A little while back, my family and I were invited to dinner at a friend's house. A few days before the event, my friend - knowing my meatless milieu - called me to ask about preparing a special dish just for me, and I tell you this: I was extremely grateful but also embarrassed. I told her not to worry, she didn't need to go through any extra effort, but she insisted. Dinner that night was not only delicious, but it was also one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had. Although I was shy about having something made just for me, I was also filled with gratitude for her effort and kindness.
I'm not the only veggie lover who feels this way. Even though this is how vegans and vegetarians are commonly perceived: "How do you know if someone is vegan? Don't worry, they'll f*cking tell you."
The truth is, most of us feel a little shy asking for special treatment if you're having us over for dinner. I polled my circle of vegan and vegetarian friends, and, except for one, they all said the same thing: the less fuss the better. Most of us, when invited over to dinner, would rather not discuss our diets and lifestyle in great detail. Of course, if the vegetarian in your life is your own teenager, then disregard everything I just said and get ready to listen to the virtues of a plant-based diet and why everyone should be eating one.
The question is, what do you do when you are having a big dinner party and one of your guests is a vegetarian? Maybe it's the holidays and you are making a turkey dinner, but are stumped about what to serve your vegan niece. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has gone meatless and you want to serve him something at the big steak cookout. Whatever the case, here are the do's and don'ts of having a vegetarian over for dinner.
Side dishes can make up a whole meal. Do you remember that old Will and Grace episode, where Will's dad says "I could make a whole meal out of the appetizers!"? Well, we plant-based people can make a whole meal out of the side dishes. Consider serving hearty, protein-rich side dishes featuring quinoa, chickpeas, beans, or nuts.
Hey, we know you love your bacon. We know you think it makes everything better, but to us, it makes everything inedible. Keep the bacon on the side of the Caesar salad, and we'll all be happy.
It would be a shame to make an incredible eggplant parmesan especially for your vegetarian guest just to find out that your guest doesn't eat eggs or dairy. Butter, cream, cheese, eggs, and even honey are no-go's for many plant-based people, so it's worth asking your guest if they partake in those items.
As mentioned above, side dishes are usually more than enough to satisfy a vegetarian guest. Don't feel that you need to rush out and buy a Tofurkey.
That being said, it's fun to try new things! Think of this as an opportunity to try something you've never tried before, like this ratatouille or these pecan almond lentil balls - a filling, vegan main dish that even my meat-loving husband enjoys. And who wouldn't be excited about this mushroom gravy that is a savoury and rich alternative to traditional beef gravy.
Your guests are here to see you and to share in a meal. We aren't here to criticize. We are here to enjoy your company, so let's raise a glass and toast to vegetarians and meat-eaters, dining together in harmony!
Is your child talking about becoming a vegetarian? Here's how to incorporate vegetarianism into an omnivorous household.