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What to do with a Vegetarian at Christmas

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A vegetarian Christmas dinner.

Christmas, for most meat eaters, is a day that consists of consuming huge amounts of dead animal, so what do you do if one of your Christmas guests is a vegetarian?

Option 1: Eat them.

In most cultures it acceptable to eat a vegetarian if they are a different species to you. Be sure to kill them first.

Option 2: Feed them.

If the vegetarian is the same species as you1, you are probably going to have to try and find something to feed to them.

The Steps in Feeding Your Vegetarian

Step 1: Are you sure that they're vegetarian?

Vegetarians don't eat meat or fish. However, some people who say that they are vegetarian aren't actually vegetarian at all. Some people say 'I'm vegetarian' when they mean 'I don't like beef or pork, but I'm ok with turkey and chicken'. Now clearly you need to ask, but how? Most true vegetarians get fairly offended if you question whether or not they are lying. Fortunately, there is a tactical way out of this. The answer is eggs. Yes, eggs. Some vegetarians avoid eggs and others do not. All you need to do is ask them if they eat eggs, which gives the chance to open the topic of conversation onto what other things they eat, and gives them the chance to tell you they actually aren't vegetarian at all.

So they don't eat meat or fish, what now?

Ok, so they're a vegetarian according to the conventional definition of the word.

A Vegetarian's View of your Christmas Dinner

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Sprouts
  • Swede mash
  • Selection of other delicious vegetarian dishes
  • Dead Animal
  • Roast potatoes – possibly contaminated by dead animal
  • Roast parsnips – possibly contaminated by dead animal
  • Gravy – possibly contaminated by dead animal

Your average Christmas Dinner consists of a selection of different vegetarian dishes arranged around dead animal. It isn't difficult to adapt this for those following a meat-free diet.

Step 2: Make sure your vegetarian dishes are actually meat-free

Don't use meat fat whilst cooking your vegetables; try olive oil or butter. Choose a stuffing that doesn't have meat in and make stuffing balls. If you are going to use gravy with meat in, make some extra vegetarian gravy, add appropriate gravy granules to hot water and stir a bit. Don't forget the Christmas Pudding; it may have suet in it.

Step 3: Add an extra vegetarian dish with protein

You might want to add an extra dish to your menu so that your vegetarian gets a bit of protein. This isn't compulsory; they will find plenty to eat just from the vegetable dishes, but they may want some protein. The key is not to pick a dish that will only be eaten by one guest, but instead pick a meat-free dish that can be a vegetarian main but that others will enjoy as a side dish. There is not one classic dish, so you can really pick whatever you choose – whatever you think that most of your guests will like. Here are some suggestions, but don't be limited to this, just open any cook book on the 'vegetarian' chapter and cook whatever you fancy.

  1. Roast Butternut Squash

    Use some of the stuffing to pop in a butternut squash, then roast with the rest of the dinner

  2. Broccoli and Stilton Bake

    Steamed broccoli and cheese sauce with stilton instead of cheddar, then baked for about an hour.

  3. Roast Chestnut Pie

    Roast some chestnuts, roast some other vegetables (whatever you have spare). When cooked, put into another dish and cover with ready made pastry. Cook for as long as it says on the packet. Or, cover with mashed potato instead of pastry. Bake for around 45 minutes.

  4. Leek and Butterbean Bake

    Steam leeks, add tinned butterbeans, cover with cheese sauce and bake until the top is browned.

What About a Vegan?

Vegans avoid all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy products. One approach to cooking for a vegan is to make sure that your vegetables are all cooked in oil, and then make an extra vegan dish. Stuffed butternut squash, mushroom or peppers would work well, and many well-known brands of stuffing are vegan.

Some Things to Avoid

Don't buy a prepared frozen meal, especially not a nut roast2. It seems a bit unfair to have home-cooked food for meat eaters and not for vegetarians.

Don't make a huge fuss about how much effort you made – it's embarrassing for everyone, and will make your vegetarian feel terrible.

Don't serve a vegetarian dish from a very different culture. There is nothing wrong with a vegetable curry, but Christmas is a time for traditional roast food, so that's what most of your guests will be wanting.

Don't sit them right next to the turkey, if you can help it. Many vegetarians find the sight of meat physically repulsive and find that it makes them feel nauseous. If at all possible, try and seat your guest as far away from the carving dish as possible.

1Or a different species and you want to be accommodating.2Many vegetarians only eat nut roast when visiting panicky meat eaters.

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