“HELP! I’ve been invited to someone’s home for dinner! How do I tell them I’m vegan?” This is one of the biggest conundrums for vegans – eating at other people’s homes. But it doesn’t have to turn into drama. Follow these steps to make sure you are a respectful guest … and get a great meal!
1. Tell or remind the host/ess that you are vegan. You may think the person knows or that they remember you are vegan, but you really don’t want to show up and find that they didn’t know or didn’t remember after all, and have them become horribly embarrassed that they don’t have anything appropriate for you, or feel that they have to scramble in the midst of all of their other preparations to make you something vegan. Unless you are 100% sure they know that you are vegan, it’s best to pick up the phone and politely remind them.
2. Offer to bring a dish. When I call the hostess, I always offer to bring a dish. I say something like, “I just wanted to call because I wasn’t sure if you remembered that I eat a vegan diet. I really don’t want to put you to any more work, so would it be helpful if I brought a vegan dish to supplement your meal, and I’ll bring enough for everyone?” I usually throw in something like, “Many people have found this makes life much easier for them!” which lets them assume that most other hostesses accept this offer, and they feel like they can too.
3. Make it easy. If the hostess tells you not to worry about bringing your own dish, then you may want to offer to help. If she sounds a little clueless about how to go about making a vegan meal, “Don’t worry about bringing a dish – I’ll figure it out,” then I either offer again to bring a dish, or ask if it would be helpful if I e-mailed over any recipes. If your hostess is really excited to experiment in the kitchen, then just sit back and enjoy! But …
4. Make sure your hostess understands what a vegan diet is. This is the most important step. If your hostess is definitely going to cook for you, then make sure that she really knows what a vegan diet is. A family member of mine got Italian take-out when I came over, which should have had tons of options, but came back with Eggplant Parmesan, pasta with cream sauce and salad with cheese. She was horrified when my cousin pointed out that none of it would work for me. I could have prevented her that embarrassment if I had been really clear about what I could and could not eat.
It can be tricky to eat at someone’s house as a vegan, but it doesn’t need to be. The important thing is to remember to be proactive about what you can and cannot eat, gracious about whatever works best for them, and thoughtful about how you can help.