Becoming a vegetarian is a major lifestyle change. Ceasing to eat meat is as difficult for some people as is stopping smoking or drinking alcohol. And, becoming a vegetarian oftentimes does not only affect you, it also affects your friends and family, especially during social and family gatherings where food is served.
It does get easier, as you get more experienced at eating alternatives and countering individuals who disagree with you, but it can be difficult in the beginning phases of your ‘meat to non-meat conversion’. The most difficult situations that you find yourself in regularly are, dining out with friends, and going to parties and being a dinner guest. Being a dinner guest is typically the hardest, especially if your host is not a vegetarian. However, the following provides some basic guidelines, to help make both you and your dinner host more comfortable, so that the emphasis is on enjoying the overall meal and guests, vs. the challenge in providing you with a non-meat menu option.
If you consume eggs, cheese, fish and milk, then you will not be so much of a challenge to your host. But, if you follow a more rigid vegetarian guideline and do not eat these food items, then you will have to be more accommodating on your end, to ensure that you are minding proper etiquette and being a good vegetarian dinner guest. This starts first and foremost, with making sure your dinner host is made aware of the fact that you are a vegetarian (and what sort of vegetarian) as early as possible. You should discuss what you can and cannot eat with your host, as soon as you can after you receive your invite for dinner (or party, etc.).
You can also offer to help your host plan the meals, or at least make a list of vegetarian-friendly meal options. Even in a pinch, vegetarian sandwiches are always an easy option that even meat-eaters will enjoy. You can even take it one step further, and offer to cook a vegetarian dish for everyone. Your host would certainly appreciate your efforts, and this would offer a great opportunity to show people how enjoyable vegetarian food can be. And, don’t forget to include any specific beverages and vegetarian-friendly condiments. Don’t expect your host to readily have these on hand, so do remember to BYOB (bring your own bottle).
You should not feel guilty about being a vegetarian. After all, if you had a food allergy you would not feel ashamed, and you would mention it to your host without reluctance. But remember, the key to being a good vegetarian dinner guest, is to not make it a big issue and be just as accommodating to the host, as you would like for them to be to you in return.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews