Welcoming a vegetarian to your Thanksgiving table
Being a vegetarian around the holidays can be tricky. The centerpiece is a roasted bird and there may be bacon bits in the salad. If you’ve invited a vegetarian to your holiday meal and are feeling intimidated by their dietary needs Dr. Christopher Thorp, a hospitalist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill., offers these seven tips for those hosting vegetarians this Thanksgiving:
- Find out what their dietary restrictions are. Sidestep any mistakes or awkward misunderstandings by simply asking what are their dietary limitations. By definition, vegetarian means a person who doesn’t eat animals, including poultry, beef, pork and fish. Some, however, may bend the definition with personal exceptions, like occasionally eating fish or not eating eggs. Just ask, and while you’re at it you can also ask for a favorite recipe or two.
- Invite them to bring a dish. Many vegetarians have learned to travel with food this time of year in order to avoid surprises (and hunger). They may be glad to bring a favorite side dish to share. Don’t ask or expect them to bring their entire meal, however, as it will likely make them feel unwelcome and out of place.
- Serve simple appetizers. Welcoming a vegetarian doesn’t have to mean making a table full of specialty foods. Set out some hummus and crackers, sliced veggies and dip, or cheese and fruit. All are simple, tasty and animal-free.
- Include a vegetarian main dish. Nothing says “vegetarian” more than being cursed to a life of side dishes. Keep it simple with a tasty baked squash, perhaps, and watch your carnivorous friends enjoy it, too. Avoid the vegetarian turducken, unless you have a lot of time to spare.
- Think outside the box. Literally. Tofurky may seem like a good substitute for the real thing, but vegetarianism offers so much more than mediocre imitations of meat. Spend a couple minutes skimming through the vegetarian sections of your favorite recipe websites and you’ll find a host of delicious options.
- Read labels carefully. If you’re using any packaged products in preparing your feast, take a look through their lists of ingredients. You may be surprised to find animal-based ingredients where you least expect them. The ingredient many meat eaters overlook as they try to make vegetarian food, especially dessert, is gelatin.
- Make simple substitutions where possible. If a recipe calls for chicken broth, swap it for veggie broth. Some might argue the dish will be less tasty, but it’s likely your guests will never know the difference.
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