Any vegan or vegetarian knows that those dates in the calendar when food or feasting are the focus of the holiday can be a challenge to say the least. Christmas is the ‘big one’ with its endless round of social gatherings, rich, meat and dairy heavy dishes and an endless supply of inebriated participants ready to pitch in with their unsolicited views on your lifestyle choices. Then there’s New Year right after that! But with a little preparation and a generous supply of patience, the season of goodwill to all needn’t be a time to fear.
Christmas is primarily a time for getting together with friends and relatives over food. Where I live in Spain, we hold a ‘pot luck’ Christmas lunch in advance of the holidays. It’s a chance for everyone to catch up and have fun. We have a respectable vegetarian contingent but for me this year was a little more complicated as I’d recently gone vegan, meaning I’d miss out on all those delicious desserts. I got round it by doing extra cooking myself, ensuring that I’d have at least a couple of mains and a dessert to choose from. I didn’t advertise which dishes were mine but from the clean plates at the end of the meal, it looked like they went down as well as anyone else’s so my friends can look forward to more vegan delights over the coming year!
The office Christmas party is another seasonal social event at which it can be difficult to be the odd one out. Thankfully however, these are usually organised well in advance, giving vegans a chance to make sure they are catered for. This year, I was put in charge of organising my office Christmas meal. I resisted the urge to book all 45 of us into a vegan restaurant (I’m not planning on looking for a new job just yet) but it did give me the freedom to choose somewhere with vegetarian options on the menu and discuss with the chef how they could be made vegan. If you aren’t in charge of organising your works outing, don’t be afraid to speak to the person who is, or to the restaurant directly. Most people are very willing to accommodate you if they know in advance so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. You’ve as much right as anyone to enjoy your meal and these days, with so many gluten or lactose intolerant people around, you’re likely not to be the only one going ‘off-menu’.
See the ‘Eating Out’ section for tips on how to handle this and other social occasions.