PUBLISHED IN VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016
A lot of people hear the words 'meat-free Christmas' and instantly go into a panic. Perhaps you have vegetarian (no meat or fish), vegan (no animal products at all including dairy & eggs) or possibly even pescatarean (eat fish, dairy & eggs) relatives or friends headed to your place for dinner on Christmas day? Well keep calm and carry on because I've decided to write a handy guide to having a meat-free festive feast, to show it's really not that hard host a kinder Christmas.
As a vegetarian myself, who eats vegan a lot of the time, I have grown quite used to having a meat-free life. I'm fairly tolerant as far as dining with meat-eaters goes but I wanted to outline a bit of suggested etiquette if you are having people like me over for dinner, to help your festive feast run smoothly!
TIP #1 – Make it a BYO Christmas
I'm used to eating meat-free all the time so if you are having someone over like me, who is vegan or vegetarian it is a good idea to politely ask them what they would like to eat and give them the option of bringing their own food. If they do decide to bring their own, it's not a slight against your hosting skills, it simply makes life easier for both you and for them. If they do bring their own food, pop it in a separate place ready for the meal. Strict vegans are often concerned about cross contamination of things being cooked on the same surface as meat or with the same oil etc. Keeping things separate solves that problem. Re-heat food separately too if you can.
TIP #2 – Fake It Till You Can Make It
There are loads of amazing alternative proteins on the market now. Quorn UK do some fabulous options and their range now also includes vegan products as well, yay! (The rest of their range is vegetarian). Their vegan fillets are really great as to use as the protein element for a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarean meal. Some brands, including Quorn also make mock roasts. Just be careful to check if your guest is able to eat soy as some brands contain it. Quorn is soy-free, however it does contain egg. Vegans will not eat anything containing dairy or egg. Google 'nut roast' or even 'roast celariac' to get some tasty easy ideas if you'd like to make something yourself, or see my Easy Veg Roast Recipe below.
TIP #3 – Oil & Gravy
Don't forget to give the duck fat and other animal oils a miss for the roast veg if possible. If you ask me, extra virgin olive oil is actually much nicer and it is a lot healthier too. Some gravy also contains animal products so please double check the ingredients. If you're making your own gravy from the roast meat juices, pop it on the table in a gravy boat and let everyone add their own. You could give the meat-free guest their own gravy boat with their own preferred gravy. Again, you can ask your meat-free guest if they want to bring their own gravy brand. Most of us already know which brands are we like and are happy to bring it along.
TIP #4 – Knock Knock, Take Care
Please avoid jokes at your veggie guests' expense. Most of us have chosen a meat-free lifestyle because of very significant personal beliefs or religious reasons. It's Christmas after all so please be kind. Don't sit us next to 'Uncle Rodger' who likes to eat straight from the bone and make meat jokes, and please don't plonk the whole turkey carcass down right in front of us and start carving away. Try to understand that it's not personal but as someone who hasn't eaten meat for a number of years now, it can make people like me feel physically sick to be confronted with whole carcasses etc. It just happens now whether I like it or not. I'm not trying to be difficult or a pain, it's just how my body reacts now because my mind/body connection to meat is hardwired after all of these years.
TIP #5 Sweethearts
There are loads of veg friendly sweets out there now. Vegetarians and pescatareans should be able to eat most regular puddings, pies and cakes but vegans won't necessarily be able to eat them if your sweets contain dairy or egg. If your trifle jelly is made with gelatin (made from ground up animal bones) and your custard has dairy they might also not be suitable for vegans. You could make your jelly with agar (from seaweed) and your custard with a dairy-free milk instead. There are also lots of dairy-free ice creams etc available now. Fruit salad and dairy-free ice cream is always nice. Again give your guests the option to bring along something they like.