Over the past several decades, there has been an astounding increase in the number of people who have chosen to give up animal products and adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet. While a plant-based diet used to be somewhat of a rarity, chances are that you now have at least one close vegetarian or vegan friend. Some people are extremely apprehensive about cooking for their vegetarian or vegan friends, however, because they just don’t know what to prepare.
One of the situations where this is most common is when someone decides to have a backyard barbeque. People enjoy cooking on the grill, but a lot of people aren’t aware that there is anything that can be grilled other than various slabs of meat. Luckily, there are lots of barbeque/picnic style vegetarian foods that you can prepare, and with some simple planning and preparation, it is easy to grill food that everyone will love! Here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.
1. Find out the particulars of your friend’s dietary restrictions. As another AC content producer points out in her article about entertaining vegetarian guests, every vegetarian seems to play by their own rules. Some people just avoid eating meat, while others avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy. Most vegetarians avoid seafood, but fish may be an acceptable option for some. Someone who is vegetarian for religious reasons may want their food prepared on a separate, “meat-free” area of the grill, while someone who is vegetarian for more ethical or environmental reasons might not care. (For more information about these & other reasons why people choose a plant-based diet, see my recent article entitled “Top 5 Reasons to Go Vegetarian”).
Don’t be afraid to ask your friend questions. Ask them why they decided to become vegetarian or vegan. Find out what foods they do and do not eat. Ask them for suggestions as to what food you might be able to cook for them. You shouldn’t worry about annoying or offending your “veggie friend”-chances are that they will be touched by the fact that you are going out of your way to accommodate them.
2. Stock up on “fake meat” products. Everyone seems to love a freshly grilled hamburger or hot dog, and vegetarians are no exception. When meat analogs first came on the scene, their taste and texture definitely left a lot to be desired, but today’s veggie burgers and tofu hot-dogs are so tasty that they’ve been known to be mistaken for the real thing. These mock meat products are becoming increasingly easy to find, and should be available in your grocer’s refrigerator or freezer section. Also, don’t worry about not knowing how to cook fake meat products – they’re designed to be cooked just like their real-meat counterparts, so if you can grill a hot dog, you can grill a “not dog” too! (For more comparisons of fake meat to real meat, check out this recent Associated Content review.)
3. “Veganize” the foods you were planning to make anyway. Most people don’t realize just how easy it is to make your favorite foods appropriate for vegetarian or vegan diets simply by substituting a few common ingredients. For example, were you planning on making potato salad for your barbeque? Substitute soy-based vegan mayonnaise for the traditional egg-based variety and voila, you’ve suddenly made your side dish vegan-friendly. Making a salad? Leave the cheese and dressing out on the side for people to add themselves, and you’ve ensured that everyone can enjoy the veggies, even if they can’t eat dairy products or creamy dressings. You’ll find that many of your favorite dishes can be made without animal products, and most people won’t even be able to tell that you’ve substituted any ingredients.
4. Be prepared for lots of questions. Finally, you should be ready for questions about what the food you’re serving actually contains and whether or not it is vegetarian-friendly. When possible, leave food in its original packaging, so your guest can check the list of ingredients for themselves. It might also be helpful to put a small label or sticker on foods that are suitable for your vegetarian guests, so as to eliminate any possible confusion.
Lastly, don’t feel like you have to go overboard. If you are inviting a vegetarian to your house to eat, you do need to have some vegetarian options available, but not everything has to be vegetarian. Make a few dishes your meat-free friend can enjoy, but don’t go crazy trying to get the animal products out of everything. Vegetarians and vegans are very used to going places and having very few options to choose from, and even though you didn’t make a complete veggie buffet, your friend will likely appreciate even the smallest efforts taken to accommodate their diet.
Peter Notes; I’ve been collecting veggie/vegan recipes in this blog – see; Recipes