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The Five Holiday Landmines for the Vegetarian

For those of you who loved “The Vegetarian and the Meat-Eater,” the guest blog by Almost Vegetarian, I have a special treat in store today. She has agreed to do another guest blog for us! Today’s post is part one of her “how to survive the holidays as a new vegetarian” guide, and part two will be featured tomorrow. Enjoy!

The Five Holiday Landmines for the Vegetarian, Part One
By Almost Vegetarian

So, you, vegetarian that you are, have been invited to holiday dinner at the home of a beloved but, alas, meat-eating friend. No worries, right? You can just skip the main dish and load up on all those yummy side vegetable dishes and desserts.

Well, that was my plan. At first. Until it dawned on me that, oh heavens!, there is meat gravy all over the mashed potatoes and the beans were sautéed in chicken stock and that pie is just stuffed with gelatin and…

Okay. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. No worries. We can manage this. And to help us do so, I have come up with the five worst food landmines waiting for every vegetarian this holiday season and ways to avoid them.

This isn’t everything that can sabotage you, but this is the worst of it. But if you are still worried, remember, you can never go wrong with a nice refreshing glass of water!

1. Pass the gravy boat.

Odds are, the holiday gravy is made with meat. Giblets, pan drippings, whatever—unless someone says otherwise, I’d just assume there is meat in there. Which means, if it is poured all over those lovely mashed potatoes, you are out of luck.

So what can you do? Well, you have two options.

First, you can ask your host, in advance, that if they are going to serve a meat-based gravy to please serve it on the side. And just a thought: A gravy boat makes such a lovely holiday present (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) to, erm, encourage your host to keep that nasty meat gravy away from those lovely potatoes.

Second, you can offer to bring the gravy. Personally, I go for a nice mushroom gravy. This is so easy—all you have to do is sauté a pound or two of sliced mushrooms with a handful of diced shallots and some fresh thyme for four or five minutes over medium-high heat, stir in a spoonful or two of cornstarch or flour (to thicken your gravy), and then add a good handful of minced dried porcini (for richness) and a cup or two of a good vegetarian red wine and simmer until it thickens. You can make this a day or two in advance.

(Of course, this isn’t an issue if you are invited to a Chanukah meal. There, the potatoes are normally served as latkes. If you’ve never had a latke, then you are in for quite the treat! Latkes are incredibly delicious fried potato pancakes that are never served with gravy. But even at a Chanukah meal, you still have to watch out for the main course, which is likely roast chicken!)

2. Stop the stock!

Those lovely beans your host simmered in turkey stock or tossed with beef stock or sautéed in chicken stock or somehow or other prepared with meat stock are going to be a problem. So ask how they were cooked. And if the beans, or any vegetables, were made with meat stock, then, next year, suggest an alternative, such as vegetable stock, cider, or vegetarian wine.

Of course, if you want to be incredibly elegant, you can always send your host a bottle of vegetarian wine a week or two in advance to help them make dishes you can enjoy too. Personally, I’ve never known anyone who wasn’t delighted, hic, delighted with a good bottle of wine.

To be continued…

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the three remaining tips. In the meantime, check out vegetarian holiday guide for great appetizer, entrée, and dessert recipes!


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  • amanda says:

    i also had canned corned, but unfortunately most people make their stuffing with chicken broth or still the old fashioned way, stuff right into the turkey. so i had canned corn, and mashed potatoes. my host had the nerve to be offended that i wouldn’t eat any of the dishes that had meat in them! i’ve been veg for two years now -_-

  • Jenna says:

    I agree with Jaclyn-if you’re family and friends are involved it should be no problem asking them to leave things on the side or use vegan alternatives to common items such as butter and milk.

    I recently turned vegan and every time I’ve been invited somewhere I be sure to let the person know of my new lifestyle and what they can do to help, i.e. leave the cheese out of the salad. In addition, I offer to bring my own main dish, whether it be a veggie burger for a BBQ, some tofu to cook up for Thanksgiving, etc.

    The hard part though, is with my boyfriend’s family. Every time we have gone to an event recently I end up just eating whatever is “closest” to being vegan because I don’t want to start an argument over my lifestyle-they are all ranchers, etc. Also, I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m inconveniencing them by asking for anything to be made special. There is pressure to be the polite, agreeable, girlfriend that keeps me from asking that something be prepared differently or that we stop at this restaurant instead of that one.

  • Jaclyn says:

    I’m very comfortable with my family, so during the holidays, I always speak to the cook (my aunt) and remind her of all the no-no’s.

    She uses Earth Balance instead of butter (she likes it better anyway), she makes the sweet potato casserole with no marshmallows and the rest of the side dishes are vegan (hold the cheese please, its only extra fat anyway, right).

    No one notices the changes, but the cook. Even then, the changes are not inconvenient. I feel that if you are comfortable with your family, you should be able to request the changes. After all, they want you to participate in the feast.

    I also like to offer my help in the kitchen. This always helps things out. I’ll show up several hours early and help out with the cooking and cleaning.

  • Sanna says:

    I stopped celebrating the holidays alltogether. Christmas and Thanksgiving are supposed to symbolize peace on earth, and love and kindness. But because billions of turkeys, pigs chicken and lambs are slaghtered just for holiday dinners alone, it is the most cruel and bloodiest time of year.

  • rachel says:

    this thanksgiving there were almost no vegetarian dishes… even the pie had lard! i had stuffing and canned corn. and there were 4 vegetarians there!!! i will try to find out the menu more in advance next year, and see what i can bring that everyone can enjoy!