Even after four years of being 100% vegans, my family still has issues with understanding what we do and do not eat. As vegans, it’s hard to understand the complexity of understanding it but it’s okay. I’d like to share with all of you how to handle this holiday like a professional hostess when catering to vegan guests.
Genki Husband and I are getting used to always bringing our own food to parties, especially family ones. I assume it’s the same for all vegans. It’s the norm for us to bring along an entire basket of vegan goodies not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones to test out and learn it’s not really a harsh lifestyle change. To share ones’ food is sharing ones’ personal culture and feelings. Most people actually do not even register the difference between my vegan baked goodies and non-vegan ones – most actually prefer mine over the others but maybe I’m surrounded by kind people, who knows… Since this is the season for caring and giving I wish for all of you to share the kindness and lightened the load on vegan guests this year by attempting to cater to anyone coming to your event. Holidays can be stressful as it is, so I’m sure all your vegan guests would appreciate the special attention. Plus, as a true hostess, one should always treat each guest like royalty – no matter what his/her dietary needs.
1. Firstly: Let’s start off with the basics- food labels. Vegans have a hard enough time learning what is vegan and not in the grocery store but parties can be even worse. It’s very generous to have all plates labeled right off hand or have a menu setting somewhere stating what is vegan or not. Most restaurants will either state in full text “vegan” or just place a parenthesis v (v) to annotate which item is edible.
2. Simple does it too: Fresh Vegetables are always appreciated. Fresh vegetables at a table setting are always visibly distinguishable. I tend to lean towards these first, as long as it is not shiny alerting it has butter added. Please, please do not use butter (not even vegan butter) on your vegetables; it’s always frustrating to have catered events that smother overcooked produce with butter just so it appears fresher (vegans can tell the difference). Fresh is best!
3. Festive Decoration that are also Edible: Fresh/Dried Fruits can be enjoyed by most guests. In earlier times, fruit was a very common gift to give in many different countries. Still today in Japan, winter holidays are celebrated with fresh oranges sitting on-top a small lying sitting table, a Kotatsu. In South Korea, it is popular for the hostess to prepare freshly peeled fruit slices to guests throughout ones’ visit. In my German household, we tend to have large baskets full of fresh apples and oranges. Guests enjoy having something fresh to counter all the sweets. If you are unsure of how much fresh fruit your guests will eat and you yourself do not eat it, go for dried. This way your guests can have it while visiting and then gently place it all in a nice holiday container and send it home as a gift to your guest. Or you can hoard it yourself and make delicious dried fruit-filled oatmeal breakfasts for the weeks to come when you don’t feel like cooking after the holidays.
4. Less Stress by Adding No Salad Dressings: There’s nothing more sad to a vegan than a salad sitting on the dinner table and not being able to eat it since it’s drenched in a non-vegan salad dressing. Many catering companies save money and time by doing this and it’s complete torture! Okay so maybe that’s a little over-exagerated but it’s still a bit frustrating to not even be able to eat salad. So my tip is to simply leave it out. Most salads can be dressed with avocado creamed and massaged onto the leaves. Or you if dressing is necessary, have the dressings on the side in smaller containers for guests that want to use it. It’s great for portion control for others watching his/her intake. My mother always insists her salads much have the dressing shaken together, so it’s not vegan. I simply make my own salad and have dressing on the side if anyone wants it. So, there are usually a few different salads on the table – but who can have too much?
5. Lay Off the Butter: Again, this is a pet-peeve of mine since many catering companies believe the more the better when it comes to butter. This is not the case. Not only is butter known as a villian to a healthy heart, it is not vegan friendly. Instead of preparing vegetables and bread with butter, place some decoratively on the table. This helps not only reduce your grocery bill but will let your guests leave healthier from your party.
6. Reserve at 1 Dish for Vegans: It’s not hard to find recipes appropriate for the holiday season. Everywhere one looks new vegan recipes are coming up on the internet or in written form. This is a great site for recipes (insert my website link here). There is nothing more heart-warming to me than to have at least one dish that is made just for vegans in mind (besides a salad!). It shows you appreciate your guest and want him/her to feel welcomed. There is nothing more discouraging than going to someone’s house and having nothing available.
7. Forget the Honey: Honey is one of the few things vegans have a shaky ground with since it does technically come from bees. In our case we are not as specific as long as the beekeeper does not kill the bees to retrieve the honey nor at the end of the season. There are beekeepers that love his/her bees and go to many lengths just to make sure their precious animals are far from danger. We have a local supplier in our city that is this way and we do in fact use the honey he sells. This is very hard to find though, hence, it is better to stay away from honey when cooking/baking for vegans. It is an item that is often forgotten so I thought I should remind all of you. There are many substitutes though, so it’s not really an issue.
So these are 7 tips to help your vegan feel at home during the holiday season at your house or event. It warms the heart knowing you are reading this thinking of the vegan in your life and caring to learn more. I’m sure these small tips are easy enough to accomplish and your event/party will be a hit this holiday season.