This time of year, I see a lot of articles and posts talking about what to feed a vegetarian guest should you find one sat at your Christmas dinner table; I always find it interesting to see what suggestions are proffered and I’m afraid, I very rarely agree. So often the solutions offered are pasta dishes smothered in some sort of cheese sauce, or something wrapped in pastry…basically, heavy dishes that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t eat. Where are the beautifully cooked vegetables in all their glory??
It’s funny because in my world, I’m one of many; I share my virtual world with many vegetarians & vegans, and in my real world my two best friends are also vegetarian – it wasn’t a prerequisite of our friendship or anything, it just happened that way; just shows that like minded people are drawn to each other doesn’t it? But if I find myself amongst family or a wider circle of friends, then I’m the alien (throw into the mix that I prefer low or no gluten, I don’t eat any sugar or sweet things, AND I don’t drink alcohol, and I really am an island…but that’s just me, that’s not all vegetarians) but I’m really not an alien, and I’m a lot easier to feed than you’d think..
So what would you think of feeding me if I came to your house? (Let’s pretend for a moment that I don’t have a blog full of ideas…!) Would you be completely stumped? Or drive yourself crazy with worry about the dish for this one person? Or just assume I must want to eat nut loaf?? (I don’t, by the way.)
Stop. It’s easier than you think.
Do you mind if I offer some suggestions?
My top tip would be:
Don’t make your life difficult! Especially if you’re making food for lots of people, don’t let the addition of a different eater at your table cause you stress.
And don’t make assumptions: I am labelled ‘vegetarian’ by most people in that I don’t eat any meat or fish, but I do eat cheese and eggs. Not all vegetarians are the same. Best to double check with them.
So…make life easy…
First, tell me what you’re already planning to cook..for example..last year we visited my brother & sister in law over Christmas; my sister in law Tina is a great cook and she cooked a huge roast dinner for 7 of us; knowing how much she’d already have to do, I asked if she’d like me to bring a dish for myself? She very happily accepted the offer with great relief as she had been concerned about it, and I made a small sweet potato casserole which I took with me to heat up in her oven.
When dinner was served there was about 10 different dishes of vegetables – I really didn’t need my dish too. I would have been quite happy with a plate piled high with lovely veg, and I’d have grabbed some of the nuts and seeds she had in the cupboard and sprinkled them over the top and been very happy. Whenever I cook a roast dinner at home, I just make sure there’s lots of vegetables with it and I eat them with some homous or any dips I’ve made, like the squash below, or with some grains I’ve got leftover from during the week. It’s that easy!
The only notes I would make here are…consider your gravy, you may need to make a vegetarian version if your guest is a gravy lover (I’m not!); and if you roast your potatoes in goose fat, it’s only fair to to let your vegetarian guest know. Or maybe on this occasion, use a non animal fat to roast your potatoes in?
The moral of this story is..consider what you’re already making and whether you’ve actually already got an answer in your menu. You may already have a perfect solution…can you make something ahead, like these marinated vegetables, or these, that will just need flinging in the oven in the day?
Are you doing a dish with meat that you could produce a small amount of it without meat? Could you plan it that way? Make two versions of the same chilli or casserole/tagine for example?
Or, make a vegetable based soup and offer a platter antipasti, crudités, bread etc along with it and allow everyone to choose what they want.
Salads are a godsend; especially warm salads (like the one below) in the cold temperatures; buffets are even better – let your guests choose; and side dishes are often the answer – I’ve often ordered just a selection of side dishes at a restaurant.
A cordon bleu creation really isn’t necessary. For me, the aim would be to ensure that that guest is made welcome and not made to feel like they are the alien at the table. I can tell you that it isn’t a pleasant feeling.
So, why not just ask me what I’d like? As one of my vegetarian friends said: “I think you’re right, people rarely ‘ask’ what you like to eat, so you can end up with a Supermarket version of what a veggie [supposedly] likes to eat, which, can often be wrapped up in a huge parcel of stodge, ie, pastry. Why do they do that?!” Yes, why do they?? For me it just shows lack of imagination.
Although…if you do fancy offering a pie or flan of some sort that everyone might fancy a bit of, how about making it a healthy, tasty option like this beetroot galette with a lovely light gluten free crust..
Or make life really easy, and let me bring a dish. I wouldn’t be offended at all. I’d rather not give a hostess added worry and I’d definitely prefer not to be presented with a dish that I’d rather not eat and then feel rude. And I’d really hate to cause any stress or extra work! So let me help.
Of course, I am a blogger with a list of recipe ideas so I do have a list of suggestions on this here blog in case they be of use, including a Christmas feast I made for guests last year and all of my Pimp Your Veg ideas, plus lots of healthy, vegetarian snack and Christmas cake ideas, but I’m also available if I can be of help.
NOTE: many of these recipes and suggestions would satisfy vegan diets and/or ideas for guests with various food intolerances.
Disclaimer: these are only my views, not all vegetarians are the same! All the more reason to ask 🙂