This Sunday, I spent the afternoon gallivanting at Filoli and Edgewood Park, all in the name of celebrating a very special lady’s birthday.
And while there were – of course! – cupcakes and candles and birthday wishes galore, this summer festivity was equally filled with the delights of Filoli’s gorgeous gardens (did someone say white pigeons and pear trees? Yes, I just did) as well as a picnic feast filled with low sodium treats.
And while it wasn’t my day of birth, boy oh boy, did I eat like it was. We consumed a feast of perfect picnic proportions, and, thanks to the adventurous (and caring) spirit of the hostess, I was able to eat almost every bite.
Today, I want to share this fabulous picnic menu with you, not just because I think my pictures look awesome (although, in all modesty, they do), but because this is the ultimate lesson in eating beyond your kitchen and trusting your food needs in the hands of others.
Here’s the set-up: you are attending someone else’s party – a birthday party, no less – in which you are far from being the guest of honor. Yet, if you want to partake in the culinary delights of the day, your needs demand special attention.
This is where the dilemma lies. Do you say something and risk feeling like you’re making a fuss? Do you offer to bring your own low sodium fare to share? Or do you eat a massive amount before and after you attend the event and simply sip on low sodium lemonade to pass the time?
No matter which option you pick, they are all the right answers. Your approach depends on the context of each situation – how well do you know your company, how comfortable are you sharing your needs (and food) with others, and what will make you feel most at ease (and full).
But I will say this: the more open you are with the people around you, whoever they are, the easier these situations will become. That is because, the people around us are caring and good. And once your loved ones know what you need and how to make low sodium food, chances are they will want to try. All you have to do is teach them.
As such, I treat most occasions as if they are pot lucks, even when they are not. I bring along one or two low sodium dishes for myself and the rest of the guests to enjoy. And I always ask the host if it is ok to bring some extra food, just in case they have a “vision” for the event that they do not want disturbed…but thankfully, that never happens.
From there, two things happen: 1) I get to eat without worry or fuss, and 2) people ask a lot of questions. They taste how tasty low sodium cuisine can be and they get inspired to try cooking low sodium food themselves. And before I’ve had time to wipe my mouth, I get asked for recipes and recommendations, so that they can make low sodium dishes for me the next time around.
Over time, you’ll find that your friends will want to cook salt-free food for you. They will actually tell you to leave your roasting pan at home. Because when you approach your needs with a positive attitude – and show people that low sodium cooking is a fun challenge, the results of which make you feel accomplished and proud – your friends, without a doubt, will want to jump on board.
After a few years of collaborative efforts and sharing (the definition of a pot luck), I was able to sit down at a beautiful picnic lunch where almost every dish was prepared with low sodium care.
My measly contribution consisted of some freshly prepared, low sodium hummus and fresh crudités (yay for French breakfast radishes!)
And then there were the real masterpieces, starting with a French carrot salad (yes, there was an unintended theme happening here), made with grated carrots and a simple vinaigrette;
low sodium pickled green beans and fennel (recipes from Sodium Girl);
a sodium-free frittata, with purple new potatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs;
and to finish it all off, some juicy, ripe strawberries which were dipped in crème fraiche and brown sugar. Pure yum.
So don’t be shy with your low sodium requirements. Cutting down on salt is the latest health craze and whether it is for the health of your body or theirs, I promise people will be excited to learn and experiment with you. Share your recipes, share your success, and remember, chow on.