So what do you do when you're in love with food and you've just been told that, due to your life threatening illness, you have to give up virtually all of the foods you love and change your diet based on a list of strict restrictions? This is exactly what happened to a friend of a friend of mine. I was zipping through another normal day of organized chaos last week when an e-mail landed in my inbox. It began, "Hey Kristina, I know you like a good food challenge - would you like to take this one on?" The note continued, describing the bind her friend was in due to the medical situation of her husband that required he be placed on an extremely strict diet - and when I say strict, this is by far the strictest diet I've ever seen. The letter continued, describing the difficult time that her friend was having putting together meals using such a restrictive list of ingredients. For a couple that truly enjoyed food, this was like being put in culinary handcuffs. By the end of the e-mail, my heart is pouring out for this lovely lady who only wants to bring that passion for food back to the table for her husband.
So wait... let's back up a minute. Yes, I like a good food challenge. However, it always helps when I have some basic options to work with. Even the chefs on "Chopped" get a pantry full of items to pick from when cooking with the secret ingredient basket. But how could I say no? At that point, it was not if I could help them but rather how I could help them. While the chefs on Chopped or Iron Chef have that gorgeous pantry to draw from, I, too, had something to draw on. I decided to reach out to the one group who, over this past year, has done nothing but reach out and embrace me as a food blogger and as a food lover. I called on my foodie village.
Austin, Texas has well over 200 food bloggers that are out trying new and local foods every week. They are creative and soulful. They represent all points of the globe and share a common bond - the love of food. My plea was simple for such a difficult task. Send a mass e-mail out to the Austin bloggers explaining the situation and attach the list of "cans" and "cannots" with the simple request of providing one recipe, if they were so moved. At first, I got a lot of stumped cooks - but only because they were doing what I did in the beginning. They were looking at all the items this man could NOT have. Kind of like the idea of seeing things half empty rather than half full. Then Kristi Willis, one of my brilliant food blogger friends, pointed out that "focusing on the abundance" is really the best place to start. Going back to those 5 ingredients-or-less recipes are a good place to start as well.
In the five days since I've sent my request, this little project has brought in handfuls of useful recipes and tips. A local internet radio show wants to interview me in hopes to get more listeners to send in recipes and many chefs, both local and out-of-town, are working on coming up with tasteful recipes. All of this should help brighten up this lonely table and bring some passion back to her kitchen. After all, bringing stress to the table instead of delicious food should be the last thing anyone would want to do at the end of the day. Whether it was originally intended or simply the by-product of this new age of social networking, the fact that such a large group of people can take a moment to show interest in the needs of a complete stranger in another state for no other reason than to lend a helping hand just fills me with joy and confirms that sometimes you don't need a village, just a family of foodies. I'm jus' sayin'!
I've included both the Can and Cannot have lists below. Over the next week, I'll post the recipes, tips and links to my fellow bloggers that have participated in this challenge. If you happen to look at the list and you find your creative juices flowing and would like to lend a helping hand feel free to e-mail me your recipe and I will make sure you are noted.
He can have
Summer squashes (but not winter)
Green or wax beans
Lettuce or any salad greens
Sugar or snap peas
Any lean protein (but not halibut or tuna), especially chicken, pork or turkey
Qunoa, couscous or brown rice
Fresh spinach but not cooked spinach
Whole wheat bread (but not whole grain)
Fresh mushrooms but not cooked mushrooms
Potatoes or carrots in small quantities, but must be leeched for eight hours
Here's what he's allowed:
45 grams carbs per day
45 grams of sugar per day
2,000 miligrams sodium
1,600 miligrams potassium
No sugar. No salt. And no salt substitutes because they are full of potassium.
Potassium and phosphorous are the other big culprits, so what that means is that
He Cannot have:
Milk or any diary product, including any cheese
Smoked meats, luncheon meats or organ meats; no halibut, trout or tuna; no sardines or anchovies
Bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges
Bok choy, broccoli, tomatoes (this means tomato paste, barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce), potatoes, carrots, cabbage
Legumes, which means no soy, garbanzos, black, lim or kidney beans (and nothing made with soy)
Nothing made with whole grains (but he can have whole wheat)
Limited to 3 eggs a month
Limited to 8 ounces of protein a day
Stay away from anything that has lots of sugar or white flour.
Only lean meats, no fats.
Also, he must limit fluid intake to 48 ounces a day.