Since transitioning to a diet that is about 85% plant-based, 15% vegetarian, I’m pretty sure I’ve put the fear of God into anyone that’s even thinking about inviting me over to eat. My mum in particular was having a really hard time figuring out how to cook something for Thanksgiving this year, that I would eat. I really hadn’t given it much thought at the time but more and more, people have been telling me that cooking for vegetarians and vegans can be very intimidating because (this is what I’ve been told anyway) it’s like cooking for someone with a food allergy: you don’t want to do it wrong.
I thought this was really interesting. I never considered my dietary choices to be intimidating but I guess there must be a bit of truth to it since a few people have mentioned this to me. If this is the case, then I most definitely want to de-bunk some of the myth around cooking for vegetarians so that a) I’ll be invited over where someone else can cook for me and b) so there’s no stress involved for anyone preparing a meal for someone with different dietary needs, whether it be no meat, no gluten or no grains.
1. Don’t overthink it: Most vegetarians don’t expect you to create a culinary masterpiece for them. Case in point: “Masterpiece” in my house is defined as such-> Not burnt. I’m not going to get into the differing ratio’s between Masterpiece and “typical dinner” in my house. The odds aren’t in my favor. It can be as simple as cooking the meat separately and those that want it, can add it to their plates, those that don’t can let it pass them by. It’s a simple way to cook one meal that pleases everyone.
2. Know your proteins: Since the single question I get asked the most is “where do you get your protein?”, I’m just going to put it out there. Rather than assume that the side salad or a big heaping pasta bowl is good enough for your guest, get to know the various plant-based protein sources out there. You might be surprised at what you find. Not only does this allow you to make a well rounded meal, it can also serve as a tool to expand your own kitchen skills. Before vegetarianism was even on my mind, we would often have meatless meals to save some grocery money and I was really surprised at how much protein is lurking in some of the foods I now eat on a regular basis.
3. Respect is a 2-way street: No matter what anyone around your dinner table believes, there should always be respect for the choices of those around you. This goes both ways. Nothing peeves me more than seeing someone go on and on about how “gross” meat is and all that. If you want those around you to respect your choices, you have to be respectful of theirs. You can’t shame someone into agreeing with you so agree to disagree but always be open to a respectful discussion. You’d be surprised how far that can go.
4. Make it a Potluck: Seriously…who doesn’t like the opportunity to try new foods and to stuff your face like a boss? Exactly!! Why not ask your guest to bring their favorite vegetarian dish for everyone to try out? I realize this isn’t for everyone so choose your audience wisely but it’s a great opportunity to de-bunk some of the vegetarian myths (salads and pasta at every meal) and show that meatless eating is not only safe but also incredibly tasty. I’m not afraid to offer to bring something, even if it’s just for myself to eat. I’m certainly not offended by any requests to do so. For me, it’s not as much about the food as it is about enjoying the company of family and friends.
5. Don’t make a big deal out of it: Seriously, it doesn’t need to be a production. It certainly doesn’t need to be a drama (or in the case of my cooking skills, a Greek tragedy). Cook the food, eat the food, don’t draw attention to the food (unless your raving about how tasty it is). Enjoy it, and if it doesn’t turn out the greatest, you’re among friends.
Happy eating everyone!