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Tell us about your favorite meal, either to eat or to prepare. Does it just taste great, or does it have other associations?

I like to cook meals that others will enjoy, so it depends on who’s coming to dinner. Holidays are especially nice because there are some things that everybody likes and looks forward to even if they’ve had it every year of their lives. But I always like to throw in something new — or put a new twist on a traditional dish.

Some recent holidays have been challenging as part of our group have special diets — vegans and one with severe food allergies (celiac disease). I’ve managed to tweak recipes and learned some new ones. Did you know, for instance, that you can put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge, then whip the semi-solid part like cream? With a little sweetener, it’s quite tasty!

Recently I had a reality check, though. My niece came to Washington D.C. with her husband for a convention. They brought their two kids and stayed in a nice hotel downtown for their 5-day stay, in a really convenient spot to get around to sightsee during the chilly, snowy winter weather. I invited them over for Sunday night dinner. I knew they were picky eaters, so I tried to make something simple yet tasty. I had beef burgundy with noodles, broccoli and carrots. Sounds like it would please most people — but by golly, each of them passed on some part of the menu, the two boys eating barely anything. All I can say, is that we benefited, having two full meals left over for the two of us! The chocolate cake went over well with everyone, though!

Sometimes I make meals for others because I know they’ll like them, even if they’re not my favorite. While I try to make something tasty every night (because I like cooking and eating), there’s something special about sitting down with a bunch of people you care about and eating together.

I don’t know what my favorite meal is — I like so many different kinds of foods. Still, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a nice steak perfectly cooked and a great salad. I’m always experimenting, but sometimes the basics are best.