It is only a few days after Christmas, yet I am already reflecting on the day that was. This was the first year when I arranged all the food for me and my partner to eat on the day.
What I have discovered after years of being vegan, and visiting other people’s houses, is that you can never be too prepared. Yes, contacting the host and asking what you can do to help with preparations is a given. And as much as hosts try their best, there will always be a gap in knowledge, or a gap in ingredients or courses. Either way, a community can make or break a special day with family and friends. The trick is to be prepared for whatever situation comes your way.
Make simple foods that people want to eat
You may love loads of unique flavours, textures and dishes, but much of your family may not. So, it is best to stick to veganised traditional favourites. A simple garden salad made from classic ingredients like iceberg lettuce, carrot, and cucumber. Top it all with diced avocado and put the dressing in a vessel on the side so guests can help themselves. Make enough for all, and if it all doesn’t get eaten then take the leftovers home. This will save on food waste and you reap the benefits with leftovers afterwards!
Bring or make items that appeal to the time of the year
I discovered a recipe for vegan caramel-coated popcorn, and I thought this would be a winner. It was! All the tastes of lightly salted popcorn and thick gooey caramel appealed to guests on the day. My parents loved it because I used their homemade golden syrup as the base to the caramel sauce. Basically, the trick is to appeal to tastebuds with a seasonal craving. People will know you will be bringing vegan food, but if you make it appealing – and simple – you will be a hero of the lunch prep.
Ask questions. Always.
Someone might think they know what’s vegan, but they may not be privy to those secret ingredients in items like sauces and bread. Be brave and always ask questions. If you do not know, then chances are you might eat something non-vegan. Ask to see original packaging, check for sneaky ingredients and always do so with a smile. You never know, there might be a few things you can eat! If anything, you are educating someone about what to look for. Then, their knowledge is better for it next time.
Leave the kitchen when you need to
Inevitably, you will be eating a meal at an event where you might be the only vegan. This means that the kitchen will be a hive of sights and smells of non-vegan food. If it all becomes too much, you can politely leave the kitchen for a little while. Slip away quietly and get yourself some fresh air. I give you permission if you need breathing space.
Have a back-up plan
Sometimes, your community just cannot be bothered with catering for your vegan needs at a busy time like Christmas. They might find it too hard, too time-consuming, or they just don’t know how to cater for you. If all else fails, pack essentials like a dessert or a starter so you do not go hungry before and after the main meal. I like to take a few things to share. You never know when other guests might want something a little different.