At the beginnings of autumn and spring we have two periods of holidays which are marked with a succession of family-wide dinner gatherings. I won't bore you with the hierarchy of occasions, and according venue allocation. I'm sure there's a "My Family is Complicated on Holidays" blog out there that covers all that and more, in detail.
It takes an entire family to fill a stomach
My take begins with the time-old tradition of taking the load off the host. All of the households represented bring dishes in cookware or food containers, or at the least arrive carrying wine bottles.
Being from a foodie line I consider myself blessed to enjoy very much the fine kitchen handiwork present at family dinners. I am further blessed with a close knit family that feels my love for my vegan wife, and therefore makes the effort to make her feel their love by the simple act of making sure she has enough to eat when we come over for dinner.
The ultimate achievement in hosting
I count my blessings knowing of others which are not as lucky. In fact, vegan guests often cope with reactions that vary from perceiving vegan cooking as limiting and difficult, to treating the entire notion as alien. In the worst case scenario, an invited guest starts and ends dinner with a salad (even the other salads have non-vegan ingredients...).
My gut reaction to one such story, by one of my first readers, was: Hell! If I invite a Koala bear for dinner I'll damn well make sure to make Eucalyptus salad, Eucalyptus stew and Eucalyptus pie for dessert!
Regardless of a host's location on the omnivore-vegan continuum, having ALL of your guests leave happy with a full stomach is the ultimate achievement.
Cooking is cooking is cooking
I fully recognize the many logistical considerations that go into preparing a guest dinner. Cooking challenges and time restriction may limit the home cook's ability to cater to everyone's needs. Shared history or family ties can also have something to do with a dinner guest going home hungry. Whatever the case may be, cooking vegan food isn't the problem.
As someone familiar with kitchen work, I know that cooking vegan dishes is no more of a hassle than any other kind of cooking, and the internet is abound with ideas for vegan recipes. Further more, it's been my experience that non-vegan guests enjoy vegan dishes just as much as the person you made them for. To satisfy a vegan dinner guest takes no effort, just the willingness to overcome misconceptions.
Self-reliance as the best practice
To the vegan guest, however, I suggest concentrating on one thing only: finishing dinner with good food in your belly. Bringing your own dish to dinner is a helpful tactic when invited to any known vegan-challenged environment. I especially like the creative language used by non-vegans to describe their experience of vegan dishes, it becomes even more fun when they actually like what they taste :-)
Family friendship and hospitality share the willingness to leave your comfort zone for the sake of someone else's joy. It cuts all ways and is the cornerstone in any long-lasting relationship.
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