“HELP! The neighbors are coming over for dinner – how can I feed them a great vegan meal that they will love?” The idea of serving a vegan meal to friends or family can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Just follow these simple rules:
1. Know your house rules. Are you okay having meat and/or dairy products in your house? Are you okay cooking them? Do you keep a strict vegetarian or vegan house, and no exceptions are made for guests? Know this ahead of time. If your guests offer to bring a dish, you may need to let them know of your house rules in a very kind and respectful way.
2. Know your best recipes. I have a recipe for vegan paella that’s amazing. I also have a recipe for vegan risotto that is to die for. Same for Veggie Ceviche (find that recipe in my book, Vegan in 30 Days!) Vegan chili is an easy dish that most people won’t even notice doesn’t have meat, especially if you include ground tofu in it. These are the types of recipes that I pull out when I plan to entertain.
When you are having guests over, this is not the time to try brand new recipes, and it’s probably not the time to trot out something like low-salt, low-fat vegan tofu quiche. You might think it’s great, but someone used to eating the standard America diet will probably not like it. As you try new recipes, always put a notation in your cookbook that reminds you of whether it’s good enough for carnivorous guests. I rate all my recipes 1-5 stars. If it’s 5 stars, I know I can serve it to my Dad! Also, try recipe sites (like VegWeb.com) where dozens of people have rated the recipes. If a recipe for Shephard’s Pie has 39 ratings and an average rating of 5 stars, it’s probably a winner!
3. Offer several choices. I have been vegan for so long that I forget how different food can taste when your palate is cleansed of animal foods. Things that you think are delicious really might not taste that great to someone who still eats meat and dairy. So, just in case your signature dish is not as memorable to your guests as you’d hoped, I suggest offering a few dishes. For example, if you’re making vegan chili, also make vegan fajitas.
4. Enjoy! Many people (myself included) get so worried that their guests will like their food, that they don’t really enjoy the meal themselves! But it’s like any food – meat based or not … sometimes your guests will love your food and sometimes maybe not. You must get the idea out of your head that just because it’s vegan they will automatically hate it. If you know your best recipes and offer two or three selections, you’re bound to make everyone happy!
Every couple of years I hold a fundraiser at my house for one of my favorite charities. After I went vegan I had to decide what concessions I was willing to make for my guests. I struggled and struggled that first year I was vegan about whether to suck it up and serve them non-vegan food. I thought about it long and hard and asked friends and family for advice, but when I turned the question into, “How many animals will I let die so my guests can eat?” the answer became so incredibly obvious: absolutely none. So I spent the week before my party planning out my menu and really pulling out all stops to make the food amazing. No kidding – that year I had more comments on how delicious the food was than any other year before!