I’m sure we all know one. A person who has so very many food issues (read as ‘picky eater’) that it makes it difficult to find a restaurant to eat at or, heaven forbid, have them over for dinner. Now, I’m not talking about allergies or genuine intolerances (I try and avoid serving people something that will send them straight to hospital), but rather, sheer lack of adventure when it comes to food – to the extent that their loud exclamation of dislike is often met with a communal rolling of eyes – for the “I don’t like cardamon” is unlikely to be based on having tried it… but rather something unfathomable rationale (“it smells odd”). Can you sense my disdain?
Now, I should probably admit that I am quite a picky eater with weird food rules (e.g. I hate mashed potato but love fries) . That is not to say that I am not adventurous though, I will try most things at least once before passing judgement. I grew up in a household whereby it was okay not to eat something, though my Dad loved to tell us (I think in every instance where we left food on our plate) that we were incredibly lucky. No, I am not talking about the starving masses and how we were wasting food. My father was forced to eat everything that was served to him. As he tells it, if he didn’t eat all his dinner, it would be served to him cold for breakfast, and it would appear on his lunch plate if it hadn’t yet been consumed…Personally, I’m not sure that my paternal grandmother and I would have gotten on all that well and I am grateful that my Mum did not take one this parenting technique! Ultimately though, it was made very clear that should someone cook and serve you a meal, it was the height of rudeness not to eat it.
As an adult (who has her own ‘rules’) I find it interesting to see how others behave when faced with a plate of something they find distasteful. Here are some anecdotes, for which I think demonstrates different levels of eating etiquette:
- I was once at a friend’s for dinner and as Mr Polite was digging into his spaghetti I may have, perhaps in a moment of tactlessness, exclaimed loudly: “aren’t you vegetarian?” His reply? “I don’t want to be rude.”
- Along a similar vein, many years ago my sister had a friend over for dinner but forgot to mention to mum that our guest didn’t eat meat. Ms Discrete unobtrusively ate everything but the meat (which was not an easy feat since we were eating a stir-fry), all the while complementing my mother on her cooking.
- Madame Selective recognizes that being picky can cause problems and works on the theory that you can always find something else to eat – even if it is a piece of toast – she just tries to avoid making an issue around it.
- Miss Avoidance – Yep, that’s right, I have sat across from a diner who spent the meal pushing food around the plate – because it contained pieces of capsicum (I should point out that she requested this dish from the cook).
- Lastly I would like to introduce you to Mademoiselle Rude who pushed the plate away with a “this is disgusting”. She was 25 years old. Need I say more?
Who are you? As a grown up, I find myself sometimes fluctuating between Mr Polite and Madame Selective. I realise that I have a very particular set of rules – if someone cooks for me I’ll eat what I am served. If I am out at a restaurant I will eat around the disliked item. At home, I avoid the things I dislike altogether (you will never find a capsicum in my house without undue duress – and no I am not Miss Avoidance above, I will force the horrible vegetable down should someone cook it for me).
A recent article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald about this issue, titled the “the etiquette of intolerance”. Essentially, the rule is that a good host finds out what the food preferences are from their guests and works around this AND a good guest eats whatever they are served. A chicken and egg conundrum…
What the article doesn’t address are the rules around those people who you KNOW would love said food it if they would just try it! What do I do? I don’t tell them what’s in the recipe… until after they tell me how much they are enjoying what they are eating.
There are obviously some people for whom eating certain foods will make them very sick and I don’t want to be flippant about their situation. I would not want to be the cause of a couple of hours in excruciating pain, nor would I want to offend eaters who have made dietary decisions based on an ethical code (I guess its kind of cruel to serve a vegetarian a slab of steak). Most of the time it is quite easy to find a workable solution… which (finally) leads to the point of this post… Ms Visiting Chef (Ms VC) suggested making pasta for our next challenge, and without thinking much about it I eagerly agreed. Embarrassingly, it took a couple of weeks before the realization hit that Ms VC cannot eat gluten! It seemed that my first foray into pasta making was going to be gluten-free. I am not one to shy away from a challenge, however I was very concerned about what the lack of gluten would mean to my tortellini (I mean that’s what makes pasta elastic right?) . Armed with a standard pasta recipe, my solution was to find gluten-free flour. Interestingly, the supermarket doesn’t seem to stock this (so I expected that there would be a shelf next to the plain flour – don’t mock!). It appeared that I would need to do a little research… In searching for gluten-free alternatives to flour, I came across the Gluten Free Goddess. What a godsend!
I was suitably impressed with the outcome, where gluten-free pasta is usually a major disappointment, this was actually very good! As for my concern about elasticity, this pasta was not elastic enough to make tortellini – so we ended up with ravioli type parcels instead.
Gluten-free mushroom and three-cheese ravioli
(Caveat: It’s not the prettiest dish – but very tasty!)
To make the pasta:
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour. Add the eggs. Using a fork, start by scrambling the eggs, then slowly begin to incorporate the flour. Once all mixed in, use your hands to bring the dough together. Pour out onto the bench and knead until well mixed and the dough holds together. Add cold water for extra moisture if needed. The pasta dough should not be sticky, but should be malleable. If too wet, add more dry flour. (I found this pasta dough ‘dryer’ than what I would expect normal pasta dough to be – but figured it was because we were not using normal flour.) Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
150g button mushrooms
50g Portobello mushrooms
30g (1 pkt) dried wild forest mushrooms (it is important that this contains a significant proportion of porcini mushrooms)
1 tbs thyme leaves
100g Parmesan, grated
100g soft ricotta
100g mozerella, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola spray oil
Rehydrate the wild mushrooms, reserving the liquid for later. Finely chop all remaining ingredients. Bring a sauté pan to heat, spray with canola, fry up the shallots. Add garlic. Add the reserved wild mushroom liquid and allow to boil down. Add the finely chopped mushrooms. When they are mostly cooked, add the thyme. Cook for a little longer, season with salt and pepper, and then leave to cool. Once cool add in the three cheeses and mix well. If it now ready to be used to fill the pasta.
To make the ravioli:
Once ready, roll out into sheets using a pasta roller (we rolled down to thinness of “4” on the machine). Using a round pastry cutter cut out circles. Wet the edge in a semi-circle (half-way around) with water. Place a small amount of filling in the centre and then fold the dough over (in half) and press edges together. Boil for about 5-7 minutes (I think gluten-free needs to cook for a bit longer than normal pasta?).
50g enoki mushrooms
50g Portobello mushrooms
¾ cup white wine
2 cups water
2 sprigs tarragon
Truffle oil to drizzle
In a fry pan, crisp up the prosciutto. Add butter. Once melted add the white wine and water. Allow to reduce down (you want to be cooking the wine for about 20 min). Once the liquid has reduced by about ¾, add the mushrooms. Once cooked, add the tarragon and cook for a little longer. Remove from heat drizzle in some truffle oil. Mix with pasta.
Serve up drizzled with truffle oil.