The Care and Feeding of Visitors With a Vegan Diet

I just survived a three day weekend with my sister-in-law and her son, both living the vegan lifestyle. Faced with feeding a hungry meat-eating husband and vegan houseguests, I needed to come up with a plan. Eating out for nine meals was not an option.

From past conversations with my sister-in-law, I knew that I’d need to prepare meals not only without meat but without eggs, animal fat or dairy products. This meant that even a simple vegetable side dish of mashed potatoes would need to be modified. Normally, I mash up the potatoes with a bit of milk and butter, both off limits to vegans.

To make the weekend go as smoothly as possible, I would need to hit up the grocery store and check labels carefully. Most large chains carry the basic items a vegan needs such as soy milk, tofu and meat substitutes such as vegetarian hot dogs and sausages.

For our breakfasts, I decided to keep it simple. Oatmeal with soy milk and fresh fruit would have to do. For our Sunday breakfast, we decided to get a little more deluxe. I bought some vegetarian sausage links and let my sister-in-law make her famous vegan scrambled tofu. She used tofu, curry powder and a product called wheat gluten to create a scrambled egg like dish.

Making sandwiches for lunch for my vegan visitors presented a few challenges. First, whey, a milk product, is a common ingredient found in bread. Second, I couldn’t use mayonnaise because it contains eggs, strictly off limits to those living the vegan lifestyle. I thought of substituting plain yogurt then remembered that yogurt is a dairy product. Fortunately I found some sourdough bread at the store with no whey. One day we had veggie sandwiches with a little olive oil, avocado, sprouts, tomato, spinach leaves and cucumbers along with tomato soup. The next day, I served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and organic potato chips. On the last day, we had vegetarian chili dogs using leftover vegetarian chili from the night before, vegetarian hot dogs and whey free sourdough rolls instead of hotdog buns.

We went to the movies one afternoon and I found out that even M&Ms were off limits to vegans. I asked why and was told the obvious, milk chocolate contains milk. I made sure to have plenty of fruit for snacks and served a veggie plate with hummis for an appetizer.

Making dinner wasn’t as hard as I expected. We went out to dinner the first night. We found several restaurants in our area on the internet that offered vegetarian fare though none specialized in vegan diets. Our guests were able to pick from several items that met their criteria and we were able to eat what we wanted. Everyone had a great meal.

The next night, I set up a tostada bar with lard-free tostada shells, vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, tomato, olives and salsa. I served Spanish rice on the side that I made with rice, crushed tomatoes, spices and tomato sauce. Our final dinner was a snap. I made the above mentioned vegetarian chili using vegetarian kidney beans, pinto beans and chili beans, a can of tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, a chopped onion, a chopped bell pepper and seasonings such as chili powder and cumin. It was a hearty dish and my husband didn’t seem to miss the meat. I served a simple salad with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing and more sour dough rolls on the side. We didn’t use margarine or butter; instead we dipped the pieces of bread into the chili.

The visit went smoothly and my vegan houseguests appreciated the effort I put into accommodating their vegan diet. It was challenging to keep in mind that anything derived from an animal was off limits including gelatin, lactic acid and even honey. I wanted to keep mealtime simple, healthy and yummy. I believe I accomplished my goal. Maybe next time I’ll be more daring with the menu, but at least I know I can pull it off without a lot of fuss.

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