Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Survival Guide for Vegetarians and Cooks

Uh oh, I don't know about you but the holidays have certainly snuck up on me. For most, this means elastic waistband in preparation for the miles and miles of food that'll be put out, goodwill and joy, and that dirty old uncle that every family has.

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.

For Vegetarians:
  1. If you can, let the host know well ahead of time that he or she will be expecting a vegetarian.
  2. 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.
  3. I find myself apologizing for being an inconvenience. After a while, I realized, "Why the hell am I apologizing for being myself." Some of you are vegs for health reasons, if that's not a reason to speak up about your food, I don't know what is.
  4. Grin and bear it through all the "You are what you eat- cow-eating-grass" jokes and the like. It's only one day and you'll never have to deal with it again for another year. Likewise, no carnivore jokes. However, short-arm T-Rex jokes are always encouraged.
  5. Do not use dinnertime as the opportunity to shame and guilt your fellow meat-eating table mates as tempting as it may be. (See stupid herbivore jokes.) If someone asks and is genuinely interested, explain your lifestyle as positively as possible, answer their questions, and move on. 
  6. Forget the main dish, everyone knows that the side dishes are the best.
  7. If you are unsure about a dish, ask. Ask, ask, ask. Ask if they used meat drippings, if there's meat stock, did they garnish with bacon or use milk. Psst: You could say, "Oh, that dish looks delicious, what goes in it?" Flattery gets you everywhere.
  8. Bring a dish you know you can eat and that you know you can sustain yourself on it for the night if there are absolutely no other options. This is a great opportunity to show everyone else just how tasty vegetarian dishes are. (See sub note #3 below.)
  9. Bring another vegetarian friend. There's power in numbers and hey, they might bring their own dish too and now you have options! (God knows how excited we vegetarians get about options!)
  10. Have fun. Despite what all the media says, the holidays are more than just the food and the gifts and the material stuff, it's about the warmth of family and loved ones all gathering together and catching up.
For Cooks Expecting Vegetarians:
  1. If sending out invitations, requesting dietary restrictions as part of the RSVP is tremendously helpful.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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!"
  7. 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.
  8. 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)
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

No comments:

Post a Comment