Monday, December 10, 2007

Soups That Warm the Heart

Friday night we got together with some friends for an annual soup pot-luck holiday party. For the five families involved, getting together for a holiday party has been a tradition for many years. The soup part of the tradition is a more recent development, but it’s turned into a great idea.

There’s nothing like a cold, snowy night (which Friday was) to make the thought of five steaming crock-pots full of hot, delicious soups and stews all the more enticing.

In this group of friends we have to accommodate two kids with allergies (nuts, peanuts, milk, egg, seafood), one family that prefers vegetarianism (although they do make exceptions), at least a couple of husbands who thrive on red meat, and one diabetic (me). Sounds complicated. But as the years go on, it becomes easier and easier to roll them all into your recipe criteria.

At Friday’s party, I think we may have had the best soups to date! There was a delicious taco soup, a bean chili, a peasant-style minestrone chock full of veggies, and a steak-and-potato soup. I made a Rustic White Bean Soup made of navy beans, turkey sausage, broth, and spinach (from Diabetic Dinners in a Dash by Art Ginsberg – you mash half the navy beans, which gives the soup a creamier texture without the cream). Everything was wonderful, and everyone tried at least a small serving of each soup (some more than once). We added some dinner rolls that were milk- and egg-free, a punch for the kids made of equal parts of Cran-apple juice and ginger ale, Lorie's fabulous milk- and egg-free chocolate cupcakes, and voila! We even got the kids to stop racing around the house long enough to eat. It was that good.

Accommodating allergies (and other dietary restrictions) is extremely challenging in the beginning. We all know that. But over time, you find friends and family members who are willing to explore new options because they care enough about you to make the effort. Between you, you begin to experiment and discover new recipes, good substitutions, and new ways to prepare old favorites that make them safe. Then one day you look around and realize you’ve got a safe environment for your child where before you saw only a minefield of potential disasters.

Our annual holiday get-together is a safe environment where our kids know they are welcome, they can play freely, and they can eat whatever is on the table. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

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