving for utility rooms or that can go inside of closets. If you have a laundry room, or laundry area, think about where you can add a shelf, or standing shelves and bins. Again, look up. There is usually wasted space there before you reach the top.
Use medium to large plastic storage containers and stack them, even in plain sight. You may have a corner that you overlook every day, and you’d never miss the space.
If you don’t have shelving in your bathroom that goes over your toilet, you are cheating yourself. You should have a vanity under the sinks or put ‘skirts’ up around them to create storage…not for your food, but for a few extra cleaners, paper products, toiletries and first aid supplies.

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

Easy storage in my bathroom

Easy storage in my bathroom

 

You don’t need to set yourself up with a mini-clinic, but do keep first aid supplies in your home and make sure they don’t run out. Anyone can afford to stock up slowly at dollar-only markets, at your local, major discount store, or in your grocers with sales and coupons. Have adhesive bandages of several sizes, some gauze and medical tape. An ‘Ace’ bandage is a good idea, as well. Keep antibiotic ointment and another ointment, such as vitamin A&D ointment for soothing.(I have always had to keep them on hand as one of my sons is allergic to topical antibiotics), and an anti-itch cream,(like Lanacaine). Have a bottle of alcohol and I suggest, witch hazel. Rotate bottles of peroxide and iodine-based wound cleaners,(‘Betadine’-type), often and keep them out of sunlight as they both break down rather quickly, which is why peroxide comes in dark bottles. You probably know that water ‘s formula is H2O,( two hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom). Hydrogen peroxide’s formula is H2O2, and it beaks down to water in short order when exposed to light and after a certain amount of time.
Have clean cotton and swabs on hand. Keep some antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, pain relief and aspirin. Antiseptic mouthwash,(‘Listerine’ and knock-offs), can double as wound cleaner.
Make sure you have plenty of soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, extra tooth brushes, deodorant, body powders, and anything else that you may use. This is always a good idea. Unexpected or unprepared, forgetful guests would be thrilled for you to be able to supply their needs, especially if their mistake isn’t spotted until it is very late or a very inconvenient time to rush out. I once found myself suddenly keeping 3 extra boys under 9, (plus my own two), for a weekend. Their mother, who had planned on them going with her, had packed their toothbrushes in with all the toiletries and took the bag with her. Fortunately, I had enough extras. Keep a few on hand; I have had other children come to stay overnight and boys are notorious for forgetting toothbrushes…and you or your guest could always drop yours in the toilet.
(I keep plastic shoe boxes with the extras in the bottom of my linen closet. They are neat and they stack.)
I know it is often difficult with insurance policies, but try to keep ahead of prescription medications and if you need other supplies,(like diabetic supplies), please don’t run low, you never know. The same must be said for feminine hygiene, incontinence supplies and disposable diapers.

Please consider always keeping extra pump-spray cleaners, disinfectant spray and wipes on hand. With low water supplies and a long wait for utilities to be restored, you will be grateful to have them.

You might take a moment to consider what would happen if you could not do your laundry for a few days. That reason alone makes me try never to let my hampers get too backed-up. I certainly never let anyone’s underwear supply get low!

Another thing I beg you to make room for is extra toilet paper and paper towels, and I suggest, some paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery. These can be stored up high,(they are light), or where it gets too warm to store food and medical supplies, (even in a crawlspace, attic, garage, outdoor storage that doesn’t leak.) You don’t need a lot, a little goes a long way in an emergency and to be without is…well, not good. And you don’t want to use up your possibly limited water supply by cleaning dishes. And keep extra heavy-duty trash bags to dispose of the used paper products. A little extra in the landfill because of an emergency will not ruin the planet.(Please use disposables responsibly at other times. Try never to use foam and I usually wash and reuse plastic cutlery.)

I hope you have zipped through my previous Emergency Preparedness posts and have gotten an idea or two. Please don’t be caught unaware and unprepared. You just never know.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Next time, we’ll talk about where to put extra guests!

Guest Author Ashton Lee

Hello, People; Tonette here…
As I promised, today I have another special
guest, my FaceBook friend, author Ashton Lee.
Ashton is already an accomplished writer, but there is quite a bit of buzz about his upcoming release,”The Cherry Cola Book Club”, (Kensington Press, NY)
(But I’ll let him tell you more about it).
I am pleased and honored that Ashton has agreed to share thoughts about his
book and about food, friends and family with us.

So, Friends, I bring you… Ashton Lee!

Hello everyone! Tonette has asked me to comment on the role comfort food and its preparation plays in my forthcoming novel–‘The Cherry Cola Book Club–‘ from Kensington Books. It will be released on April 13th but may be pre-ordered now from your local book store.

First, a bit of background about myself. I’m a Deep Southerner, as I like to say, born and brought up in the historic town of Natchez, Ms. My enormous extended family gave me lots of fodder for my future fiction. You cannot grow up with nineteen first cousins who are like brothers and sisters and not observe generous helpings of human behavior.

One of the happiest memories I have of growing up is of Sunday dinners in the country with my cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and, of course, my maternal grandfather, who hosted these feasts. The fare was almost always the same: fried chicken, succotash, sliced tomatoes, cornbread, rice and gravy and applesauce pie for dessert. For the adults this was preceded by mint juleps, while we kids drank tea or soda pop.

The feeling of great security and comfort derived from these dinners still sticks with me today. It provides emotional shelter in unstable economic and political times, and I return to those memories often both when I am writing and while simply daydreaming.

My maternal grandmother added a different layer of comfort whenever we all visited her house. She and my grandfather were separated, but never divorced, and the matter was never discussed. Instead, it almost seemed like both of them competed for our affection with lavish displays of comfort cuisine. For my grandmother, that consisted of tomato aspic and baked custard. She always had legions of both in the refrigerator, and her standard statement after hugging and kissing us was: “Now you simply have to eat something. What do you want–aspic or custard?” Even if we’d just eaten elsewhere, we had to accept one or the other with a smile. In truth, either one was a cup of her affection for her family, and it was easy to picture her spending most of the day before a visit, toiling in the kitchen to greet us properly with these staples.

“The Cherry Cola Book Club” is filled with characters who use food in just such a manner, plus more: to reach out to strangers, to set the table, if you will, for stronger existing friendship, to offer a bit of themselves through a shared experience that everyone must indulge.

If you’d like more information on the plot and characters, just go to facebook.com/ashtonlee.net and click on the big ‘Like’ icon. You’ll be kept updated on reviews, book tour dates and other buzz. There is a special recipe section in the back of the book which I know you will enjoy. Everything from frozen fruit salad to chicken spaghetti and that tomato aspic and baked custard. I hope all of you will be reading and comfort cooking when spring gets here.

[Tonette’s back:]Thank you, Aston; it would seem that the premise of ‘The Cherry Cola Book Club” is tailor-made to complement this blog. “Food, Friend and Family” is not just a title; it’s a philosophy. I don’t meant to imply that food is all, but everyone eats and there is not a culture in the world, (past or present), that has not celebrated with foods and used them to comfort and welcome others. Food is a wonderful way for people to connect, to open their hearts; to lead people to share their stories and their cultures. As families fragment and drift apart, we need to try to find the time to pass down heritage, share family stories, and to make new ones to tell later on; family meals, visits and celebrations are probably the best ways.

I am not the only one who has been waiting with fervent anticipation for “The Cherry Cola Book Club”; Ashton and Kensington Press are bracing for great success, (in fact, a sequel is already well on its way!) I hope the book tour goes as planned,( or better) , because it should bring him waaaay up north within a couple of hours of me and I have every intention of driving out to meet him in person, get a book, get an autograph and give him a hug!

I hope you feel free to bring on any questions here that you may have for Ashton.
[Sorry, he can not share any of the recipes that he mentioned because of prepublication and copyright restrictions; we’ll just have wait and get our hands on the book! ]

Who wants to start us off?

Worcestershire Chicken/Hosting/No-fat

I am so excited! I received confirmation that my cousin and family are coming back for Thanksgiving again this year. We had been in touch over the last few years quite regularly; I had spoken with her husband and two kids often, but before the Summer of 2010, I had not met them in person nor had I seen my cousin since we were quite young, actually, Thanksgiving of 1976(!) I got them to agree to come up two states for last Thanksgiving and it looks like we have started anew tradition!
Now, to work on the menu. What can I make to ‘show off’, yet can be mostly made ahead of time so I can enjoy their company and not make them uncomfortable by working too hard while they are here? I also must take my cousin-in-law’s food allergies into consideration, but that will be easy.
In an earlier post I told the story of how I over-did the first baby shower I threw. I will often stress how one has to take into account a guest’s special needs, but not to the point of making them uncomfortable.

Right after we burned our bridges and moved here for an old acquaintance’s business, the woman died. An old friend of hers stayed in town after the funeral for a short time to help keep the business going.
The late boss’s husband, who was the new boss, went out-of-town and left this boss in our care…this boss who was on a strict no-fat diet…none…zilch…nada, which was new to me. I had to quickly ‘wing’ this with very little notice and with what I had on hand.
I modified a chicken recipe that my sons loved. .I made pasta which I made slightly under-cooked. ‘Al dente’ is an over-used phrase, but in this case, it fits. ( I made a chunky-type; today, I would have made it tri-colored, vegetable pasta). I kept the pasta slightly wet, since I could not add oil or butter, nor could I use a nice meatless sauce, as the man could not deal with tomatoes. I made a sliced vegetable plate instead of a salad, with olives and pickles, since I had no fat-free dressing. I had Ranch dressing on the side for the boys to dip their vegetables in. I had a purchased angel food cake, (on top of it all, the oven in our apartment was broken). I pureed raspberries with a little honey which I poured over each individual cake slice at serving time,(any earlier and the sauce would have made the cake soggy). It was a meal that all of us, even the nine and ten year old boys, enjoyed. The man, who had no idea what to expect, was so happy that he wrote for years at Christmas and always mentioned the meal. However…
I had made coffee and he asked if we had skim milk. At the time, no one in the family used it. He left that evening and was to return the next morning for breakfast. I had fruit and crispy-rice cereal which I knew the man liked to eat, (as you can imagine, the dinner conversation was about food), but I ran out that evening and bought skim milk.
The next morning, the man came and was chagrined that I had skim milk for him. He had a dinner invitation with others for that evening and refused to come to breakfast the next morning as we “had gone to too much trouble”. I had made him uncomfortable; that was not being a ‘good host’. [Topic for another time: How to be a gracious guest. After all, we had already gone to the trouble; he should have accepted the care.]
Last year I chose and modified a few of the dished I served to make sure that my cousin’s husband could eat as many of the offerings as possible. I did not, however, make anything ‘special’ just for him. The few things that included foods that he could not eat, I warned him about, but for the most part, I simply chose foods that we could all enjoy…and see, they are coming back for more!
And I hope you do, too…Autumnal recipes coming in new posts soon!

Worcestershire Chicken

1 Tablespoon butter (for the regular recipe; omit for ‘fat-free’)
1 lb. chicken tenders or breast cut into strips
3+ 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbs. water
Salt

Melt the butter. Add the 3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce and water. Add the chicken, salt and sauté’ until just cooked through. Remove the chicken; increase the heat, add the additional Worcestershire sauce and cook until thick. Add the chicken and brown quickly on both sides. Remove and keep warm.
This also makes great chicken for sandwiches on a crispy bun or bread with mayonnaise mixed with Worcestershire sauce, a white cheese, (Havarti, Provolone, etc) and lettuce, or for in a Chef’s salad with cheese chunks and vegetables of your choice.

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound

Meeting Hosting Challenges

Lent?

Or- Johnny’s New Girlfriend Doesn’t Eat Red Meat

Your father had a heart attack and Mom is at a loss as to how to cut cholesterol;

Janie comes home from camp and announces that she is now a vegetarian. What do you

do? (After arguing, which only strengthens her resolve).

Or maybe Jerome brings a Bangladeshi friend home with him from school. Your visiting cousin says that his wife has celiac disease.

DON’T PANIC.
You probably have enough on the pantry shelves and in the refrigerator/freezer for at

least one meal, a snack and breakfast before you feel the need to run to the store.

Don’t know if the vegetarian will eat eggs and dairy? Aren’t sure if a guest eats beef? First,

Play it safe. Offer something not possibly offensive. This is where knowledge of

meatless protein comes in handy. And then, Ask! Say, (in your sweetest, but most

unpatronizing tone),

“Do you have any dietary restrictions?”

Not your style? Practice it. This is always a good idea, as there are many people

with health related food requirements. What ever you do, avoid asking, “Is there

anything special that we can make for you?” That will only make your guest extremely
uncomfortable. They will not want to “put you out”. Being a good host means always making your guests comfortable and never seeming to be ‘put out”. If possible, enlist the aid of the person who brought them in. Try to tailor the family’s meals to suit your guest as much as possible.
No, Janie is not allowed to dictate that the family will now avoid all animal products, but if you have a Jewish or Muslim guest, please do not serve pork, or beef if your guest is a Hindu. It is only common decency respect other people’s religious sensitivities. That is being a good person and a good host. And believe me, there is nothing more frustrating than putting on a good show, only to have the guest pick at only a few things because they cannot eat the rest. All your hard work will have been in vain, and you find out only after tearing your hair that you possibly could have gotten off easier by meeting their needs. Even when I was young, people’s conversations with me seemed to gravitate toward food. When I was about twelve a teacher, whom I had all to myself , lamented over the previous evening. Her husband’s position had required them to entertain VIP’s from some exotic locale. She had looked into their dietary do’s and don’ts , pulled out all the stops, spending a great deal of time and money creating fine canapés and sweets pleasing to their eyes and she was sure, palates. They came in, she showed off, and they thanked her very kindly, but you see, they were sorry, but they were fasting as an observance of their religion. They wouldn’t touch a morsel. And she was stuck with platters of fancy foreign finger food, frustrated.
Right after we were married, a young man who was a friend of my husband’s family came to visit.
He was a tall, strongly built, active man, whom my husband warned me was a big
eater. He was in town, staying with his brother, and was going to visit us, starting

very early the next day. I made a huge breakfast of waffles, eggs, sausage, fruit and

more, but he had had breakfast. (Husband never thought to actually invited him for

breakfast, but that is an argument already fought). Anyway, he did eat, and lunched

well, and talked about his active life , all of the sports in which he was involved. He

came back through town a couple of years later. He was going to drop in to eat a

quick lunch with us and he was leaving from our place to

drive across the country. Husband asked me to fix a large bag dinner for him to take

on the road. As I was getting dessert, (something gooey), Husband brought sports up to

him. “Oh, no, not any more. I hurt my back, and I’ve had to radically change my life!

No more sports. Only whole grain foods, no more sweets, lots of fresh

vegetables…..” I panicked for only a second… that was all the time I had. I sent them

into the living room, as I sliced fruit, grabbed a jar of dry roasted nuts, pulled raisins

and dried fruit out of the cabinet to make a platter. “This is exactly how I should eat!”

he proclaimed. I had to change some of what I’d already prepared for his road bag,

but I made it, and he was happy. Husband was happy. And I was darned

pleased with myself.
Once I just plain lucked out. The story that I will tell another time about the family of nine who dropped in from out-of-state for dinner has one part missing. Having to quickly serve 13 people, I made large pitchers of fruited iced tea mix. Unknown to me, the father of the family was allergic to corn in any form, even corn sweeteners. The mix was, fortunately, sugar sweetened.
You can’t always rely on luck, ( however, as there are no atheists in fox holes or hospital waiting rooms, I might add that I have heard more than one muttered prayer or quick sign of the cross from many otherwise unreligious cook or chef when facing a culinary crisis), you can learn to rely on yourself and your shelf. You cannot possibly be prepared to set up housekeeping for every unusual contingency, but with a little knowledge and forethought, you can keep your head when faced with unexpected dietary needs of family and friends. You can come shining through.
Next time, we will talk about fish and meatless protein combinations and what you should have in your pantry cabinets at all times.