This one is for all those folks out there who have survived another holiday season. Kudos to you my friends.
Here at Hotel New Hampshire the last two guests will check out today. No doubt it will be after they leave sixteen more dirty dishes in the sink, but nonetheless, it will be a bittersweet moment.
I love all the guests at Hotel New Hampshire. I love being innkeeper to the motley crew that fill the beds. I love their noise, their games, their intensity about Whist which spills over from the games themselves to many days of discussion about the probability of certain hands, their music, their rough and tumble. I love the whole scene. They can even make puzzling assembly into a contact sport.
However….. this year I was humbled by the hoards in a completely unexpected arena of innkeeping: dining services. After thirty five years in the kitchens here at Hotel New Hampshire, it was a challenge to feed my guests.
Once upon a time there was one guest who had special dietary restrictions. This year every guest spoke to me in advance of necessary dietary requirements and the mindset behind their food regimes. Several spoke of gluten issues. One explained food combining with venn diagrams . Others outlined the finer points of their vegan diets. Some spoke of a corn/dairy/ white flour/ sugar issues. Some desired red meat if not combined with grains. Others wanted whole grains but only certain kinds of grain. Fish seemed to be okay for some but not others. One person said they would check out from Hotel New Hampshire if branade, a french dish combining salt cod with heavy cream and olive oil was not served. Others abhorred the thought of cream passing their lips and asked me to stock almond and hemp milk. Dairy in general was a hot topic. Embraced by some and shunned by others. Kale seemed good except for those who loathed it. Sausage was a no go unless made without pork, beef or poultry, except for those who wanted pork breakfast sausage each day. In light of these conflicting requests, I decided to prepare the masses for menu changes and plead for mercy as I scrambled to think of what to serve each beloved guest.
I texted my expected guests to talk about food items I thought met the requirements.
Big mistake. Big.
The texts that flooded in shattered any illusions I had that one or two foods were acceptable to all the arriving guests. After this barrage of information, I wasn’t even sure water worked for everyone.
Did I run for cover at this point and sensibly give people vouchers for MacDonald’s and tell them the kitchen was closed? No, instead I dove deeper into the quagmire of my own creation and texted them specific menu ideas.
This was a red cape to many bulls.
My soon to arrive guests took to the phones to respond to my sample menus. From near and far the traditionalists weighed in that possible items like roasted beet soup in acorn squash or grain loaf with mushroom tamari gravy were not going to cut it. Roast beef, yorkshire pudding topped off with English trifle LIKE ALWAYS was the cry from the hearts of the traditionalists.
I felt a bit of a pang then. I had been ready to serve sawdust grain loaf to please the masses, but here were beloved house guests pleading for heavy cream and butter as usual. I hadn’t expected to hear from them. I thought they would at least pretend to agree that sawdust grain loaf was better for our health. In fact, I had banked on it and had made the loaf already.
I ate said loaf by myself for six meals in a row. Yum. Yum.
After this menu hoopla, I decided there was no solution but to serve everything. Everything I could think of and more that is. Think groaning tables of side dishes with sticky notes giving ingredient lists.
For the last month, I have plunged into each meal determined to offer the usual Dickensian fare, the gluten free baked goods, the roasted root vegetables, the kale salads, the seaweed, the tempeh, the tofu. And yes, the rice. Each day I have made an enormous pot of rice. Rice was the one food we agreed on. I suspect Grace now thinks of Grandma’s house as the House of Rice. She runs into the kitchen each morning and asks for a big bowl before we begin our mornings together.
And what have our mornings been this last month? A picture is worth a thousand words. It takes a lot of trips to the grocery store to feed vegan, meat eating, paleolithic, food combining, white food free, sugar free, junk food loving, dairy free, butter and bacon loving beloveds all at the same time.