Dealing with Vegetarians
If you're not a vegetarian, the thought of cooking for or eating with someone who is may
seem rather daunting. In fact, it's really not that difficult, if you follow a few
simple guidelines and use common sense.
First of all, try to think of vegetarianism as a collection of food allergies. That is,
consider each item (beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, etc.) the person doesn't eat as
an allergy to that food. That makes one very basic rule very easy. If
you were allergic to beef or eggs, you certainly wouldn't want to eat something with
beef broth or eggs in it, even if you didn't know they were there. Likewise, a vegetarian does not want to eat meat
products, whether visible or not.
With that basic rule out of the way, here are some important dos and don'ts for dealing
with vegetarians. Some of these guidelines may seem rather silly to you. They seem silly to me,
too, but after 15 years of vegetarianism I have experienced all of them more
|Do ask the vegetarian what s/he can and cannot eat.
||Don't make assumptions based on your
experience with other vegetarians.
|Do know that for most
vegetarians "meat" includes everything in the animal kingdom
(including fish and fowl) and "animal products" include eggs,
all dairy, gelatin, and honey.
||Don't ask "what about chicken?
what about turkey? what about fish? what about shrimp? what about eggs?
what about cheese? what about milk?"
|Do use vegetarian
substitutes in the vegetarian/vegan
dishes you prepare, like vegetable stock, olive oil, and soy milk.
||Don't figure it's
ok for a dish to contain meat products as long as the vegetarian doesn't know about
|Do ask vegetarians if they have any food
allergies or if there are any non-animal foods that they do not eat/enjoy.
||Don't assume that just because someone's a vegetarian
that s/he is not allergic to any vegetables or that s/he loves all vegetables.
|Do, if possible, set
aside a portion of your regular dishes before adding the meat.
||Don't assume the vegetarian will be
ok with picking meat off pizza or out of sauce.
|Do make an effort to serve
vegetarian dishes other than salad and
bread; you can even make two versions of many
||Don't feel you have to
make dozens of vegetarian dishes or do amazing things with tofu.
|Do be open-minded about
trying vegetarian recipes.
||Don't assume that vegetarianism is
|Do read packages to make
sure that a product contains no meat or other unwanted ingredients.
||Don't just look for
meat, dairy, or eggs; there are a number of less obvious animal
|Do use a separate set of cooking
utensils for the vegetarian dishes.
||Don't stir, for example, chicken soup and
minestrone soup with the same spoon.
|Do know that
vegetarians appreciate the extra effort you are making.
||Don't feel you need to make a
meatless version of every single dish.
|Do let your friend know
which dishes are vegetarian.
||Don't announce that there's a
vegetarian in the room.
|Do know that that there
are numerous vegetarian sources of protein and
||Don't assume that
vegetarianism is inherently unhealthy.
|Do accept that
vegetarians have chosen vegetarianism for themselves and no one else.
||Don't feel threatened, or assume that
s/he wants you to feel bad about your diet.
|Do understand that
vegetarians aren't trying to annoy you.
||Don't take offense if s/he refuses
|Do understand that
there are numerous reasons for vegetarianism, but in the end it usually
comes down to a personal choice.
||Don't challenge the
person about why s/he is a vegetarian, or about eggs, leather, and other
|Do know that most
vegetarians believe in the right of each person to choose his/her own
||Don't let a handful of
rude, in-your-face vegetarians make you think we are all like that.
Vegetarianism for Beginners
Dealing with Meat Eaters
Recipes A-Z Vegetarian
Sign up for my free Veggie Table newsletter to find out about new recipes, articles, and cookbook reviews.
Subscribe to the free
Laura K. Lawless
All Rights Reserved.
About The Veggie Table