Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to cook for your vegetarian friends - 10 ideas

"Help! I just discovered one of my dinner guests is a vegetarian! What can I do?"

Take a deep breath. If your friend has been a vegetarian for more than a few weeks, she is already quite used to fending for herself at meals where meat is served. A new convert to vegetarianism, on the other hand (like a new convert to almost anything), may go all righteous and preachy on you. Don't argue with her. Ask questions, listen, and resolve to give her a few months to settle in before inviting her back.

We have quite a few vegetarian* friends, and they are, without exception, gracious and appreciative guests.
*Note: It helps to find out what your friends mean by vegetarian. Many vegetarians happily eat dairy products and eggs, while some (vegans) eat nothing that comes from animals, not even honey. A few people who call themselves vegetarians are actually pescetarians - they eat fish, but not meat. And some are selective meat eaters - they will eat meat only if they know it comes from a family farm that treats its animals humanely.
Here are 10 ideas for feeding vegetarians and meat-eaters together.
 1.   Do nothing. Serve whatever you were planning to serve before you knew your guest's eating habits. Just be sure to provide, alongside your steaks, plenty of side dishes that the vegetarian can eat.
 2.   Provide a selection of sandwiches, soups, and/or salads and let everybody take what they want.
 3.   Serve buffet or family style to maximize choice.
 4.   Serve pasta with a choice of sauces.
 5.   Serve pizza with a choice of toppings.
 6.   Serve tapas or meze - a wide selection of appetizers that make up an entire meal.
 7.   Ask your vegetarian friend to contribute a hot dish.
 8.   Host a potluck.
 9.   Cook a vegetarian meal for everybody (see suggestions here, here, and here).
10.  Meet your friends at a restaurant.


Molly said...

11. Under no circumstances, attempt to serve tofu.

The worst meal I ever had was a friend who heard I was vegetarian and tried to fix tofu for me. Unfortunately, they didn't know anything about cooking with tofu and used no seasoning of any kind. I was served a lump of rubber. I'm very greatful that they tried for me, but it's best to prepare dishes you are at least somewhat familiar with.

Jay said...


Your next piece (or should I say pisces) could be on the eating habits of presbyterians versus pescetarians and how they both use the term "diet".

I agree that grace and perhaps patience are called for when feeding ones friends.

LaVonne Neff said...

At least, Jay, Presbyterians were not present at the Diet of Worms.

Carolyn said...

I loved all 10 of LaVonne's suggestions, and especially Jay's comment!