When planning a dinner party, I like to create a menu that I put together from my cookbooks. The most important thing in mind when creating the menu is making sure that everyone can enjoy what I’ve slaved over a hot stove to make; meaning that I have to try and make the best food that would appeal to the most people.
This sounds like a recipe (no pun intended) for blandness, correct? No so, as most people will come to a party with adventurous palates, willing to try new food.
But I find a distressing trend among my omnivore brethren to freeze out vegetarians and vegans. Whenever I go to a wedding or Thanksgiving, vegetarians and vegans are usually left trying to make a meal out of sides and salad. I’ve watched polite vegans pile lettuce, potatoes and green beans, trying to stave off hunger while the other guests get to choose between the chicken and the beef.
Now I’m realistic and know that we can’t cook five or six different meals, but when doing a menu for a group, why not make a vegetarian meal out of it? Especially, if you don’t know a lot of the people attending.
This issue brings back me a Dear Abby letter, in which a meat-eating letter writer complained to Abby that the wedding couple – both of whom were vegetarians – decided to make a vegetarian meal. I believe the guy was so upset he went out before the reception was over and ate a burger at a fast food joint before returning.
This of course, deserves a “say what?”
Aside from the health benefits of foregoing meat just once, we should also look at how people show consideration for others: for those who complain that there’s double standard for meat eaters versus vegetarians: well, yes you’re right, there is a double standard. But so what? Meat eaters can eat vegetables, vegetarians cannot eat meat – it’s that simple.
I’m a meat eater, but whenever I’m cooking for folks I’m not familiar with, I always try to stay away from meat products (along with dairy and peanuts). When we had an office Christmas party, I made sage and onion stuffing, without the beaten egg, and I used veggie broth instead of the traditional chicken broth. When making potato and leek soup for a couple I like, I used water instead of broth. If you want to make something creamy, use flour or bread (unless you’re concerned about gluten allergies, which are becoming a serious concern).
On top of that, I also want to make sure that I’m not stepping on any religious toes too – Jews and Muslims both have pretty strict dietary restrictions, and every good host should respect these rules. Again, erring on the side of caution is best, and when making a vegetarian dish, you’re unlikely to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings.
Having said all this, I’m sure that I’ll get some responses that will point out that I’ll never be able to please everyone. True, but I’m sure that if folks who come to my dinner party see that I’m making some kind of effort in reaching out and ensuring they can have a fulfilling meal, they will also respond in kind and partake of my meal with grace. Otherwise, they’re not coming back to my house.