December 7, 2009

Eating Amongst Friends

Let me first apologize for my brief blogging hiatus this weekend.  But let me assure you that while I kept my computer quiet, I carried on my voracious eating habits as usual which is evident from the Mexican fiesta shown above.

I was invited to join my friends, post wreath making party, for an evening of corn fritters, taco salads, and margaritas. While helping my friend cook said spicy feast, it dawned on me that I have failed to discuss a very important dietary topic:


I do not mean the dinner party that you host, at your house, where you cook, which is a subject unto itself. But I am instead referring to the nice meal that your friend creates for you and a handful of sodium loving guests. So how do you address your dietary needs while not (feeling as if) you are meddling with the vibe of the party or the taste of the food?

Eating is a very social activity and you should never let your dietary limitations keep you from fully enjoying these special evenings of food, sharing, and fun.

Over the past six years, I have attempted a spectrum of different approaches, which range from saying nothing about my diet to cornering a pot and burner for my own food. I find that I change tactics depending on the context of the party, my comfort in sharing my health/diet situation, and my friend’s comfort in the kitchen.

In deciding the way you will address your needs, think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story:

If you want to be as incognito as possible in your sodium free needs choose:

A) eat before hand

If you want to join in the food merriment but be of little inconvenience* as possible choose:

B) bring your own food

*remember, you are never an inconvenience

And if you are ready to brave new frontiers and show your friends the true powers of sodium free cooking then choose:

C) and ask to have sodium free food be included in the meal.

If you are new to dietary restrictions or just happen to be an overly accommodating person, choices A and B may be your best bet. At least at the beginning.

I too was an A and a B and still to this day would much rather make or bring my own food than bother a host or hostess with the added task of cooking a special meal. But in most cases, your friends will want to accommodate you and no matter what you say, they would much prefer that you leave their table as satisfied as everyone else.

So, when your friends do persist, there are ways for you to make the extra cooking as easy for your hosts as possible:

  • Buy your friends some of your favorite salt free seasoning. Blends are best – Moroccan, Mexican, Italian, Herbs of Provence – as they will take up less shelf space and will be useful for everyday use.
  • Always check in with the host on the planned menu and see what else you can bring to supplement. Have they seasoned the meat already? Bring an extra cut. Are they making soup? Bring your low-sodium chicken stock. Are they making a topping with sour cream? Bring some crème fraîche. Also, potlucks are all the rage these days and no one minds a little extra help. Go ahead and impress the other guests with a special sodium free side dish. Most of the time people will not miss the missing ingredient.
  • When possible, separate a small portion of what is being cooked (meat, potatoes, pasta) before salt, spices, sauces or other sodium-filled seasonings are added. This way, you save yourself some sodium free goods without inhibiting the intended flavors of the main dish.
  • And ALWAYS offer to come over early and help. Some people prefer to have their kitchen all to him or herself, but others will be delighted to watch your sodium free cooking skills in action.

As for the Mexican fiesta this weekend…my friend had some salt free Mexican spice blend on hand (that I had brought her a few months prior) and I, of course, invaded her kitchen to help create the dishes.

We separated the ground meat into two batches. One with salty spices and one with salt free spices

and we made all of the other side dishes sodium free, boosting the flavor profiles with a cilantro lime dressing on the salad, some cumin in the corn fritters, and cilantro crème fraîche and jalapeño guacamole for the top.

Want the recipe ror those crispy critters? Send me a cyber note!

And remember, sodium free cooking is an adventure. It requires a lot of creativity and often leads to uncovering tasty surprises. Even people who do not need to limit their salt intake can learn a lot from a kitchen handicap and in most cases, your friends will not want to miss out on the challenge. So don’t be afraid to bring your sodium needs to the table.

Chow on.

Lucky Host December 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Sodium Girl’s alternate plates looked even better than the salty versions!

You can go option C in our kitchen any day.

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