Some know this situation all too well: You were invited to someone’s home for a meal, but after sitting down you look at the collection of food and realize you can only eat one or two things. This is unfortunate and somewhat annoying, but I’m here to tell you—even with unintentionally unsupportive family and friends—you can maintain your vegetarian or vegan diet with ease.
If you think you’re going to be in a home that doesn’t have much experience with explicitly vegetarian or vegan foods, you should talk to the host beforehand. Ask what they plan on serving. A lot of meat-eaters don’t realize how many meat byproducts are in their food; ask them if they’ll be using meat-based broth or stock to cook with, if they’re making gravy, what sauces they’ll be using, what kind of desserts they’ll have, etc. Plan ahead and ask if you can bring a vegan-friendly dish to the meal (that also complements their planned meal) or offer to go early so you all can cook together. That way you can teach them firsthand about cooking vegan/vegetarian friendly. If you usually steer clear of animal products that are hazy about the ethicality of the process (e.g., eggs and milk), keep in mind some meat-eaters don’t give it a second thought, so you should bring yourself an alternative option for dishes containing those ingredients.
Note to carnivores: We all know the joke about non-meat-eaters obnoxiously telling people that they’re vegan and vegetarian. (“How do you know if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll fucking tell you.”) But have you considered it’s because we don’t want to be rude? People don’t take it well when you don’t try their food, especially if it’s homemade. No one likes to refuse food and no one likes to feel oddly guilty about a guest not being able to eat their food. I tell people that I’m pescatarian (that means I eat seafood sometimes but no other meats) when we’re about to eat (if they aren’t a vegetarian or vegan) so I don’t seem impolite when I end up having to refuse some of their food. To avoid this awkwardness, be sure to ask your friends and family what they want to eat. It’s a good way to also avoid potential allergic reactions.
And don’t forget about beverages. To make interactions with family easier, we all need a little something extra. There are a surprising number of beverages that contain animal morsels. Red ale (and other kinds, but mostly red ale) uses bits of fish bladder to make the liquid clearer. Some wines add colorants to make it look prettier. Lord knows we all need a drink at the end of the day that’s attractive and full of fish essence, that’s the good stuff there. There are plenty of online resources to use to find out if what you’re drinking (or want to drink) is vegan-friendly. My favorite website is Barnivore. It’s a super handy site that you can search, browse or even use to email companies to ask if their products are vegan friendly.
Food is the ultimate social lubricant. Don’t let the fear of not having enough to eat (or food to offer) halt your social interactions anymore.