The phone rang Saturday evening, much later than I usually receive calls. “It’s Joe. Is it too late to be calling?”
I met Joe in Toastmasters. Over the years I’ve watched his kids grow and mature — his daughter now driving — who would believe it?
Joe discovered he was allergic to gluten a few years ago. A handful of pretzels and he is down for a couple of days. Like me, he found the new way of eating a difficult slope to climb.
We met for coffee when the need to be gluten-free became evident. “Why is this so hard?” Joe asked. “Is there a quick-start guide?” My own journey had also been a slow one, it took some time before I became comfortable and confident in my choices. We discussed how to set up his home for allergy-free success, such as how to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen.
This conversation did give me the impetuous to create food allergy quick-start guides. It also supports my philosophy that food needs to be shared. There is a real need to create allergy-free meals that the entire family can enjoy.
I knew that Joe and his wife suffered with Covid-19, but everyone made it to the other side and seemed to be healthy now. Even so, the tone of Joe’s voice had me concerned. Why would he be calling me on a Saturday night? I hoped that he knew he could count on us if there was a serious problem. Was there a serious problem? Yes. Joe was having serious trouble creating dumpling dough. There was a crisis.
It started earlier that day when Joe, his son, and a visiting friend were trying to decide what to do with their day. The women were elsewhere, so what to do? “Let’s cook” suggested Joe’s friend. “But what?” “Dumplings!” was eager exclamation from Joe’s son. Prior to Joe’s gluten-free diagnosis, there was a local dumpling cart that was on their ‘must eat’ list. Now that was no longer an option. But then they thought “So what could be so hard about making dumplings?” Off to the grocery store they went.
Back at the house, Joe’s friend began making the dumpling filling. The smell of the meat and vegetables was intoxicating. Now they just needed to make the dough. They started with a gluten-free flour and mixed it up. But it just didn’t seem right. The dumpling dough needed to be sticky. Several attempts resulted in failures. What to do?
Then Joe thought of me. I’ve been successfully converting recipes for several years, carefully replacing the gluten, dairy, eggs, and peas. We only spoke for a few minutes on the phone. The result? A thinly rolled dough that was ready for stuffing, steaming, and frying. Seventy plus delicious dumplings. At 11:30 that night they were sharing tea and dumplings.
Looking back at the experience, Joe remarked how much fun it was to share the cooking experience. Despite the initial failures, the kitchen mess, and the time spent producing the dumplings, it was an evening well spent. His son is eager to do it again, and now they share a great memory. As a plus, they got to eat their efforts. The dumplings were eagerly consumed in less than two days.
Cooking has always been a wonderful way to socialize. It is as important, if not more, than the meal itself. It is a way of connecting, of sharing stories, of laughing, of giving the best of yourself. Involve your children, your spouse, your friends and soon you too will be leading your own food adventure.