If lunch could last forever

It was a stop in Raleigh, just for lunch. It was the only chance for probably some time for an old friend and her son, who live across the country, to visit with me and a mutual friend. As the three of us tried to settle on a convenient restaurant for her to find, I said, “Why don’t I just do lunch?” No biggie, I thought, that said lunch was less than 24 hours away.  Then, the guest list swelled to six, including two teen vegetarians (one described as “picky”). And my friend’s son is allergic to gluten and dairy, plus having the usual eating vagaries of 13-year-old boys.

The boy was easy. Plain baked chicken breast, my friend said, and she did mean plain – no marinade or anything. “If you have ketchup, he’ll be fine,” she said.  And potato chips. For the veggie-teens, the classic tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, seeing as we’re in the juicy heart of tomato season. Thank goodness they’re not vegans.

For the four adults with no known eating parameters, I’d spotted a shrimp salad recipe in Bon Appetit that I wanted to try. It was cooked shrimp atop lettuce with slices of avocado and mango. Well, I’m rolling in peaches, so they replaced the mango (I like them better, anyway). The dressing – rice vinegar, fresh ginger and Asian sweet chili sauce – was pretty spicy. I backed down the heat by replacing some of the chili sauce with a local sauce, Capsicana Zing. Some baguette for the bread eaters, plus hummus and pita chips from the supermarket (I happened to have both on hand). The veggie-teens’ dad arrived with cheese and some noodle salad from a deli for them, just in case. I hadn’t know what level of “picky” we were talking about.

Besides finding out that my friend doesn’t like peaches (huh?), having lunch at my house was the best choice. We talked long after most restaurants would have thrown us out, long after my husband had to go back to work, and the boy and younger veggie-teen decamped for games on our Wii. At about 3:30 p.m., my friend and her son left for their next destination, a family visit on the coast, and I looked at the counter full of dishes. It was worth every one.

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