My sleep-deprived parents and cranked-up siblings used to stand in the hallway in the wee hours of Christmas morning adjusting robes and taking turns peeing. No one was allowed into the magical living room until everyone was ready. That evening, while we nursed gift hangovers, Mom would scatter the dining room table with the good China and fill it with a 12-pound turkey, green bean casserole, marshmallow salad and homemade white bread. She and Aunt Cathy did the dishes as the men folk pushed back their chairs to drink sugar-laced coffee out of dainty cups and tuck that last piece of pumpkin pie into the sole remaining pocket of their bellies.
This year Christmas is at my house, and cooking dinner for the family has become, shall I say, a challenge.
Most of us would describe our families as dysfunctional. For us, the dysfunction seems to have settled somewhere in the stomach region: this season my guests include three diabetics, two people with lactose intolerance, a celiac (wheat/gluten allergy) and, believe it or not, a poultry allergy.
Planning for this event is going to take some time.
First, let's just throw the traditional Christmas turkey/goose/duck out the window. My brother's windpipe has a tendency to swell up when faced with anything in the poultry family. That also means no chicken broth in the mashed potatoes or stuffing. And about those mashed potatoes ... let's scratch butter and cream off the ingredient list. Oh, hell, let's just scratch the mashed potatoes.
We could have candied yams instead. Oh wait ... there's those three pesky diabetics to worry about. It's best if half your dinner guests don't enter a coma, so that's a "no" to the candied yams. And good lord, woman, what are you thinking -- no wheels of Brie topped with cranberry chutney and folded into a blanket of puff pastry. Are you trying to kill somebody?
What about pumpkin pie? Three strikes -- sugar, dairy and flour. Maybe an apple pie with Splenda? I could use shortening in the crust instead of butter and spelt flour.
Beef bourguignon and roasted potatoes could work or pork tenderloin with unsweetened red onion marmalade. I wonder if anyone would notice if we just skipped dessert? Maybe not if I got enough wine .... better add a few more bottles to the list just to be safe.
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