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This same question kept popping up on Happy Herbivore this week.
First Diane asked, "I make dishes for myself separate from my family, unless it's your muffins or cakes, which they eat.I was wondering if you have any tips on how to make my family eat the same as mewithout them feeling like they are giving up something and resenting me for it?"
Then Ember asked,"Any tips on cooking meals for a non veg husband without cooking 2 separate meals?He is very flexible. I thought someone might have good recipes that are easy to add a meat portion to on the side?"
and many others along those lines.
Here is my advice:
1. Serve something that is familiar,and
2. Inherently plant-based (vegetarian)
That means picking meals that don't involve meat substitutes. I love gardein and lentil loaves and seitan, but I recognize that they're a little weird and strange to a newcomer, especially if that newcomer loves his or her meat products and identifies them self as a "carnivore."
You should also skip over anything that involves tofu unless the tofu is hidden. (People are often afraid of tofu or put off by it. I know I was, even when I was a vegetarian.)
Anytime I go to a party where the food is vegan but not all of the guests are, I notice the omnivores (especially those totally new to vegan fare) tend to huddle around things like fruit salad, bean dip, chips and salsa, hummus and veggies. That's because these are "safe" foods. Some might dare label them "normal" foods. Point is, they are foods we're all familiar with.
It doesn't even really matter about the whole herbivore vs. carnivore thing. Most people are pretty timid about trying something new so serve up a dish they already know and love.
Not only will this create a harmonious meal time, it'll open up their eyes to how awesome plant-based (vegan) fare can be and help dissipate the notions that vegans subsist on weird foods, iceberg lettuce salads and smelly boca burgers.
Everyone loves Mexican food so Mexican dishes are always a safe bet. Black beans, pinto beans, rice, salsa, guacamole---rock on! My husband's boss was over for dinner last night and I created a build-your-own-nachos bar with chips, tomatoes, black beans, corn, jalapenos, green chilis, black olives, guacamole, salsa, Mexican Chorizo (p. 147 HHC) and Mexican Quick Queso (p. 263 HHC).
I know serving the chorizo goes against my "rule" but Scott said his boss really loved taco meat, so I thought it was a safe bet since it would be slipped in with everything else... which brings me to my next point.
The more you know about the person you're feeding, the easier this is. If you know what they like or don't like, you can cater around that.
Next up, pasta. Pasta is also a crowd pleaser (and really easy!). Never forget that a beautiful pasta dish can really go a long way!
Another good thing about pasta: If someone wants to add meat or cheese to it, they can. I went to a dinner party once where the host served a really wonderful pasta dish that was inherently vegan, but she'd left a plate of grilled chicken and a bowl of shredded cheese on the counter so the other guests could add it to their helping.
Vegetable casserolesare also generally well received, along with soups and stews. Even bean chilis tend to go over well, especially when they are served with cornbread.
I've complied a list of all the dishes I've served my rather skeptical family and friends in hopes that it will help you feed yours.
I also recommended the Mexican Dip (p. 230 HHC) to Diane and she reported back that her husband and two teenage sons LOVED it and couldn't get enough.
A Herbie also sent this email in: Tonight I made your black bean burgers... and as a precaution some beef burgers for my kids. Guess which burgers were left over, not even touched. The neighbors dog will be happy!
Top 10 Vegan Dishes to Feed Omnivores: