Handling a Vegetarian on Thanksgiving

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I often hesitate to tell people that I am a vegetarian when I am invited for a meal or even to attend a business event. I dont want to be a bother or to have the host agonize over what they are going to feed me. I seldom offer the information and if asked if I am a vegetarian, I will ask what is being served. It is easy to say Ill just eat the vegetables and the potato and dont serve me the chicken or the steak. Please dont worry about me, I wont starve.

Business meals are a different issue entirely and I rarely indicate that I am a vegetarian. Just recently at a dinner where I had marked that I wanted a vegetarian meal, I got a fruit happy plate of bright yellow peach halves, pineapple and a happy smile made out of cherries. At a luncheon last week that cost me $30 I got a plate of romaine lettuce and two cherry tomatoes, after everyone else had been served. Others at the event were served cooked vegetables, potatoes and a meat entre. I could have been served extra vegetables and a larger serving of potatoes. People sitting next to me often giggle at my meal.

There is a great deal of confusion and a lack of knowledge surrounding what to do with a vegetarian at mealtime. Holidays like Thanksgiving are often stressful for the guest and the host. My advice? Stop worrying!

Advice to the guest:
This Thanksgiving, if you are the guest think about the joy of getting together with friends and relatives. It is presumptuous to expect the host to make two menus. No matter how pathetic the offerings are or how insensitive the host seems to be, focus on all the positives: you are having such a great time and just love rice and peas so give me some more of those or eat three of the yummy rolls or finish up the salad. You are there for the pleasure of the company.

If there really is nothing on the plate you can eat play the game of cover-up. Mess up your plate and cut the food into small pieces and cover with a slice of bread or squish it into a small size. Downplaying conversation about your vegetarian life-style is a good idea. If your host does not know that you are a vegetarian, you need to keep that information to yourself. If your host asks in advance, it is your obligation to tell your host that you are a vegetarian. I always tell my host that a plate of steamed or grilled vegetables is fine. Make the situation comfortable for the host.

Sometimes I eat a snack just before an event to avoid any growling stomach in case there is nothing for me to eat.

For the Host/Hostess:
When you are preparing the Thanksgiving menu do you serve up what you want to eat or do you take dietary restrictions into consideration? Why not make it easy on yourself and find out whether your guests have special dietary needs. When you issue the invites, just ask. If there are too many guests to accommodate or you get too many special requests, take the pressure off by serving an assortment of dishes buffet-style.

At the event:
If you are a guest dont feel that you have to take something you do not want to eat. If you are worried about hidden ingredients-such as chicken stock- ask your host. When you are the host, offer a serving style where guests can take what they want and provide ample amounts of the foods most people are likely to eat, like salads, vegetables and fruits.

For everyone:
Relax, have fun and make everyone comfortable. Happy Holidays.

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