Etiquette expert says hosts should keep a handy bag of salad in the fridge for vegans

Out with the baubles, in with the Quorn. Veganuary is upon us.

Friend after friend now melodramatically announces that for the first month of the year – and possibly beyond – they are abstaining from consuming anything that comes from animals.

Last year, they had no qualms about getting their chops round another portion of your beef Wellington. They cooed and salivated at the prospect of a creamy helping of gratin dauphinois. 

But now the very thought of taking in meat or, heaven forfend, dairy sends them running for the snowflake-topped mountains of the moral highground.

For those who host, frankly, nothing is a bigger inconvenience than catering for vegans. In fact, I now have a blanket policy that I simply will not.

Are you lactose intolerant? No problem. Coeliac? I really, sincerely, pity those who are. Halal? Totally understand. As veganism is a rather pious choice, to many of us, vegans are just being difficult. Nothing is so common as virtue-signalling.

But vegans do exist. They are a thing – and the rest of us probably have to learn to deal with it. Here is my complete etiquette guide on how cope with them.

As with vegetarians (who now look like easy-going saints in comparison), there are many different types of vegans. Here are the main four.

As we all know, all vegans abstain from eating anything that comes from animals whatsoever – they do it on ethical and environmental grounds. These are termed ‘just vegans’.

But some vegans are ‘plant-based vegans’, where the objective is to eat largely ‘whole’ products with very little coming from packaging where chemicals have been added.

Next we have raw vegans, who eat plant-based foods not cooked any higher than 45 degrees Celsius. 46 degrees would be too much and 47 degrees would send them over the edge.

Finally, there are fregans. These are people who do not buy food but live off what is left and thrown away by individuals and companies such as supermarkets. This what used to be termed ‘vagrant’.

Traditionally, everyone ate everything they were served as it was incredibly bad manners to make a fuss and put one’s own needs ahead of everyone else’s. It was much easier back then, if you had a bit of a medical problem linked to a certain food, you just ate it and then you died.

The onus was very much the guests’ to alert their hosts as to any dietary requirements.

Then in the last ten or so years, hosts have had to start asking guests, upon invitation, if they eat everything.

Today, it is sadly simpler to rephrase the question, ‘what don’t you eat?’. The onus is now on both hosts and guests.

Of course, if guests do not stipulate any issues or things to avoid then they must expect to eat whatever is put in front of them. They cannot announce at the party that they are vegan, or allergic to this or that. But it happens.

A few years ago I placed a salmon en croute in front of guests who four months before ate everything but then suddenly had turned vegan. They assumed that I was abreast, up to date and fascinated by their every dietary whim.

Silly me for not checking they’d changed the emojis on their Twitter bio since the last time I entertained them, signalling their culinary u-turn.

To cope with such a scenario, hosts are advised to keep a handy bag of salad in the fridge to decant onto a plate should vegans suddenly infiltrate your soirée. A simple, labour-free, yet nutritious solution.

If you have changed dietary preferences since you accepted a social invitation, telephone your hosts immediately and inform them. They can then decide how to proceed but do be prepared if they suggest you sit the dinner out and come back another time. 

They may have ordered in the finest neck of lamb especially for the evening and their kitchen and budget may not stretch to catering an alternative menu.

The best type of vegan are those who can adapt to the real world and eat vegetarian when being entertained. 

What they do in their own home is their choice, of course, but allowing their friends a bit of slack when hosting is always appreciated.

New vegans may wish to offer to bring their own food. No good host should allow this, of course, but many would appreciate the endearing gesture.

If you are happy to host and accommodate vegan friends then that’s your choice and good on you.

You may wish to do a flexible main course such as a pasta dish that you can stir through different sauces and toppings but the menu and running order of the event is totally your call.

All good dinners are fuelled by lively and slightly edgy conversation. If you are being so flexible as to cater for vegan guests, the chat may naturally come around to the pros and cons of the vegan lifestyle.

All guests – carnivores or otherwise – must remember that a dinner is not the time to convert anyone. High horses must remain unmounted in order to keep the evening’s conversation light and gay.

Hosts and astute guests should be alert to any possible conflict before it’s too late and pointedly change the conversation before it’s quinoa at dawn 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *