The biggest roadblock for me over the past few weeks as a vegan has been community. I feel awkward accepting dinner invitations, hesitant to ask for restrictions on what my friends can cook but also unable to eat what I am served without question. Dining out can be difficult, depending on the menu. Hosting should feel like the easiest option, but I get nervous about my friends reactions to my “weird vegan food.” However, sharing meals with friends is an important part of my life, and I needed to face my fears of communal vegan eating head on this weekend.
I met up with friends for lunch and was terrified of not being able to order anything at the tiny diner we ducked out of the snow into. I scanned the menu, seeing fancy omelettes, pancakes, homemade muffins… and I panicked. But then I saw the life-saving asterisk: for vegans/vegetarians, all eggs can be replaced with tofu or tempeh. At no extra charge, this was a miracle! I got to enjoy tempeh with home fries and veggies, which was a really filling and satisfying lunch! As my friend said, “only in JP,” commenting on the characteristic residents of this notoriously hippie Boston neighborhood. Not all restaurants are so vegan friendly, but I was happy to have a small hurdle to conquer my fear!
My evening was spent catching up with a few friends from school over dinner, so I got to conquer my fear of serving friends “weird vegan food” as well. It was also an easy hurdle, since four of them were independently doing their own vegan challenge, and one was a former vegan. We laughed about experiences with friends, family, and servers; commiserated over the questioning of preparation methods and scanning of ingredients lists; and swapped recipes and new foods to try. It was such a great night, and the food was a hit!
To avoid the, “Um, what did you say that is?” reaction, I wanted to find a recipe recreation that would be familiar to people’s taste buds. I chose Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa, since it harkens Thai pineapple fried rice and can be customized with various toppings. It was a huge hit and definitely a recipe I will make again! On the side, I made Sesame Kale Chips. Kale is a veggie-lovers green, but I have never met someone who could turn down a crispy kale chip. Even my Dad loves kale this way, despite his usual turned up nose when it appears in soups and stews! I omitted the lemon juice, used a little less oil, and added a dash of ginger. I will definitely be playing with different seasonings for my kale chips from now on, since these were so flavorful and not just overly salty! The green stuff went faster than the main dish, which I think speaks volumes!
Vegan desserts on their own can be tricky, but another wrench was thrown in – my friends were also not eating any added sugar! Good thing I had these muffins on hand! A friend and I baked on Friday night, and certainly got our peanut butter and chocolate fix with these. I put out the rest of the muffins for dessert, and my friends were so excited to be able to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of the meal! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, and the natural sweetness comes from the dates. They are even healthy enough to fill the role of an on-the-go breakfast, making these another make again recipe!
What I learned from my Saturday: don’t let fear hold you back! It might take a little more creativity, planning and thought, but you can enjoy communal meals and laughter with friends, no matter what your current food lifestyle choices are!
Question: Have you ever been afraid of friends reactions to food you serve?