Diets and fads
Peoples diets range from the life threatening to the voguish
At one end of the scale will be the group of four Americans, each following the diet of the moment. They will try to get us to prepare vegetables for four, in four different ways. One will be on a low salt diet, and will require three vegetables cooked without salt. Another will be on a low cholesterol diet, and will require their three vegetables to be cooked without butter, a third will follow the trend set by an American president and will refuse to eat spinach, or indeed any green vegetable, and the fourth will be averse to garlic.
Now the concept of freshly vegetables, cooked to order may be alien to the American way of life. So they do not understand that we are unable to cook three fresh vegetables in a different way for each of four people. They tend to be bewildered when we tell them that we can cook to the lowest common denominator, in other words supply them with three identical fresh vegetables without salt, garlic or butter on any of them. I can well see why American fast food outlets have "no substitutions" featuring prominently on their menus, I have toyed with doing that here.
At the other end of the spectrum is the life threatening. We had a lady with kidney problems who had to go into hospital once a week for kidney dialysis as magnesium built up in her body and her kidneys could not remove the magnesium. If she ate more than a minuscule amount of magnesium, then her body could not cope with it and she would die. We therefore were given a list of ingredients with high magnesium content so that all her food could be prepared in a way that kept the mineral content down to a minimum. For example did you know that bananas had an extraordinarily high magnesium content - I certainly did not. And when you went through the list of banned substances, there was not any logic as to which had magnesium and which did not. Only by staying in a hotel like ours, where we cook nearly everything from the raw ingredients could this lady have the security of knowing that the problem was under control.
Another problem diet is no wheat flour, sometimes coupled with no cows milk. The alternative to cows milk is either goats milk or Soya milk, neither particularly attractive products, but I guess people affected have learnt to live with them. Doing the cooking to avoid either wheat flour, or cows milk and all its derivatives like cheese, is never an easy business, but we do try our best. Sometimes one does wonder why one bothers, I once got an abusive letter after such a stay, where the guest accused us of not caring and not trying - whether the problem caused by some wheat flour entering their diet was down to us to to something they had eaten elsewhere I could not say, nor I suspect could they. Sometimes when you get such a response, one is tempted to say you will refuse such problems in the future.
In between the fad and the life threatening is the vegetarian, where they have usually made the choice not to eat meat. If they eat fish, as many do, then it makes life that much easier. We are happy to supply a vegetarian dish every day, to those who eat neither meat nor fish. But we have drawn the line at supplying vegan diets, as it rules out so many ingredients that we are not specialist enough to supply such adherents
As long as special diets are a small part of our business, and as long as those to whom we supply them are grateful for the effort we make, then we will continue to cook the dishes required. Too much ingratitude, too many people wanting individual food, then we would either stop supplying special diets, or put our prices up to allow for them. In the end, the "normal" customer is subsidising the "special" dieter as the special dieter requires more time and effort. In the end it boils down to should the normal customer be asked to subsidise too many other guests in this way
Latest "fad" to hit the world is (currently) the "Atkins Diet", where one apparently eats only protein. I remain unconvinced that the couple recently who each consumed a plate of 3 fried eggs, three rashers of bacon and a couple of jumbo sausages for breakfast, are doing anything other than long term harm to their general health!