Bell’s Handy Holiday Guide to Feeding a Vegetarian
There are two kinds of vegetarians. I’m not talking about the whole vegan/ pescetarian/ ovo-lacto vegetarian bullshit because 1) that’s more than two things and I know how to count and also BULLSHIT, PESCETARIANS. BULL. SHIT. YOU AREN’T VEGETARIANS. STOP LYING.
Just saying. They aren’t.
Vegetarians fall pretty neatly into two categories. You have your mellow vegetarians, who understand that not everyone has made the same choices they have and who don’t expect the world to accommodate them. You also have your Vegetarian Crusaders. They tend to be mortally offended that anyone would eat meat at all, ever. These guys use terms like “bloodmouth” and say things like “how does it feel to know that your stomach is a graveyard?” Which is a stupid thing to say ANYWAY because it’s not like your stomach is a permanent resting place for anything if it’s working right. A more accurate description is “How does it feel to know your stomach is an organic composter” but I guess that doesn’t sound aggressive enough for them.
I have no advice for you when it comes to dealing with Crusaders. Sorry. Drink a lot, maybe.
Fortunately, most vegetarians fall into the first category, and that means we’re easier to feed than you might think. To help you out, especially if you happen to be feeding me any time soon, I thought I’d give you a few tips.
DON’T invite someone to your house and provide nothing for them to eat. While it’s not necessary to make a second ten-course vegetarian meal for them, it’s also not really cool to put meat in everything but the salad and the pie. If you can’t make some small accommodations for them, don’t invite them over. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “Well, there’s salad…” Bitch, I do not maintain this fabulous figure by eating lettuce all day.
DO warn your guest if most of the food is going to be unsafe for them. I have no problem bringing my own food to a gathering; I would much rather do that than either starve or be an inconvenience to my host.
DON’T: Ask them to bring the turkey. You’d think this would go without saying, but I’ve had to refuse this request more than once in the past year. Part of the reason I made the switch was that touching meat has always grossed me out, and that reaction has only gotten worse since I stopped eating it. Also, it’s bad form to ask someone to bring something they can’t eat, so don’t be a jackass.
DO: Let them decide what to bring to your potluck. They’re guaranteed to bring something that they like and that they can eat, which takes some of the burden of feeding them off of you.
DON’T make a second holiday meal just for the vegetarian. It is awkward to be singled out like that, for one thing, and we really don’t want you to go to all that extra trouble for us. Plus, there’s a good chance that the five-star vegetarian recipe you found on the internet isn’t actually good so much as it’s really, really weird, and we don’t want to have to eat it just to be polite.
Example: carving a turkey out of tofu. We appreciate that you’re willing to go to all that effort for us, but really, don’t. Please. Don’t.
DO consider modifying the recipes you’re already using. If you normally mix bacon into your mashed potatoes, for instance, set aside a small amount of potatoes for the vegetarian before adding the bacon. If you usually use chicken broth for your stuffing, use vegetable broth instead. These are small changes that add very little effort and won’t affect the quality of your meal.
DON’T assume something is vegetarian safe just because it doesn’t have chunks of meat in it. A box of herb stuffing, for example, might contain chicken broth as one of the seasonings. That doesn’t mean you have to change the products you’re planning on using, although it would be a very kind and considerate thing to do. It’s not a bad idea to keep the boxes around in case your vegetarian needs to read the ingredient list.
DO ask your vegetarian if there are foods you should avoid. Some vegetarians don’t eat eggs or dairy; some avoid honey like the plague. Some of the foods that contain animal products might surprise you, too. Marshmallows are made with gelatin, for example, and a lot of cake mixes contain beef fat. I don’t consider it a catastrophe if I accidentally eat something with animal products in it, but a lot of vegetarians do, and it could make them very sick.
Like so many things in life, communication is really important when you’re feeding someone with dietary restrictions. Talking to your guests will go a long way towards making sure you both have a good holiday food experience, and they’re much less likely to think you’re a douche afterwards.
Unless you ask them to bring a turkey and then point them at the salad when they arrive.