A committee meeting I was attending lasted longer than anticipated, so our host offered to have food brought in for lunch. I needed to leave shortly anyway, so I declined and told him I was going to get a tofu burrito at the Oakland airport. As one, the other people at the meeting, all of whom happened to be men, turned to look at me with varying degrees of horror. Each shook his head, looked at the others, looked back at me, then resumed writing on our project. After a minute, our host snorted and said, “I just can’t see you as a vegetarian.” Genuinely surprised, I asked him why. As he continued to write, he shook his head again and said, “Because you’re not … skinny!” Nonplussed, and a little unsure just how to take that, I sat back in my chair and finally managed to reply, “Um, thank you?”
You may not recognize a vegetarian when you see one. We’re out there, though, and tend to show up when you least expect it. It may happen when your son is bringing his first serious girlfriend home from college. Twenty minutes before they are scheduled to arrive—and fifty minutes before you are planning to surprise them with his favorite dinner of lasagna and Caesar salad—he calls to ask if he had mentioned she is a vegan. It might occur when your 35-year old sister suddenly gives up meat. She is steadfast and refuses to eat like a normal person, even during the holidays. Don’t despair! You can very likely feed your vegetarian using items you already have on hand, in perfect harmony with everyone else.
Let’s take the girlfriend scenario above. You already have the lasagna made and ready to put in the oven. You have the ingredients for the Caesar salad, but you haven’t put it together yet. How can you possibly transform this dinner to a vegan one? The answer is that you can’t. Don’t try! Your vegan doesn’t want everyone else to have to forego all meat and dairy just because she does. She wouldn’t be with your omnivore son if that were the case. Go ahead and put your lasagna in the oven. It is your son’s favorite dish, after all. For your vegan, put some of the Romaine lettuce into an individual bowl and serve it with balsamic vinegar dressing and homemade croutons. For her main dish, sauté whatever vegetables you have in your refrigerator with cooked pasta, canned beans and olive oil. If you are making garlic bread, leave a couple of slices unbuttered for dipping in olive oil and herbs.
Your dinner is a huge success! Conversation is lively and everyone is relaxed. Your son’s girlfriend is pleased you had something she could eat. (It is a toss-up when a vegetarian is invited to dinner and there is nothing he can eat as to who is the more embarrassed: the vegetarian or the hostess.) Your son is completely oblivious to your brief moment of panic and is thrilled that his girlfriend had such a nice time. You are delighted everything was so easy—and that the girlfriend is a jewel. All in all, it is a warm welcome home.
Until next time,
Lisa (aka Veggie Gal)
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