No matter your taste in steaks, chops or burgers, if a single person at a party you’re hosting claims to be vegetarian, he or she must be provided a separate menu. Just don’t expect reciprocity.
Have you ever agonized over how to accommodate the dietary delicacies of vegan friends or acquaintances when you’re throwing a fancy party at your pad?
But on the flip side of that coin, I’ll have to give credit to a vegan blogger who actually expressed some angst that he “couldn’t make something special” for his meat-eating guests. "I don’t eat or buy meat or dairy, even though [my friends] may have done so for me. In some way, this seems unfair.”
Exactly. We’re supposed to go out of our way to provide vegetarian alternatives no matter what the occasion, whether it’s a formal dinner party or a backyard barbecue. However, God forbid that a born-again veggie even tolerate the presence of animal foods on his property, much less actually touch it (even wearing those giant BBQ grill master mitts) or — horrors! — serve it to someone who’s supposed to be a friend or relative.
It’s beyond unfair. It’s absurd.
But not to worry. Our concerned and helpful veggie blogger has the solution for those pure, noble vegans who must summon the fortitude to survive a meal occasion with flesh-eating carnivores — a five-point plan, if you will:
- Don’t try to fool them. Veggies “shouldn’t try to feed meat-eaters mock meats or nut cheeses,” our friend suggests. “At least, they shouldn’t present them as such.” Amen to that! Instead, he recommends firing up some veggie burgers, because “they’re delicious, regardless of one’s stance on meat.” Uh, huh. Just make sure to have lots and lots of ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, pickles, salt, etc., on hand to add some flavor.
- Fill them up. When “an everyday meat-eater is coming over for dinner” (as opposed to people who what, eat meat once a month?), “it is not the time to show off that frou-frou quinoa salad recipe you learned last month.” Let me clarify that: It’s never a good time to roll out a quinoa salad as the main course. I don’t even know what “frou-frou” means, but I know I don’t plan to eat it anytime soon.
- Sauce it up. According to our veggie gourmet, “What people crave or identify with is saucy.” He suggests barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, mushroom gravy or Buffalo sauce. (Hey, wait. You can’t in good conscience serve something with the world “buffalo” on the label. That’s exploitation of sentient beings!). That faux pas aside, he suggests that veggies should remember that “sauces make meals richer” — thanks for the tip, Wolfgang — “and they are a more familiar taste than the animal flesh beneath it.”
- Serve side dishes. As our veggie gourmet helpfully explains it, a typical meal has “a slab of meat and decorative, edible other things around it.” Yeah, that’s how most restaurateurs like to present their entrées: A slab of flesh surrounded by “decorative things.” Talk about appetizing. Truth is, many vegetarian meals I’ve watched people eating tend to be a blob of soy protein, surrounded by a bunch of greens or tropical fruits - wholly inappropriate to the “eat local, eat responsibly” meme veggies wear on their shirtsleeves.
- Make a dessert. Ah, yes. Dessert. According to the urban legend veggies keep telling themselves, “Vegan cakes are moister. The chocolate is richer. [The desserts] all somehow seem to work with a different, cleaner harmony than the egg-and-milk dishes of old.” And if there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s a dessert that doesn’t have harmony!
Look, it’s helpful, I guess, for a vegan to attempt to address the imbalance between vegetarians refusing to accommodate “others,” and meat-eaters automatically arranging for some foods not containing animal ingredients to be served to anyone who professes to eschew the consumption of meat or dairy products.
But I would argue that the people who regularly follow veggie blogs and websites aren’t about to move one inch off their holier-than-thou stance on how not just their little community, but all the rest of us need to give up meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish and even ingredients like gelatin.
In my experience, their position is usually pretty straightforward: They’re right, and the other 95 percent of the world is dead wrong. As in, the death of creatures with a face who, if Earth were truly a paradise, would not be eaten by people but by wolves, bears, cougars and eventually vultures.
This would leave humanity free to concentrate on developing even tastier soy-and-salad smorgasbords with which to entertain the less enlightened among us.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.