Catering for a Vegetarian
| I've spent ages making them something special! It's taken
twice as long to get this meal ready!
| Oh no, she's made me something special...
polenta... but I HATE polenta... and she's given me enough for four people!
Don't panic! Catering for us veggies can be painless - here are a few tips to make it go smoothly.
If you remember just one tip, let it be this:
- If you're serving meat and veg, make a cheese sauce for the veggie (it can even be made in advance and microwaved) and let them have the same vegetables as everyone else, with cheese sauce instead of meat. This allows them to be included, it's tasty and it's a balanced meal. Plus, it's less fuss for you!
- Check what the veggie will not eat - usually all kinds of meat and
seafood are out. Generally, animal products such as lard, suet and gelatine
are also out (so check desert ingredients too). Ask whether free-range
eggs, milk and veggie cheese are ok, and avoid others to be on the safe side.
- Check whether there is anything the veggie really cannot face. Although
it is your house, and you should feel free to carry on as normal - in
fact the veggie will feel bad if you don't - it can still be offputting
if someone leaves the table to be sick.
Foods that can be particularly hard for veggies to deal with are: food on the bone (e.g. people gnawing chicken legs), food with faces (e.g. whole shrimps, whole fish), food with a strong smell (e.g. crab pate) and the sound or sight of meat being carved, or ripped apart (e.g. ribs being torn from racks). If it is possible to carve in the kitchen rather than at table, it is much appreciated!
- Cheeses can be veggie, or non-veggie (contain animal rennet).
Note that there is no such thing as vegetarian Parmesan - however there
are vegetarian "Italian style" chesses which you can use instead, such
as Vegetalia or Twineham Grange.
If an item is not labelled as being suitable for vegetarians, it may
be that it contains non-veggie cheese. Pesto is a regular offender for this.
Look for the veggie logo when shopping.
- Veggies eat normal food, they just don't eat meat and fish! If you
are serving something you would not normally eat, chances are that they
would not normally eat it either!
- Don't make them something "special" of their own! It will take you
longer, and you have no idea of their taste. It is a nightmare to be
looking at a pile of inedible spiced lentil mix, especially when you know the
cook spent ages on it.
- But if you do make something separate for the veggie, only give them
enough for one person! Even if you had to make up enough for a whole
family please, don't make them sit behind a mountain of food. However
much they eat, they may feel bad at leaving the rest. Keep the rest
in the kitchen and offer it when they clean their plate, if you wish.
- And if you will make something separate, allow them to join in with
the meal and have some of the other things on the table too. Don't
stop them from having the vegetables "for everyone else" if they fancy it.
- Don't worry about serving a balanced meal (squeezing vegetable
protein, mushrooms and lentils into everything... ew...) just worry
about serving something tasty. It is only one meal, the veggie won't get
sick if it isn't perfectly balanced!
- Don't serve imitation meat, such as Linda McCartney pies and sausages.
Veggies who don't eat meat on principle will be reminded of meat and
grossed out, and veggies who don't eat meat because they dislike it won't
like imitation meat any better! If you plan to use mock-meat, check
specifically with the vegetarian before you do so. Many find it difficult
to eat. Instead, how about serving Nantwich
Cheese Bake (or similar) in place of meat?
- If you are making stuffing, why not cook some of the mix in a
separate dish, so the veggie can have some too? (Obviously, not sausagemeat
- If you make veggie gravy, many of the mixes (e.g. Bisto) are
quite dull. The best I've found is Bisto Best, roast veg flavour.
Add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar or mint sauce to sharpen it up
a little and make it more interesting.
- It is less of an issue to serve a veggie a separate desert. They
would rather have this than no desert at all!
- If you're looking for nice veggie deserts or soups, try the organic
section of big supermarkets. A lot of organic food is also veggie.
- Treat the veggie naturally, don't draw attention to them and make them
feel awkward. Please be as welcoming as to any other guest, no matter what you think
of their beliefs - after all, you have invited them to your home and surely
want them to feel comfortable.
- Don't ask them about their vegetarianism around the dinner table.
They will feel awkward, and if they are descriptive the reply may well
put you off your own meal!
- Remember that the veggie is usually apprehensive about eating with
people who aren't used to cooking for them. They probably feel just as
awkward as you, and are willing the meal to go well just as much as you!
This page last updated: 01 September 2022
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