Oct 14 2008

What Your Guests Won’t Eat: Vegetarians and Vegans

Published by at 4:57 am under entertaining,Vegetarianism

Entertaining in the 00’s

Pity the modern hostess. She used to plan an event according to her budget and culinary skills. But now religious restrictions, ethical quandries, and food allergies monopolize her party menu!

With this in mind, I am starting a series on “What Your Guests Won’t Eat”.  I know that many of us truly enjoy the company of people who eat differently than us, and do want to feed them food that they can eat! Hopefully these posts will help you to do just that.

Vegetarianism and Veganism

Most of us know at least a few people who are vegetarians or vegans, and so creating menus to feed people who restrict or eliminate animal products from their diet. Fortunately, however, veganism and vegetarianism are probably the easiest “special” diets to accommodate!

Vegetarians and vegans are people who restrict (or eliminate) animal products from their diet. Vegetarians do not eat animal parts (i.e. meat, fats, or by-products such as gelatin) but they might consume dairy, eggs, and/or honey. Vegans do not consume any product derived from animals: In addition to meat, they will not consume eggs (including fish eggs),  dairy, and (in many cases) honey.

(Note: Occasionally you might know someone who identifies as a vegetarian but who eats fish and/or seafood. These folks are more properly known as pescetarians. In my experience, pescetarians may only eat fish and/or seafood occasionally, so don’t assume that they will expect fish or seafood to be on the menu. Conversely, some people may describe themselves as vegetarian, but are in fact vegan.)

How do I Find out If a Guest is Vegetarian or Vegan

The best way to find out if any of your guests are vegetarian or vegan is to simply ask if they have any dietary restrictions. If you already know that a guest is vegetarian or vegan, you should clarify what they will/won’t eat prior to your event.

Cooking from Scratch

The least expensive way to accomodate a vegetarian or vegan guest is to prepare your meal from scratch. You will have the most control over what goes into the food and will be able to consult with your friend if necessary. There are plenty of vegan/vegetarian recipes online, and there are numerous discussion forums for vegans and vegetarians who will most likely be very willing to assist you in planning your menu.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are many condiments, sauces, and beverages that may appear to be vegetarian or vegan, but do contain animal products. For example, some beers, wines, and spirits are prepared using animal products.

Catering and Prepared Foods

If you are ordering food from a caterer/restaurant or using prepared foods, you need to be careful to make sure that the food is truly vegetarian/vegan. There are a number of food additives and preservatives that may be derived from animal sources. Best to bring a list like this one when you go shopping for prepared foods.

About Fake Meat

There are a number of meat substitutes on the market (i.e. veggie burgers and tofu dogs, etc). But many vegetarians/vegans don’t eat meat because they genuinely don’t care for it (and those who do like meat may not find the fake stuff to be satisfying). So don’t assume that a meat substitute is the best option for your guests.  Again, if in doubt, ask your vegetarian/vegan friend what they would prefer to eat: It may be that an extra veggie side dish or salad would be appreciated more than Tofurky.

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