I think some of us vegetarians have a crusading mentality. We want to enlighten everyone on the benefits of living a vegetarian lifestyle. It is an opportunity that we find simply irresistible. I have invited an assortment of people to my home for dinner just to try and influence their palates. There are, however, some things to keep in mind if you want to be successful.
Non-vegetarians can sometimes suffer from anxiety when they are invited to a vegetarian’s home for a meal. They have visions of all the vegetables they were forced to eat as children. In preparation, they may quickly brush up on the different tactics they can use to hide the fact that they won’t really be eating anything. Some people may go as far as having a bite to eat before appearing at your doorstep just so they don’t get dizzy with hunger. But I think their worst nightmare is the possibility of having to endure vegetarian propaganda as the main course.
You may want to keep in mind that your guests may be experiencing some degree of anxiety and be sensitive to this. Refrain from lecturing them about their eating habits. I’ve found that the best way to increase their appreciation of a vegetarian diet is to let them enjoy your cooking. Put them immediately at ease by serving some foods that are familiar and dear to them. With gluten and texturized vegetable proteins, you can create many “meat” dishes that can fool even vegetarians. Some things you can prepare are gluten steak, burgers, or barbecue. I’ve actually heard some my guests sigh in relief at the first sight of “meat” on the table.
Once they’re more relaxed they tend to be more adventurous and try out the vegetable dishes. But if this is their first time eating a vegetarian meal, do remember not to serve the “notorious” carrot sticks and broccoli. Go ahead and serve a green salad. They would expect that. It’s a nice surprise to top it with an eggless mayonnaise dressing.
Sometimes I get forewarned that a guest is a “hardcore carnivore”. This is not a problem. As long as they don’t recognize the vegetables, they don’t mind eating them. I just camouflage some vegetables by pureeing them in sauces or soups. Chopping or grating vegetables and turning them into balls, patties, or loaves is also an alternative. Casseroles always get a warm reception. For some reason, vegetables in pizza gain a measure of respectability in the eyes of non-vegetarians. And I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t appreciate pakoras. These are vegetables dipped in batter and deep fried and then served with sauces.
Of course, if your guests don’t suffer from veggie-phobia, everything is easier. You can have a whole selection of your favorite dishes with no fear of rejection. Just remember that everyone is different so when serving pasta, serve the sauces and vegetables separately. This way they can choose what to add to their noodles. I also like to serve fried tofu with an assortment of sauces to cater to varied tastes.
I know my efforts have been effective when my guests smack their lips and say, “If I can eat this kind of food everyday, then I can easily become a vegetarian!” And best of all, they call you later to ask for recipes.