Try thinking of something more difficult than making a meal to simultaneously accomodate vegans and omnivores alike. It's nuts. Literally. Many foods---such as peanuts---are a mealtime nemesis for many people, thus affecting the lives of those who care for and chow down alongside them.
Twice this week, I've been privy to the details of young people confined to a life so cognizant of reading ingredients and interrogating food-service staff that it actually makes me feel relieved to be just vegan. A student attending the college where I work has a potentially fatal allergy to peanuts. Earlier this week, the dining-service staff were instructed to refrain from using any sort of peanut-based cooking product throughout the entire summer semester; all snacks with any peanut ingredient were immediately removed from the cafeteria's vending machines. If this student even so much as breathes peanut dust, it could quite possibly kill her.
This past Saturday night---at a dinner to celebrate Joselle's mother's recent birthday---a family friend told me about her grandson, whose dietary restrictions are even more prohibitive. In addition to a plain old peanut allergy, this adolescent lad has no choice but to keep his distance from all food products hosting wheat gluten and dairy (if you thought you had a rough childhood, think again). Fortunately, his loving mother works diligently, mastering meals to suit both his needs and tastes. I was most impressed to hear of her party-ready cupcakes made with rice powder (let's just hope this kid can still indulge in a little sugar).
Hearing about these cases makes me consider what a true luxury it is to be able to choose veganism, rather than merely conform to it. For folks with biological guidelines, it's not that simple; and I'm sure it's no piece of gluten-free cake for their loved ones either. As Joselle and I discuss our mutual menu, I'm also eager to learn more what it means to share a table with those who savor their survival most of all.