Never Invite a Vegetarian

By Janey Womeldorf

Never Invite a Vegetarian

A couple wants to host a dinner party for friends. They discover that one of the wives is a vegetarian, at which point they decide they have four choices: One, cook a separate meal for the veg-head; two, re-do the menu and make the entire meal vegetarian; three, pretend they didn’t know, or forgot, and cook as planned; or four, don’t invite the vegetarian.

What would you do?

The answer’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned – absolutely, I would choose number four – don’t invite the vegetarian. I mean, who needs that kind of meal-planning stress? When it comes to dinner parties, vegetarians are a bore and a challenge; I should know – I am one.

I used to eat meat. In fact, almost 20 years ago, I ate the finest piece of steak that ever died on a grill. It was a medium-rare tenderloin filet, cooked over an open grill and charred to a level of perfection I never knew existed. As they placed the warm plate in front of me, the smell of hickory and smoke hit my nostrils before the sight of the bulging delicacy lit up my eyes. With barely any effort from the knife, the first edge fell away releasing a trickle of pink juice onto my plate and exposing a shiny, rosy interior. As I raised the first piece to my mouth, it was as if every Sunday-afternoon barbeque I had ever caught a distant, mouth-watering whiff of, was captured in that one bite. Even the salty, delicious flavor of charred fat and hickory that dusted my lips did not prepare me for what was to come. Warm, succulent juice oozed at every bite, and with barely the need to chew, it simply melted in my mouth. It was as if someone had rolled the creamiest of ice creams in a dusting of coal. The steak angel was dancing on my tongue, and I wanted to cry when it was all over.

How can you follow that? If I never eat steak again as long as I live, I shall die a happy woman because I have already eaten the best.

So, I understand the appeal of meat, it’s just that I no longer desire it. Everybody has their reasons for becoming vegetarian, mine started out as a health thing. I figured cutting down on meat would force me to eat more vegetables – well, it worked! Over the years, I grew to prefer my new choices and now the taste of meat does nothing for me. I would choose a healthy bowl of pasta bursting with asparagus, mushrooms, red peppers and fresh herbs over a bowl drenched in traditional red-meat sauce any day. I would also pass up chicken wings and beer for a plate of smoked salmon and chardonnay in a heartbeat. And, in my journey to vegetarianism, I lost over 40 pounds and haven’t looked back. Unfortunately, however, it comes with its dilemmas.

An unsuspecting girlfriend invites my husband and me to a couples’ dinner party. Should I tell her ahead of time that I am vegetarian? If I do, it will undoubtedly mess up her dinner plans. Stress will slowly consume her as she over-analyzes how to keep me happy while still presenting a delicious, well-executed meal that will be worthy of her “good cook” status. Before long, the planning stage, which should have been fun and enjoyable, has spiraled into a complicated, irritating quandary as she battles to come up with the one perfect solution that will keep everybody happy, and more importantly, wanting seconds.

Pot lucks are great but it’s the sit-down dinners that pose the challenge. I have asked hosts not to do anything different but guilt seems to make them unable. The irony is, I am totally comfortable chowing down on veggies and salad; it is the meat-eating host who seems compelled to put that item of protein on my plate when really, all they need to do is give me more veggies.

Alternatively, I could choose the other option, which is to say nothing. If I keep quiet, the host or hostess will happily plan and cook away, none the wiser. I will show up, and let’s say, they serve chicken with veggies and a side of salad. I eat the latter (which I love, being vegetarian and all), and my husband gets an extra piece of chicken. Voila! Everybody is happy – well not exactly. The host is now gushing apologies that if she’d known, she’d have cooked me something different. I, on the other hand, sit perfectly satiated and content about the evening’s meal.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there.

As she lies in bed that night reflecting on the evening, she will still be questioning what she could have done differently, and whether or not I really did have a good time, or was just saying it to be polite. Then slowly, the “vegetarian-at-dinner-parties-are-a-pain-in-the-backside” mindset starts to seep in. She fights it because she’s a good person, but we both know the seed has been planted.

One would think, therefore, that it’s easier to have people over to our house – then again, maybe not. As a vegetarian, if I invite you over for dinner, am I obliged to cook you meat? We once had a couple over for dinner and I chose to cook vegetable risotto for the main course. At one point, the husband picked up the pan lid and joked, “You expect me to eat that!” The only thing was, he wasn’t joking – he never touched a mouthful. As I later scraped the entire bowl into the trash, I tried not to let it upset me, but it was months before I shook it off. Was I wrong? Should I have warned them there might not be meat?

It’s all just too stressful, but I have an idea. If we ever meet, and think it would be fun to get together for an evening…

How about we just meet for drinks?

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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