Dietary restrictions always are tricky when cooking for other people. I’m always so aware of my own issues that I tend to overcompensate when guests are due. After all, not many people want to eat meals that are meat and wheat free, generally healthy and organic, so I get nervous when it is my turn to host, well, anything really. It doesn’t help that I’ve had some real disasters in my hosting past, most of which happened while living in Prague where the food selection was slim and I was young and trying out the whole adulthood thing for really the first time. When I first moved to Prague, in 1999, there were three of us in the flat. Early on we decided to host a hot wine party which was very popular in the Prague markets around town~ red wine warmed with an orange that had cloves in it, and maybe some cinnamon sticks…? Can’t quite remember. What I do remember is that we packed the flat with a bunch of people we had very recently met but didn’t really know, two of which were roommates who had been, well, let’s just say it was awkward between on of my flatmates and the two roommates, and actually everyone else there. We all clutched our wines, waiting for the conversations to flow, but discovered shortly that we had boiled the alcohol out of the wine. Painful silence could be felt in every corner of our small flat. I was sitting next to a nice Kiwi who asked me, “So, what did you do today?” I responded with a boring recounting of teaching classes and grocery shopping. Silence. Then, ‘what did you do?” He responded with about the same story. Silence. Then he asked, “So, what did you do yesterday?” at which point I excused myself and made a plan with my friends to get some more wine and turn down the stove top. Next, we had a Thanksgiving in between Canadian turkey day and America’s. Again, we invited everyone we met to join into our imported cultural event. This was a far more lively event, with guests proclaiming, “this is great duck!” And we’d say, “no! It’s turkey!” But alas, it was indeed duck~ that’s what happens when two vegetarians who don’t speak Czech host Thanksgiving in Prague. Next was a Christmas party during my sick months. I don’t remember it much, other than my flatmates putting a Santa hat on me to take pictures, surely an effort to make me look somewhat presentable. The festive sickling. The last hosting event was my own disaster~ my flatmate was elsewhere so I invited 3 Czech friends over for an ‘American’ meal. I should first explain that Czech food is meat and potatoes, bland and bland. I made spicy fish with hot peppers and spiced rice. All three looked like they’d just swallowed a torch with the first bite. It was obvious they hated it though they only spoken in English pleasantries. At some point one let on they were expecting McDonald’s type food. I’m sure that’s exactly where they went after leaving my place! Oh well. A flop or two is good for learning~ keep the audience in mind when cooking. So what are some good no-fail dishes?