When A Friend Is A Vegetarian

I like meat. I like baby-back ribs with BBQ sauce and crispy-coated rack of lamb and rib-eye steaks, medium rare. I loved my mom’s pot roast and my grandmother’s roast chicken with the meat falling off the bones. Today, a number of people are vegetarian. This dismays my husband and me, only in planning a dinner party. When we think of what to make cook, we usually start with the meat. Then the accompanying side dishes. With vegetarians, it seems like it’s all side dishes.

This isn’t a blog about the nifty meatless dishes you can make when you invite your vegetarian friends or family over for dinner. There are a slew of cook-books for that very thing. (There is even a web-site called Vegetarianfriends.net, publisher of the monthly journal, “Peaceable Kingdom.” It does seem odd that there’s a picture of a playful dog and cat on the home page, since even the most devoted carnivores I know do not eat their pets). This is an attempt to answer the following question: what to do when you’re having people over and some are vegetarian?

Skip the meat and make an entire vegetarian dinner?

No. Or it depends. It’s your house, after all, so I think the hosts should design the menu. We’ve made a vegetarian meal when we’ve had all our vegetarian friends over for dinner at once. But the thing is, just because these people are vegetarian, doesn’t mean they’ll all be friends. If there’s only one couple or your sister’s new boyfriend, I’d say no to having meatlessness define the menu. But a good host is respectful to the needs of her guests. So then what?

Make a special entrée?

Going out of your way to make two main dishes might make a guest uncomfortable, despite your claim that it was “no trouble at all.” But there’s a way to handle this that makes it seem like choice is a good choice for everyone. Two similar main dishes, one with and one without. Meat or veggie-chili? Sausage on your pizza or mushroom and peppers?

A buffet with lots of sides

This is the best and easiest way to entertain those with any more specialized diets. Even if there is a turkey or a baked ham as the centerpiece of the buffet table, there should be enough side dishes to add up to an enjoyable repast. It’s not the host’s responsibility to make sure that there’s a healthful balance of protein and iron for vegetarian guests.

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