That moment of dread and panic. Vegetarians and vegans coming to dinner. Arghhhhhh!
I was chatting yesterday to a man in Tesco, as you do. He told me his daughter was a vegan, his son loved sausages and he was a diabetic. Mealtimes, he said, were a nightmare. he just did not know what to do for the best, or what to cook. Helpful as ever, I suggested curries and chillies which can be made with the same bases but with the addition of meat separately. We discussed this and a few other options. He thanked me and said that really he should be able to manage better since he’d spent twenty years working as a chef!! You can perhaps imagine my surprise.
If a trained chef struggles how are us mere mortals meant to manage?
My own family are doing marvellously well with our eating regimes and we’ve enjoyed some marvellous meals, my Mother-In-Law’s aubergine tagine is gorgeous and I particularly liked my Christmas Day vegetable and oat roulade with hidden sprout surprise 😀 courtesy of my ever inventive Mum. My sister cooked a marvellous curry for us all on Valentine’s Day and made this magnificent dessert – fabulous!
If you do have a dinner guest with dietary requirements or restrictions though – here are some things which might help to think about
- Ask your guest exactly what they do and do not eat. They will probably appreciate the time and effort you’ve taken and will feel confident that they’ll be ‘safe’ eating at your house. It’s really quite awkward if someone doesn’t understand what you choose to eat and not eat and insists upon offering you something which you have to refuse and risk hurting their feelings or denigrating their kindness.
- Don’t head straight for the macaroni cheese, pizza or stuffed mushroom options for your vegetarian guest, I’ve watched Come Dine with Me, I know the default options and trust me, those can get quite tiresome, as does the assumption that vegetarians must live on cheese (although, I know some actually do…alarmingly).
- Don’t make assumptions about substituting quorn or other textured vegetable proteins (TVP’s) into their meal. Many of us really prefer not to eat the ‘pretend’ meats and cheeses. Frankly most of them taste pretty guff anyway and I don’t need to feel like a meat/cheese eater to fit in.
- Be careful when buying alternative milks and other soya based products like yoghurt. They can be ridiculously high in unnecesary sugars. It’s best to ask first if your guest likes the sweetened or unsweetened varieties best.
- Some people may be particular about food miles, sustainability and organic produce. About the deforestation caused by palm oils for example which are terribly threatening to orang-utang habitats and, therefore, their populations. Genetically modified ingredients can also problematic as can excessively packaged or artificial ingredients.
Being sensitive about what you eat can be seen to be fussy, politically correct or plain bloody awkward but we all make choices about what we decide to eat and I don’t criticise yours (much).