the dinner party dilemma

dinner last night - recipe below

one of the problems that vegans encounter is what to do about dinner invites.
how do you go to a dinner party and not be able to eat anything that is being served?
it's also a problem for the host b/c they want all their guests to be happy and comfortable too.

i'd like to first say that i in no way have the perfect solution to this issue.
all i can offer is what i've done in the past.  hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
please, learn from my mistakes.

a lot depends on what kind of party it is.
is it going to be big with a buffet?  then i know i'm going to be able to find something to eat.
there will most likely be lots of salads and bread to choose from.

if it is a small sit down dinner, then usually the host knows me well and the menu would not be a problem.
i've offered to bring a side dish that will go with whatever she is making and that really takes a lot of pressure off her.

the most important thing is to not make a big deal out of it - b/c it isn't.
it's just one meal and if you are unsure about the menu, eat something beforehand so you don't pass out at the table.:)

the worst thing you can do is start discussing being a vegan at the dinner table.
ugh.  no one cares and you will more than likely make everyone else feel bad about what they are eating and come off as super snobby.
when i first became a vegan it was a big deal to me and i wanted everyone to know...so i told them.  over and over.  i was obnoxious.
how i have any friends left is a mystery to me.
i've learned over the years that hitting people over the head with facts and information in social settings is not a good way to go about things.
you know the old joke...how can you tell if someone is vegan?
wait 10 seconds and they'll tell you.
i'm sorry to say but i was that person.
don't be that person b/c it turns people off in a big way.

graciously check with your hostess to see if there is something you can bring in order to take the pressure off her.
go to the party with something in your tummy - just in case.
be kind and patient.
be funny.
be yourself.
and above all, don't be a jerk.

ooops, almost forgot the recipe up there.

extra thick veggie soup

saute in a small amount of water
some carrots, onion and celery for about 10 minutes
add about 4 cups of broccoli
and 1 cut up potato
cover with vegetable broth (approx 5-6 cups)
add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
simmer til soft and puree in small batches.
i like to garnish it with sunflower seeds.

i served it with a tortilla that was stuffed with raw spinach and a small amount of daiya mozzarella cheese.
i just brown them on a griddle until the cheese has melted.



  1. Being new to this vegan thing, I sure appreciate the advice, Janet. Offering to bring something to take pressure off the hostess is brilliant.


  2. great advice janet - i always offer to bring something like some hummos & pita bread for an hors d' oeuvre ..

    i also say that i can bring a salad and a no-oil dressing and a cut up fruit medley with a soy yogurt topping...
    [ in case anyone wants that for dessert ]
    the hostess is usually always very GLAD to accept my offer - and i know that i would be glad too - to know in advance
    because as you say--everyone wants their guests to be comfortable and enjoy the party.
    the hardest functions are the small sit down dinners. now, i am actually very uncomfortable watching
    people eat meat and dairy. the last dinner we went to the entree was a chicken breast with
    some sort of melted cheese on top! e-gads-! knowing what i now know about health and animal products,
    i cringe seeing people i care about put that into their bodies.

  3. The Vegan Society's Guide to Vegan Living has practical tips for vegan guest

    Some practical tips for the first time you visit friends or family for a meal since going vegan:

    Tell the host in advance that you’re vegan, specify what that means (unless you’re sure they know already), and ask if they’re ok to cook for you. Keep calm and don’t make it sound like a big deal.

    Offer to bring a dish to share if they’re not keen on cooking.

    See the whole shebang from The Vegan Society's Guide to Vegan Living:

  4. Good points, Janet. Fortunately we live in (probably) the most vegan friendly city in America. Portland, Oregon. Not only are our folks very aware of veganism and we have lots of vegan restuarants, most of them are already vegetarians or very selective eaters. Alot of "clean" eaters live here. So parties and dinners are not so stressfull. I've eaten at non-vegan's homes without drama (I just discuss it with the host before hand and usually bring a vegan dish to share) and I've giving very large dinners in which I've made all vegan food for non-vegans. Last weekend we attended a large "pizza making party". Many of the pizzas were vegan and everyone devoured them and I was telling everyone about Field Roast faux salami and Daiya cheese! The abundance of fantastic vegan recipes is staggering and I've proven to non-vegans that eating vegan is delicious. In fact, I can't go to a party WITHOUT people asking me about veganism and what I cook because they've heard my meals are so good. I really enjoy discussing recipes and where to buy food and farmer's markets and the whole aspect. But I'm a foodie, living in a very foodie city. This week so far dinners have included Thai Coconut Carrot Soup with Lemongrass (carrots I grew), Moroccan Butternut Squash & Chickpea Tagine and Chinese Peanut Sesame Noodles. Tonight I think I'll do Mushroom Bourguignon. I've been a vegan long enough that I know that the way to show my conviction is to live it rather than trying to force the issue on others. Those who want to know will come at their own time.

    1. your meals sound delicious!

    2. i agree. the dishes sound so good and i totally agree with the idea of not pushing the issue onto others. it backfires, you know?

  5. Replies
    1. Hi! Here's some links to the recipes: Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker are a couple of favorite sites for recipes, but there are zillions of fabulous recipes online. Enjoy!





    2. Sorry, forgot to point out the obvious. There are non vegan ingredients in these recipes. When I use a recipe with non vegan ingredients, I simply switch them out with vegan ingredients....like Earth Balance for the butter, veggie broth for the beef/chicken broth, applesauce for eggs, etc. Most recipes can be successfully altered to be vegan. Have fun cooking!!!

    3. thanks. i have made the mushroom bourguignon and i can attest to its deliciousness.
      will be making that soon!

  6. I have been vegetarian since 1990. I have made eating side dishes an art. Another tip: Have a light snack before you go to any event where you are not sure of what will be served.

  7. I want some recipes from straycat too! Like Wiley37, I have made eating sides dishes into an art.

    Thanks KO for posting on the other section about “The Evolution of Man” series & "Discerning Brute" Joshua Katcher. I enjoyed how he addressed the meat and manhood idea.
    I too really loved the vegan martial arts fighter James “Lightning" Wilks, an advocate of high-performance athletic veganism. So many people believe we need meat to be "strong"-!

    I had one friend tell me she loses too much weight and "feels weak" if she doesn't eat enough meat! NOT TRUE.
    FOOD does not build your muscles-exercise does-!
    IF you are losing muscle mass and feeling weak, it is NOT due to lack of meat consumption - you are not eating enough calories or you are eating only fruit and water
    or you are missing meals or you not getting enough weight bearing exercise.
    If you cut back on VIGOROUS exercise and if you eat plenty of bread, nuts, avocados, & pasta you will not lose weight.
    Eating meat has got nothing to do with building muscle mass. Food does not build muscle mass-exercise does. There are all kinds of vegan bodybuilders and
    vegan fighters and athletes who have great muscles and they eat NO MEAT AT ALL.

    We do not need meat. Plant based foods have plenty of protein. It is totally unnecessary, and in fact detrimental to your health, to filter your nutrients through an animal.

    Beans, Lentils, Nuts and Seeds are all particularly high in protein. There are plenty are top level athletes who eat a plant based diet and thrive on it.

    Humans are biologically more like herbivores than carnivores.....
    that was from:


    I'm going to post KO's links again here:

    Here's the link to the "Lightening" video interview:

    1. You're preaching to the choir, baby, but it seems like you're ranting. People don't learn when you scream at them.

    2. sorry you felt i was "screaming"..that was not my intention...it's my opinion that not all readers of this blog are fully aware of the many health risks they subject themselves to by eating animal products...i just read a couple posts of people writing about how they can't give up dairy and they eat eggs. there are so many questions about consuming animal products--not so many about consuming plants.

  8. This is very true.
    And it applies to all sort of "diets": lactose-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, sugar-free ....

    I can tell you were really excited back then, 5 years ago, and probably full of energy, after quitting those unhealthy habits!
    Lucky you, you achieved a lot!

  9. Hi Janet- I always offer to bring a big veggie dish and/or salad for everyone. They are usually very glad I offer. The one issue I feel is sticky is I am always asked why I am not eating meat or dairy being passed around and then when I say I am vegan THEN it becomes the topic of the table. I am very passionate about animal rights but also never want to offend my gracious hoats and tjeor guests. The best I can come up with is to say that I am an " ethical vegan". Sometimes I will say that I practice ahimsa ( I am a yoga teacher) the practice of non-violence and non-harming. Any better ideas for me? Thank you?

    1. If asked questions about veganism over dinner with non-vegans, I say I'd love to chat with you about it after dinner. The questioner will usually forget about it but, if not, and you don't feel the time and place are right for such a discussion, ask for his or her e-mail address to send information. That's assuming the questioner is showing a polite or genuine interest and not just trying to create an ugly situation. Whatever the case, I recommend never allowing someone to lure you into discussing upsetting topics at the dinner table. Easier said than done sometimes, I realize!

      The Vegan Society's Vegan Living Guide has lots of tips:

    2. I like KO's answer. Someone else's dinner party just isn't the place...

    3. Thank you both, ko and hoh! I think that is a perfect response!

  10. Thank you Janet for doing this series. It's much appreciated. Sheree

  11. Great advice and I'm loving all the tips by your fabulous readers, too. That soup looks delicious,. x

  12. This was a great post regarding a subject not often discussed. Our daughter became vegetarian in 3rd grade (she is now 28). Long story - but she didn't like the thought of eating animals at all. Since we live in a different state than all of our/her relatives, when we would visit them, they never remembered that she was vegetarian. But it was a great life lesson for her to learn how to eat what was acceptable to her without bringing attention to herself.

    I have a question. I have been quite intrigued by your veganism, and how you say you have never felt better. You mentioned in yesterday's post that you do not eat eggs, correct? Although I notice items in your menu that are made with eggs - pasta and bread for example. I suppose this would be similar to how our daughter will eat eggs, as the animal did not suffer in any way. I suppose there are variations to being vegan - what is the view on eating fish?. I am curious how this all relates to feeling better. I admit, I am quite tempted to simplify our diet - even though we do prepare about 70% of our meals vegetarian. Thank you so much. I suppose I will learn more as you go along.

    1. hi suzy. i do not eat eggs. i use pasta that is not made with eggs and i make most of my own bread and it does not contain eggs either. about 2 yrs ago i had a friend that had 3 rescue chickens and she gave me eggs a couple of times but those were the only eggs i've eaten. and i no longer will eat backyard chicken eggs b/c they are all part of the chicken factory system. and i do not eat fish either. i think the main reason people feel better on a vegan diet is b/c the body is not wasting energy processing hard to digest foods. you feel lighter and have more energy. in addition to that you just feel better about yourself and all living beings when you are vegan. it's hard to explain that part of it but it is true for me at least.

    2. Hi Susie,

      Hooray for your daughter for going vegetarian on her own at such a young age. I wish I'd had the wherewithal to do that. And hooray for you for allowing your daughter to follow her conscience.

      Pasta and bread don't necessarily contain eggs. Many well known pasta brands and breads - available in most grocery stores - contain no eggs. Check the labels to see what to buy.

      Vegans don't eat fish. Fish — as with all other animals — feel pain.

      Fisheries are in serious decline. As far as fish farms go, it takes 5 pounds of wild caught fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish.

      Fish aren't a healthy food. There's some good information about the health hazards associated with eating fish at Eco-Eating

      The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also has much information on fish and health problems.

      Egg laying hens are some of the most abused creatures in animal agriculture. They're lives are miserable, their male chicks - considered of no use - are tossed live into grinders. After a life of immense suffering in which hens are forced to produce food that isn't good for us, they're thrown into a transport truck bound for the slaughterhouse.

      Cage Free Eggs: Behind the Myth

      "Humane" animal farming in pictures

      While backyard hens don't suffer in precisely this way, they're part of the factory farming system and their eggs aren't good for human consumption. Shell posted an excellent video the other day showing why. Shell wrote:

      "a half an egg a day or more increases your odds of many cancers...
      chicken and eggs are the top sources of arachidonic acid in the diet, an omega 6 fatty acid involved in our body’s inflammatory response.


      Eggs nearly as bad for your heart as cigarettes
      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08 ... 78400.html"

  13. Hi Janet
    The soup looks delish!
    I had never heard that "old joke" about being a vegan, but it's very funny.
    Personally, I hold vegans in awe because I just can't imagine my life without butter, heavy cream and cheese, but to each his own.
    I often eat a little sumpin' sumpin' before dinner parties (a la the scene with Mammy and Scarlett O'Hara) just so I don't embarrass myself with my huge appetite and laboriously slow eating habits. I have, on more than one occasion, caught the eyes of guests or hosts that are very obviously implying "WTF?!! You're STILL eating?!!"
    xox SP

    PS. Miss you in my comments section!! I'm sorry we have not been able to resolve the Wordpress dilemma -and I gather you are not the only one :-(


  14. Eggs contribute to inflammation and are not safe to eat - even if "organic". They are an animal product.

    Dr. Greger over on Nutritionfacts.org has been doing a series of videos tracing the sources of industrial pesticides, chemicals like mercury, flame retardants, organophosphates, etc. in our food supply (and in breast milk!) for the last couple of weeks. In every study FISH comes out as the major source of chemical pollutants in our bodies. Sometimes by a factor of 10 or more over other animal products and 100 or more over vegetable products. The more carnivorous (i.e. higher up in the food chain) the fish - like salmon or mackerel - the higher the contamination. Do yourself a favor and lose the fish. You can get your omega-3 fatty acids from ground flaxseed, hemp and chia seeds, or walnuts.

    aside from the toxins, chemicals, and growth hormones in fish, large ocean going fish accumulate mercury ... and now, CESIUM.

    one large enough particulate with CESIUM can begin mutating bodily cells into cancer. Cesium acts like Potassium in the Periodic Table, and concentrates in the specific organs and bodily parts.

  15. I have several vegan friends. Some are very, very vocal about their vegan status and some stay hush-hush about it. Of course I prefer not to have someone go on and on about the subject of the way they eat, but I think it's okay to discuss when appropriate. I find it interesting sometimes.

    I like the idea of offering to bring a vegan dish to a non-vegan's home. That way you take the pressure of trying to decide what to cook off of the host and you get to have something good to eat too.

  16. Janet,
    This is so thoughtfully written...and funny too! A chapter for your book! Your soup and quesadilla with spinach and daiya mozzarella looks delicious, satisfying and healthy.

  17. When I host a dinner party I ask all my guests if they are vegetarians or have any allergies...So many of my friends do.
    I love that you offer to bring something too, that's a great idea.
    I love your honesty Janet...
    I had a few chuckles reading this post.

  18. I've learned a lot reading your post and the comments. And I think your advice about not imposing your beliefs on others, rather just live your convictions, translates well to many other areas of life. Hope your getting a little of the Cali rain too. Have a great weekend.

  19. I can send you all photos of my children who have never had meat. My 16 year old twins (girl/boy) are 5'11" and 6'2" both are athletes (basketball and football). My baby girl who is 10 is already 5'8". All of them are honor students too.

  20. Dear Janet
    Great post. Love your humour and how considerate you are to your host. Also your recognition that we're all different and with different beliefs. But it seems some vegans are like People who've just "Got Religion" and they Can't Stop Proseletising. I think we all need to respect other people's ideas and choices, as you clearly do.

    We lived in Colombo for two years and our dinner guests came from a wide variety of backgrounds: Hindus who don't eat beef, Muslims who don't eat pig products, Buddhists who vary along the spectrum of what they'll eat and Jains who have very specific food requirements. Luckily we had a brilliant Tamil cook who understood all of this and could cook superb Jain food too (one of my good friends was a Jain and she said our house was the only non-Jain place where she could eat tasty food) - maybe it has elements in common with vegan food but I think it's probably even stricter in some ways.
    No-one bored people about their food requirements because we always had a large buffet with a selection of many different dishes to suit all requirements so people could help themselves. The servants could tell them what was in each dish.
    Now back home we never have such large dinners - or servants. But I always ask people in advance about their food allergies/preferences. So far have never had any vegans to dinner. Don't actually know any so it's interesting to find out more on your blog. Best wishes, Pamela

  21. hi janet,

    i was a vegetarian for years - ovo lacto - so i could survive at most dinners. being vegan is a much larger challenge and i don't know how you manage to eat out - probably california is better than here! i had a close vegan friend and a new colleague who is vegan and it is very hard to eat out for them. i have hosted my vegan friend many times over the years and i learned to pay attention to food preferences and beliefs so now i am almost paralysed when entertaining anyone "new". haha. so i try to make at least one filling warm vegetable dish and another vegan or vegetarian salad if i am having anyone in i'm not sure about. david sometimes brings home some friend from the office and his wife, etc. but lately i am learning to just ask if there are any food allergies or preferences.

    i hear you on the vegetarian conversation around the table. i actually was not a dictator about my preferences, but when it came up at the table (e.g. when dining out with colleagues early in my career, which happened a LOT as we all travelled together for projects in other cities, people would get defensive, etc. even if i only said "i'm a vegetarian and didn't even start preaching". everyone is suddenly defending their choices. ugh. very uncomfortable. at least now we are living in a more conscientious world where people (seem to be) are respecting others and their choices more!

    i am strongly considering becoming vegetarian again, although i am happy we have now switched completely to local, organic and more ethical meat. i am just not sure how to break the news to david, a card-carrying carnivore who does much of the cooking now that i am constantly laid up with migraines.

    so thanks for all your recipes. they give me ideas and alternatives and they are nice and simple!

    xo terri


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