But when inviting relatively new friends over for a meal, the good host has to keep in mind that not all guests share the same tastes, obviously. Not all the folks I'll be having over in my place are hearty soup fans, or carnivores like me. Not all may love raw fish or offal. Some will cringe at the sight of squid ink risotto, and some will be suspicious before liver crostini and octopus.
So I've decided to make out a list. An index of the most off-limits foods to serve at a meal. When designing the menu for a diverse group of guests, one must take into consideration many elements. Seasons of course, and locality of the foods served. But also ethical choices, idiosyncrasies, whims and food trends. The best part of a meal with friends is seeing the smiles on their faces as they mop the remnants of sauce from their plate. That's a sure sign of a culinary success.
Here are a few things you should avoid cooking for your smiling friends.
Lamb. Subject to culinary and ethical foibles. If you're in Italy around Easter, it's another story.
Carbonara. Very easy dish but so hard to prepare well. The danger between "raw scrambled eggs" and "quick setting cement" effect is a very fine line. Especially if you're planning to make it for more than 4 people.
Brains. Delicious deep fried veal brains are best eaten at the reaturant. Serving them for dinner at home flirts with cannibalism.
Cucumber. Strangely very unpopular.
Rabbit. The British have a huge problem with rabbit. For them it's a pet, for us Italians it would be like serving cat stew.
Liver. Vegetarians keel over at the table, hygene integralists object to it being the filter of all the chemicals fed to cattle, others still haven't gotten over the childhood shock of the first bite. It is also very difficult to cook: if served rare it is bloody and horrific, if well-done, too leathery.
Raw fish. Harder to prepare than cooked fish. When deciding for a plate of "crudo" one must consider its absolute freshness, one's own carving ability, the correct serving temperature, which kind of fish to purchase, etc.
Kidneys. Cooking them requires the utmost expertise. And in case of failure, the outcome is a horrible taste of... well, urine. Eww!
Veal. The cruelty to the calves has made it very hard for folks to eat veal. But not here. The Italian farming industry is different, no chaining, no force feeding, no horror.
I'm making a nice plate of spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino tonight. Shall I count you in?