Restrictions as opportunities

This week’s assignment in my Nutrition
class was to create a lunch menu using food exchange lists and the following
exchange units: 2 starch, 2 meat, 1 veg, 1 fruit, 1 fat, 1 milk. It is
immediately obvious that this almost perfectly matches a menu like, "ham
sandwich with side salad, apple, and glass of milk," but I didn’t seriously
consider this option, primarily because it wasn’t appetizing to me, but also
because I felt it would be a bit of a cop-out. So I struggled for probably more
than an hour– struggled because of the fat limitation– to create what I hoped
might be an inviting menu, featuring French lentils braised with smoked ham
hock, baguette, tzatziki, spinach salad with fresh figs and grapefruit
dressing, and wine or beer, all the portions adjusted just so to fit the exchange values. I checked the numbers, and, hoping that I hadn’t
missed something and bungled the task, submitted it. THEN it occurred
to me that the instructor might have wanted a menu with multiple choices,
instead of a planned meal like I’d made. So I emailed the instructor,
explaining that I’d created a planned meal, and was that what she wanted, or
did she want a menu with multiple choices? A while later I received a reply to
the effect that to demonstrate understanding of the exchanges, a simple planned
meal was what she’d had in mind, such as a sandwich, fruit, etc.

I’m actually glad I went to the extra trouble, because I proved to myself
that it is possible to create interesting menus with difficult restrictions,
instead of simply dismissing the idea as an impossible nuisance as I would have
before. Still, sometimes an assignment is just an assignment.