Last night, I had a nightmare. But there were no ghosts, skeletons, or evil clowns involved. No, this wasn’t just any bad dream. It was a VEGAN NIGHTMARE ™.
In my dream, I was at a party with my high school friends. That would have been weird enough on its own, but for some reason, this party included a massive dessert table with cakes, puddings, and biscuits galore. I think watching The Great British Bake Off has affected me more than I ever imagined it would. Anyway, back to the story. It was very clear in my dream that none of these mouth-watering treats were vegan-friendly. Yet, people kept trying to offer me things. IT WAS TORTURE. Do you know how badly I wanted to eat that chocolate-vanilla-swirl cookie dip? I don’t even know if that’s a real thing, but all I know is that I wanted it. So I stood sadly with my plate, watching everyone else binge on cake while I cried sad vegan dream-tears.
I’m not kidding. These are the things my subconscious mind chooses to dwell on. Cake and sadness.
But the fact is, this nightmare can be a reality for vegetarians and vegans who find themselves at a social gathering involving food. It can really suck when everyone is happily chowing down, while you politely decline someone’s Mom’s famous beef-and-cheese-explosion-casserole for the third time (that’s definitely not a real thing).
So what can you do? Fear not, dear reader. There is hope for you. In just three easy steps, you can avert this potential awkward vegan moment!
The most important thing that you can do is speak up about your dietary needs. I know it’s easier said than done. I’m sure you’re familiar with the ‘brilliant’ joke: “How can you tell if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, THEY’LL TELL YOU!” Get it, it’s hilarious because vegans are annoying and won’t shut up about it! Take that herbivores, you’ve just been SERVED. But, I am choosing to re-interpret the joke as such: “How can you tell if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you so that you can adequately prepare to host them and nobody will feel awkward and guilty when you make a whole bunch of food they can’t eat! Seriously. Nobody should feel bad for saying “Hey, just to let you know that I am vegan, which means I don’t eat anything with dairy, eggs or meat. I’m not sure what you were planning on making, but if it’s not something I can eat, would you mind if I brought something over?” Best case scenario, the host will say something like “Don’t worry! I’ll make sure that there’s something that you can eat! I was planning to make burgers but I can get some veggie burgers as well!”. It’s seriously that easy, and though it may be awkward, it’s more courteous than just showing up, hoping for the best, and making your host feel bad because you can’t eat anything they made..
Bring Something Anyway
Maybe your host doesn’t know how to make anything vegan, or doesn’t want to cook separate dishes. Maybe they have the best intentions in the world, but don’t quite get it (“crap… I forgot there’s butter on this, that’s not vegan is it?”). Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you just haven’t had the chance to ask about it. It’s always a good idea to bring along a little something so that you don’t end up in a sad and hangry state (hangry: adj., a rage-filled state brought on by hunger). It’s probably polite to bring along something to share with everyone, and this may open some peoples minds to the fact that your food: a) actually tastes good and b) isn’t just sad lettuce. But it’s also totally okay to stash a pack of veggie sausages in your purse/bag/pocket and ask your host if he or she could help you to heat them up. If you can’t manage an entire dish for whatever reason, chuck an emergency stash of Clif or Trek bars in your bag, or at least make sure to snack a bit beforehand.
Don’t Feel Pressured
Food is an emotional thing. It can be difficult to turn down Great Aunt Beatrice’s famous four-cheese lasagne — for one thing, you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Not only that, but you don’t want to seem like you’re acting “superior” by explaining to your poor confused Auntie why you don’t eat cheese. And perhaps the hardest thing of all — the lasagne looks damn good. If you’re a new vegan or vegetarian, you may be in the weird situation of turning down something that you have eaten every Christmas for years. You know Bea kills the lasagne game. How bad could it be to just suck it up and have a small piece ? Well, that’s up to you. The vegan police aren’t going to come kick down your door if you eat some. But if you know it’s going to make you feel gross or it just doesn’t fit with your morals, don’t feel bad about politely refusing with a brief explanation (if you feel it’s necessary). You do not need to compromise your morals and comfort in the name of politeness. Bea will get over it, I promise.
Dinner parties do not need to be difficult for those with dietary needs. A little planning and communication is all it takes to make a potentially tricky situation into a non-issue. Awkward vegan moment averted!