Vegetarians are notoriously picky when it comes to their food. This makes sense, of course, given the fact that many vegetarians have allergy issues or their bodies have adjusted to eating certain types of food. To put it simply, one cannot just begin eating bacon after taking years off from eating meat.
This is a recipe for disaster and for food illness. Likewise, many vegetarians have very real moral hang-ups about eating meat. If you want to cook for your vegetarian friend you should make sure you are considerate over their limits. Cooking classes such as Italian Vegetarian Favorites for 2, Vegetarian Paella, and Vegetarian Multi-Course Feast are alternative options to spend a fun evening with your vegetarian friend if you are not in the mood for cooking. Whether you are doing it yourself or you are attending a class, here are some things you should notice and learn:
Always ask about dietary restrictions
Perhaps the most important part of the process is preparation. Unless you know what people can and cannot eat, you’ll stand no chance of creating a meal that works for them. When you issue a dinner invitation, make sure you ask about dietary restrictions. Take note of not only what they can’t eat, but what they might not like to eat. The goal of cooking is to create an experience for people that they will enjoy and remember. This is not possible unless you’re willing to ask questions.
Understand the differences in vegetarian preferences
There are various different categories of people who choose not to eat meat. You need to know all the differences in order to create a meal that can work for them. If you don’t know these differences, you will risk making an awkward error that can leave everyone in a poor position.
Lacto vegetarians are some of the most common. They eat animal dairy products like milk, cheese, ice cream, and the like. They do not eat any meat, however, including fish. These individuals are easier to cook for because of the large number of dishes that require cheese, milk, or some other dairy product.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians are much like lacto vegetarians with the big difference being the addition of eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and poached eggs in addition to dairy animal products. These individuals also avoid cheese that contains rennet. The good news for you if you’re preparing food for these individuals is that they’ll likely be very excited to tell you all about their preference, so you will know exactly what you should not make.
Vegans are more restricted than any other group. Vegans traditionally avoid all animal products, including dairy, eggs, gelatin, and any type of meat. Cooking for these people can be more difficult because of the number of foods that need dairy products. In many instances, vegans are lactose intolerant, so their aversion to milk products is about more than just their moral code. They may actually get sick if you happen to feed them something that doesn’t work for their restriction.
Pescatarians are not technically vegetarians, but they are often grouped in together with these individuals. These are people who eat fish, but not other meat products. These individuals may or may not consume dairy, so you will need to ask in order to investigate their preferences.
Go natural rather than trying to use meat substitutes
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is trying to use a cheap meat substitute. Often, people cooking for vegetarians think they need to provide something similar to meat. They might cook soy burgers, for instance, in hopes of making the vegetarian feel “included.” It may be true that a vegetarian would like to eat this sort of burger. Typically, though, a vegetarian will enjoy natural, plant-based foods. You don’t have to feel bad about preparing a great salad with fruit, for instance. You might also prepare a pasta without worry. Vegetarians are used to eating these foods and they often prefer them instead of the cheap substitutes that might otherwise be made at dinner parties.
Don’t forget about eggplant
If you insist on cooking something with some substance, go for eggplant rather than a cheap soy alternative. Many individuals make eggplant Parmesan in hopes of creating the substantive meal that they feel compelled to serve. Eggplant is a favorite of many vegetarians, and it can be prepared in a wide range of ways. You can fry eggplant, grill it, or even bake it with a light breading. This can be a much better option than trying to cook a soy dish if you haven’t yet gone through a cooking class that helps you understand the best ways to prepare soy.
Cooking for a vegetarian does not have to be hard. You just need to ask questions so you have a good idea of what not to prepare. From there, keep it simple. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to create something outside of your culinary strike zone.