Wednesday, December 21, 2022

What a loss to the culinary world

Every now and then I'm reminded just how much of a loss to the world of gourmet cooking that my son's food allergy caused.  

This year, owing to some unforeseens, as well as conflicting schedules and obligations among the boys, our birthday dinners were split and separated by a couple weeks from our actual birthdays.  Nonetheless, my wife decided to build on our third son's request from a past birthday - an African menu.  The boys got the ingredients, and my oldest spent a day working around an outpatient surgery and final exams preparing the meal.

This request was in part because of my son's involvement in that project I mentioned some months ago.   He's been working on compiling information about African Muslim immigrant communities here in the central Buckeye State.  The results of the project will be compiled and used for academic and government use. Among other things, that saw him step out of his introverted comfort zone and interview people from those communities. 

In his class most of the students were of that bent - African, immigrant, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and so on.  My oldest was an outlier, being mostly white, Anglo-American and Catholic.  His professor was Nigerian, and the helped.  Despite my son's demographics, we've had the opportunity to meet and get to know a variety of people from a variety of cultures over the years.  And in that group, Nigeria has been well represented. 

So while he made a generic 'African' (meaning south of the Mediterranean Sea) meal for his brother, this time he zeroed in and built the dinner strictly from Nigerian recipes he found:

From L to R: Yum; Yum Yum; Yum, Yum, Yum; Fabulous!

Except for the roast chicken, which was generic except for a Nigerian spice rub, the rest was straight from the Nigerian dinner table.  They were each a separate main course combined into one meal.  Lamb was the showcase meat of the hour, and the spices were, well, spicy.  Not in a 'burn your mouth like a flamethrower' manner, but still able to bring tears to the eyes.  All I can say is 'Yum!'  I could eat like that every day of my life.  

What a loss.  I've told him there is no rule against developing many skills and talents in one's life, even if you don't make a living from them.  Consider the late Vincent Price, who saw acting almost as a means to an end.  For him, his great passions were art and gourmet cooking.  Acting, as he once pointed out, merely paid the bills.  

Whatever my son does in life, and I know where he's planning - I'm just not saying yet - it will never hurt if he can whip up a five star dinner for those around him on his journey.  Just leave the fish. 


  1. With so many dietary restrictions out there (both voluntary and medical) I'm actually rather surprised there isn't an option for gourmet cooks for said restrictions. Surely folks allergic to seafood like him would love high quality meals.

    I dunno. Seems like once upon a time America was a land where you figured out what you can do, nowadays it feels like it's all about what you can't do.

    1. He had just started school for the program - sort of pre-chef classes. That's when this hit. It's so severe he can go into anaphylactic shock if he even gets a whiff of fish while they're cleaning the seafood counter on the other side of a Walmart supercenter. The allergist says his test was the most extreme result he's ever seen. The cooking school said no program would accept him with that sensitive of an allergy, it just wouldn't be a risk they could take where even the slightest fish element could send him over. For that matter we wonder what he will do in life in business settings with people bringing lunches and having meals and going out and eating for business lunches and whatnot. We can't go to a restaurant if it serves fish for fear of cross-contamination. But this isn't unique to us. I think I've mentioned the BBC article a few years ago that said food allergies have exploded over the last couple decades, since the late 1990s. I can't help but think there must be some reason, but nobody seems in a terrible hurry to figure it out.

    2. I should clarify I'm not blaming him or y'all. I know how things can be with schools and government. Those were the ones I was complaining about that spend too much time telling us what we can't do rather than figuring out what we could.

      And I'd say if his allergy is that severe, it would be the same for others and that would make him a good chef for them since he would be more sensitive to possible allergens than a regular chef. (Hope I'm being clear.)

    3. I didn't figure you were casting stones. We've said he ought to find a way of doing something like that; chef for those with allergies. There sure is a market, given the continued growth in food allergies. But I think for him the multitude of fiery hoops he would have to jump through, and the heavy limitations he has, would have worked better if he was already established or at least on his way when this hit. As it was, knowing it could be a wave of obstacles to overcome with no way of knowing where he might end up, caused him to go back to his original plans - before his talents in the kitchen caused so many to encourage him along that line.

  2. No talent cultivated goes to waste. I'm sure he'll be blessing those around him for years to come even if he most likely won't make his living from this.

    1. That's what I always tell them. Even if they don't turn a coin with a talent they have, they can still develop it for their sake and others'.


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