And for a smaller group of us, we have overbearing cooks to contend with. As vegetarians, this is when we really start watching our backs, making sure no well-meaning grandmother slips a slice of turkey in underneath all that (vegetarian) stuffing. This is when we have to start analyzing all the dishes- Is there bacon in that? Did they use chicken stock?- without coming across as rude. We don't want to ruin the festivities for anyone, including ourselves, so how do we graciously tip toe our way around the meat-filled minefield that is otherwise known as "The Holiday Dinner"?
So this is my Holiday Survival Guide for Vegetarians and Cooks Expecting Vegetarians as well.
- If you can, let the host know well ahead of time that he or she will be expecting a vegetarian.
- Then, explain very clearly exactly what you do or do not eat. Honestly, unless your great-aunt is very savvy for her age, she's definitely not going to know the difference between a vegetarian and vegan.
- If sending out invitations, requesting dietary restrictions as part of the RSVP is tremendously helpful.
- Ask questions. If someone reports that they are a vegetarian, ask them what they eat and don't eat. This includes dairy products, eggs, cheese, stock, even honey and alcoholic drinks.
- Consider making at least one vegan dish so everyone is happy. The trick is to wait to tell your omnivorous guests until after they've eaten it but slip a hint to your grateful herbivore guests beforehand.
- Let veggies have the option of bringing their own dish. Happy herbivores equal less stress on you. And we're all pretty good at taking care of ourselves.
- Don't ask if they can eat chicken or pork "just this once." They made a lifestyle change and it's insulting to think they'll bend their will just for one dinner party.
- Also, telling us "just a little bit of bacon won't hurt"will hurt when we're done cramming a turkey bone down your throat. "Just a little bit of bone marrow won't hurt!"
- Please, I beg of you, lay off the stupid carnivore jokes and the whole, "I could never give up meat" spiel. We've heard it. It's obvious you can't give up meat when you just served the whole table turducken.
- However, if you're genuinely interested in why and how, we're more than happy to talk about it with you! We promise to be kind and nice! (See Holiday Survival Guide for Vegetarians #5 above)
- When in doubt, use vegetable stock. This goes for stuffing, rice, mashed potatoes, whatever. Whenever it calls for chicken stock, vegetable stock or bullion is an easy substitution that's just as tasty.
- Labels with ingredients help us avoid tons of awkward or annoying questions which can bring a party down fast. Plus, we can get to the food much faster. Full vegetarians are happy holiday guests!
I've been able to cook the entire Thanksgiving meal on my own for the past four or five years, so I've been lucky to have complete control over all the dishes. However, this year will mark the first year I get to join someone else's family (so freaking excited!) Fortunately, I will not be alone in the vegetarian guests group. Here's to stuffing myself silly and elastic waistbands!
What do you do to survive the holidays? If you have any other tips, feel free to add them in the comments below!