The Do's and Dont's of Having a Vegan or Vegetarian at the Thanksgiving Table
I love Thanksgiving with a hungry, starving, "why don't I have a piece of pumpkin pie in front of me right now?!" passion. Delicious food, time with family and friends, fond memories being made. What is there not to love?! As a vegan, I could see though how this might present some awkwardness when it comes to I being at the Thanksgiving feast. Rest assured, dinner hosts and fellow guests! Inviting a vegan or vegetarian to your table is nothing to stress over. If this is your first time having a veg*n at your table (I’ll use “veg*n” to refer to vegans and vegetarians in this article), take a read over these few “Do’s and Dont’s” and your dinner is sure to be a memorable time for all those invited!
DON'T not invite them because you are worried it might be awkward.
DO know that your friends and family want to be with you on Thanksgiving, regardless of their diets! As a vegan with many non-vegan friends and family, the last thing I want my dietary choices to do is prevent me from participating in rich social interactions with those I love. Yes, I am passionate about my lifestyle, but I am also passionate about letting others see how it doesn’t keep me from living a “normal” life. Worse case scenario, your veg*n guest declines the invitation because of prior plans but they are still left knowing you cared enought to enxtend an invitation.
DON'T feel like you need to make your entire menu veg*n friendly.
DO try to be accommodating to the degree you are able and/or invite your guest to bring things they can eat. If making green beans, use butter that is vegan friendly or hold off on the butter and allow guests to add their own at the table. If making candied yams, ask your veg*n guest if they can bring some veg*n friendly marshmallows that can be used for the dish so everyone can enjoy it. Not sure what you can veg*nize? Tell your guest what will be on the menu and ask if they have any input. Your guest will in no way expect everything to be accommodating to their diet but if something can be easily made veg*n, your effort won’t go unappreciated. If you are uncomfortable making vegan dishes, welcome your guest to bring their own food to share with the fellow guests. For the large family Thanksgiving I will be attending this month (in which I, my husband and my daughter are the only vegans), I am coordinating with my family what dishes my husband and I can bring. For example, we will be bringing a main dish (likely a vegan tempeh meat loaf), two sides and a pie. We will make sure there is enough for al guests and not just our family. We will also be helping to make easily veganizeable things, like the stuffing and yams. There will not be a shortage of food for anyone at the table, that’s for sure!
DON'T put your guest on the spot while at the dinner table and ask them why they are vegan or vegetarian.
DO avoid talking about dietary choices and keep the conversation focused on topics that won’t make anyone uncomfortable. I personally love when people are curious about my reasons for being vegan and I love sharing those reasons. But when at the dinner table or an event where groups of mixed diet folks are sharing food, it is the last thing I want to talk about. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or ruin the mood. If I am asked, I simply reply with “I would love to share my thoughts with you! Can we maybe discuss this later when not at the table?” If this comes up and your guest proceeds to talk about it in a way that is making others uncomfortable, you as a fellow guest or host have the right to steer the conversation in a different direction. “I am grateful that I have friends and family who are so passionate about their choices! I am also grateful for…” Bam. Topic change!
DON'T poke fun of your guest or make them the center of attention because of their choices. An example of what to not say: "Mmmm! This turkey is SO delicious. Here, try some. Oh wait, you can't."
DO treat your guest with the same amount of respect you would any other guest by respecting their life choices, even if they are different then your own. Your guests want to feel welcome at your table. No one wants to feel like their choices are being criticized when they simply want to enjoy quality time with you and the fellow guests.
DON'T sit through the whole dinner thinking about whether your guest is judging what you are eating.
DO rest assured knowing your guest is their because they want to be there with you and to enjoy delicious food. When I am at an event with friends or family, the farthest thing from my mind is what folks are eating. I am just grateful I am there in the company of people I love, sharing in the stories being told and contributing to making new memories.
As a vegan who has attended many non-vegan events, I can safely say that inviting a veg*n to an event where food will be present is not as riddled with anxiety as you might think. Us veg*ns love being around our friends and family so extend that invite and get ready to pass the peas, please!