Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to Feed a Vegan

Because everything at the wintergreens market booth is non-animal, shoppers frequently come by and ask what on earth they should do with their friend/sibling/houseguest who is vegetarian and/or vegan and is coming over for the weekend/dinner/a barbeque. It's funny to be treated as the vegan authority.

For starters, when people ask, at a farmer's market, "What do vegans eat?" it is a little boggling. We're at the farmer's market, with piles of beautiful fruit and vegetables all around us. Um, they eat fruit and vegetables. and beans and grains.

Of course, I do have opinions about how to host your vegans well.
  1. Ask your friend/sibling/houseguest what foods they like. Vegan tastes range as widely as carnivore tastes. Some crave processed fake meats, some hate tofu, some live off french fries, some are gourmet raw chefs, some eat quinoa for breakfast.
  2. Don't serve your friend an iceberg lettuce salad. Don't serve them flavorless food at all. Vegans have taste buds!
  3. Another no-no: Don't make something vegan for your guest to eat, and a pork chop for yourself. This isn't the same as, but is about as sensitive as cracking open a beer with your A.A. friend, and making gay jokes to your queer pals, expecting them to laugh. (In this scenario, you're a straight person who is not a recovering alcoholic.*) You can eat a vegan meal, and enjoy it. You probably do it all the time, and don't even notice: pb&j, miso soup, falafel platter. Don't question their choices: Are you sure you don't want just a tiny bit of goat cheese? .
  4. Prepare something you like. Nobody's happy if there's a great big spread and the host is only picking at the food and drink. You can stick with simple preparations (spaghetti & salad) or fancy (watermelon coolers, poblano tamales with mole sauce, and coconut flan).
    • If you like pasta, prepare vegetable marinara instead of meat sauce, and skip parmesan in the pesto (yes, it tastes amazing without).
    • If you're a grilling enthusiast, throw on mushrooms and fresh corn. Veggie burgers are a crowd pleaser, and there a zilliion recipes for them online.
    • Mexican food (or Indian, or Thai, or Chinese) are easy to make vegan. Begin with warm tortillas and salsa and guacamole and a margarita! (Que normal, no?) Unless, of course, your vegan friend is in AA, in which case you should stick with horchata.
    • Make PIZZA with all the great produce at the market. You don't need cheese, you don't even need sauce! Just pile your crust with tomatoes and peppers and onions and basil and garlic and corn and eggplant and drizzle on olive oil and salt and pepper and it's perfect and fresh and delicious.
    • Dessert can be as simple as fresh fruit or sorbet. If you bake, there are fruit tarts and pies.
    • For breakfast, make scrambled tofu the same way you'd make scrambled eggs: dress up mashed tofu with mushrooms, scallions, herbs, or your favorite hot sauce. Or pretend you're British, and have beans on toast with tea.

  5. Don't be offended if your guest doesn't taste the tree nut cheese you got especially for them. Any vegan has likely tasted scores of disgusting soy and rice cheeses, and may not be enthusiastic to try anything called "cheese" ever again.
  6. Instead of pestering your guest, use the internet to answer your every vegan question. Need to know what brands of margarine are vegan? Google search. Need something to replace eggs in baked goods? Look to the pros.
This barely scrapes the surface of what you can feed the vegan or vegans you're hosting, so please put books or the web to good use. Remember to enjoy yourself while you try something new and host people you love.

*Did anyone else notice the guy at the market this past week wearing the "Straight" t-shirt with the grey "rainbow"? What's with that?


  1. Great post, Kara. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Ah, you're pretty creative already, Ms. Avocado frosting!

    We did hit up the famous "farmer's market pizza" guy to make a vegan one....I can't wait to taste it. He's doing pesto, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and MAYBE some of our super hot fermented scotch bonnet peppers. De-lish.