My first barbecue as a vegan
This month, I went to my first barbecue as a vegan. I was a little unsure of how things would go, to be honest. I didn’t even know if our wonderful hosts would even understand what a vegan was.
I have never been so happy to be wrong. My hosts were wonderful, and no-one was offended (something I’m ashamed to admit I was very concerned about). Nobody even asked where I got my protein from!
What I ate at a barbecue as a vegan
There were delicious veggie kebabs, potatoes and a fantastic cauliflower dish that the hostess had made. It was amazing.
We brought the dessert – cupcakes from a fabulous bakery here in town that has nut-free vegan cupcakes (which has the WASPy-est phrases I’ve ever typed). They were delicious (maybe a little too delicious – I haven’t been able to stop thinking of them – I need to figure out how they make their frosting).
Eating vegan in restaurants vs. at someone’s house
So far, I’ve found going out to eat as a vegan fairly easy. Sure, it might mean a meal made up of side dishes, but most waiters are pretty understanding.
It’s harder if the group you are with wants to do a chef’s choice-type meal where the kitchen brings out a series of surprise dishes. Sometimes they can accommodate vegans, but it can also throw a wrench in your friends’ dining plans.
Still, it’s easier to risk offending a waiter than to upset your friends. Going to a barbecue as a vegan for the first time at a friend’s home can be stressful. So it makes sense to prepare yourself a bit by speaking with your host or hostess, and thinking about what you might be able to bring.
Veganism is better understood now
While you will run across the occasional person who has never heard of veganism, I’m amazed at how much more aware the public is of veganism than it was 12 years ago (the first time I tried a vegan diet).
Even if your hosts don’t quite understand what being vegan means, there’s likely to be vegan foods at a barbecue, such as corn on the cob and salad. Honestly, because they are generally potluck-esque nature, attending a barbecue as a vegan is actually pretty easy.
Let your host know
Always remember to let your host know ahead of time that you’re vegan (or if you have food allergies). I hate feeling like I’m being a pain, but it’s definitely best to let them know, so that there aren’t any major surprises. They will be grateful, and things will go better in the long run.
Try to relax about it
If you’re like me, it’s easy to become anxious about going to someone’s house when you’re vegan. It’s helped me understand my daughter’s food allergies a lot better – she always feels nervous going to parties, and now I understand her feelings a lot better.
It’s important to embrace who you are and remember that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of your ethical choices.
But don’t be afraid to be proud of your convictions
I remember reading an article years ago, by conservative jewish movie reviewer (Michael Medved – he has a talk show now, but when I was a kid he was on PBS reviewing films). He was at a recording studio with his six-year-old daughter and someone offered her a candy bar.
The girl and her father searched the label for the familiar “kosher” label, but it was nowhere to be found. She politely returned the chocolate bar with a smile and said she wasn’t going to eat it because it wasn’t kosher. Her dad was proud of her for standing up for her principles, especially since he knew how much she loved chocolate.
I’m only a few years older than Michael Medved’s daughter (in fact, I was only 10 or 11 when I read the article!), but the story has always stayed with me. We should never be afraid to politely remind people of our convictions.
Maybe I’m the only one who has this problem, but I’ll admit I find this part really hard. I will go to almost any lengths to avoid putting people one the spot. But I’m slowly learning that hiding who you really are isn’t worth it. And I definitely would never want my kids to be afraid to stand up for their convictions.
Whether attending a barbecue as a vegan or reading the label of a gift chocolate bar, it’s always important to treat the host or gift-giver as you would like to be treated. Be polite, be kind and be true to your convictions.
How do you guys deal with eating out at other people’s houses? Do you have any tips for making it easier?
If you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, how do you feel about having vegans over? Do you have any suggestions for what might make easier for you as a host or hostess?