I come from a large family and we were raised pretty traditionally when it comes to diet- that is to say, we all ate meat and sea food and wheat and nuts and dairy and- the thing is, we were the standard American Omnivores. Over my thirty-seven years many of us have made changes from the old square meal/food pyramid to more untraditional diets. Some of us had to make these changes for health reasons- my mother developed a nut allergy, one sister eliminated wheat and some other grains to reduce her eczema, another sister became diabetic, had gall bladder surgery and found that she had a persistent problem with yeast (she also chose to become a vegetarian)- her diet is very far from the American standard diet. Others of us made changes to prevent problems- my cousin, who was raised like a sister to me, her family gave up beef after the Bovine Encephalitis scares, diabetes runs in my husband’s family (as well as high cholesterol) and those things did figure in with our decision to become vegetarians (though there were so many reasons). We also include in many family celebrations some close family friends who keep kosher. Still others of us remained in the mainstream and continued to eat meat and wheat and nuts and dairy and eggs and don’t much seem likely to budge from that diet. The point is, we are all over the map.
The nice thing is that we all try to accommodate each other’s dietary quirks, whether they are health restrictions, religious requirements or personal choices. There has, of course been a learning curve for each of us (Is fish meat? When is Passover, and what can’t you eat for that week or so? Do you eat this grain, instead? Which nuts are on your okay list?) but with some flexibility and understanding, we deal with it fairly well. The somewhat surprising thing that has come out of it is that all of these restrictions have resulted in family get-togethers that often have a much wider variety of foods available than they ever did when we were kids. Not only that, but the variety is much healthier than it used to be, too. And the really great thing about it is how it is giving the next generation open minds about food. Even the children whose immediate families do eat the American Standard diet get the chance to try less mainstream foods at meetings of the larger family. Some of them are more receptive than others to those foods (which is at least partly temperament), but those who are willing to try seem to find at least a few things they like from among the weird foods that are made to accommodate other family members’ diets.
This all leads me to the dinner we had tonight- one that has become a favorite at our house. Whenever one sister, who is both a vegetarian and currently on a yeast-free diet, comes over we have some version of this highly enjoyable meal.
Cubed Super Firm Tofu (usually spiced with garlic, pepper and basil or rosemary and fried in olive oil)
Olives (as my dear husband says, “Make anything better- add olives.”)
Jersey Tomatoes (two heirloom varieties- orange and calabash- fresh from our garden)
Green Peppers (also fresh from our backyard garden)
Brown and Wild Rice
This meal is currently going by the clunky name of Nuts and Tofu and Stuff, but we are taking nominations for a catchier one.