March 12, 2010

Cater to Me

So it’s true.  I’m getting hitched this fall to a wonderful guy who not only doesn’t mind that I often smell like onions and garlic, but is equally enthusiastic about exploring the possibilities of low sodium cooking.

I’m not a typical bride and I definitely did not grow up dreaming of the details of this very special day.  But I will admit, there are two things that I have always said are an important part of making my nuptials ideal: (1) I do not want to wear shoes and (2) I want the reception to be filled with lots of laughter and food.

In a lot of ways, attending a wedding is the ultimate test of low sodium living.  You are eating on someone else’s bill and you most definitely do not want to add any more details to an already frenzied day.  As such, I never expect the bride and groom to prepare a special meal for me and I often pack a low sodium snack in my clutch instead.

But over the past few years I have been astounded by the generosity and care with which my friends have treated my dietary needs.  And it turns out, that with enough notice, these busy caterers can set aside meat and vegetables (much like at a restaurant) and create a dish that is really special and low in sodium.  Memorable meals have included a summer tomato soup (with freshly-made, no sodium broth), herb grilled rack of lamb, and countless garden salads with salt free lemon vinaigrette.

In planning my own wedding, I realize now that I am far from the only one with special dietary needs.  Remember when the choices were as simple as chicken, fish, or vegetarian?  Well now, whether by choice (vegan, raw, macrobiotic) or for health (gluten-intolerence, diary and nut allergies, low sugar and low salt), there are a whole host of dietary preferences and restrictions to take into account.  And as a host, with a long list of my own needs, I am determined to be accommodating.  But even with the best intentions, the question, then, is how do you prepare an extraordinary, memorable meal that everyone can enjoy without breaking your budget or making your caterers crazy.

The trick: work closely with the people who are preparing your food.  Explain all the things you want and need early on, and together, come up with a flexible menu that can be altered accordingly.  Also, practice, practice, practice.  If the caterers are game, have a few trials, not just one tasting.  The more they work and experiment within your boundaries, the more confident and creative they will become.  Remember, it took me 6 years to learn how to infuse low sodium food with flavor, so you can’t expect these guys to master it in six months.  Although, they totally did.

Last week, we did our first mini tasting and the chefs came out of the gates swinging.  There was no sodium dim sum, roasted squash ravioli, herb crusted lamb, pepper empanadas, spicy chicken tamales, curried vegetables, and of course, mustard sauce, guacamole, and chili dressing to match. Within this feast, many of the dishes were also crafted to be vegetarian and gluten-free.  It was amazing that, even with all these dietary restrictions, they were able to come up with so many flavorful options.

I am thrilled to know my dream wedding (and more importantly, that dream menu) will come true and that everyone, from the wheat-less to the meat-less, will be able to enjoy it with me.  Happy weekend.  Chow on.

Denise @ Raw Brides March 13, 2010 at 4:10 am

Looks very nice!
For my wedding, I wanted to make sure there were some really healthy options, as I eat mainly a raw food diet, but I didn’t want to make all the guests eat raw food!

When’s your wedding?

sodium girl March 15, 2010 at 9:15 am

Hi Denise! My wedding is next fall, so plenty of time to prepare and test out the menu. I too do not want to make every dish be sodium free, but I have to admit, it is quite exciting to be able to dig into some of the appetizers – which I find, tends to be the most whimsical and fun part of the evening’s menu. I’m so used to attending parties where I must pass by tray passes, that this is a fun experience to which I am really looking forward – can you tell I LOVE food?

Thanks for your note and your website!

PS I’m a dancer too!

Emmerson March 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

Holy mole (with an accent), those dishes look good! I’m quite impressed with the originality of the catering team…they must be reading SodiumGirl!

Karen Barritt March 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Congratulations! And hoping those caterers will share a few of those recipes!

CookaLot March 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

Sodium girl,

You’re absolutely right! It’s all in the planning with Caterers. The more time you give them notice about your diet restrictions the better job they can do. It is always a creative challenge. It always becomes a big challenge to try to tweak a recipe on a catering site. This will take lots of times because they are working out of make-shift kitchen with a limited food inventory. I always count at any given catered event that 10% of our guest will have diet restrictions and bring appropriate alternatives, just to be safe. There are also guests who contact me personally prior to events with their diet requests, so we can plan accordingly. But at the end any professional chef likes to satisfy each and every guest in the party.

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