So, you’ve been invited to a Christmas Party, and your family are the only vegans there. Your big question is, how do I cope as the only vegan at a Christmas Party?
Luckily, with some forward planning, you should be fine. Here are some tips and recipes for navigating Christmas parties as a vegan.
First off, how big is the event? If it is a big Christmas Party and everyone is bringing a plate, then you can just bring some vegan dishes for you and your family to share. If it’s a smaller, more intimate affair, you’re going to need to speak to the organiser.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake I made last year. I was going to a Christmas party from interstate, and stupidly assumed that someone else had told the organiser that we didn’t eat meat anymore. I made up a delicious Lentil Wellington to go with the roast veggies that I knew would be there, and a vegan dessert. When I arrived, I put my Lentil Wellington in the oven to heat up along with the roast lamb, and didn’t think much of it. Fast forward to lunch being served up, and I was handed a plate of roast lamb and veggies. It was a very awkward moment where I had to take the meat back and explain that I had brought my own food instead. I highly offended the organiser, and the rest of the party was awkward, to say the least.
So, don’t do what I did, and make sure you let the person organising the Christmas Party that you’re vegan.
I find the conversation will go one of two ways. Either the host will be happy to accommodate your dietary needs and make some vegan options for you, in which case you can suggest some recipes that they could try, or ways to veganise what they’re already making (see below for some tips). Or the other option is that they will get very unhappy with you, and find your dietary requirements incredibly inconvenient to say the least. In this case, you have a couple of options. You could offer to bring some dishes of your own for yourself, eat a decent meal beforehand so that you aren’t hungry (although this could make you look rude for not eating anything) or not go. I leave that choice up to you…
What to Bring to a Party
So, you’re going to the party, and you’ve spoken to the host. Now, what do you bring?
I suggest that you bring an appetiser, a side and a dessert. This will give you something to eat at every course. I find that as long as you actually have food on your plate, people tend to pay less attention to what you’re actually eating. I don’t know about you, but I like to minimise debates about the morals, ethics, and nutritional values of my food when I’m at a party. I’m there for the company and fun, not an arguement.
I also like to try to fly under the radar a bit with my food at parties, so don’t bring a whole extra main for myself. Instead, I just bring a filling side that can act as my main.
The best, and easiest, appetiser to bring is a Vegan Cheese Platter. It’s easy to make vegan, and everyone can share. Even better, it is unassuming, and won’t show up your host if they’ve put lots of effort into their appetisers.
I always make my platter with lots of veggie sticks. They’re less popular than things like crackers and chips, so they don’t get eaten as fast. I add any leftovers to my plate for mains as a way of filling it up.
I also recommend adding some more filling things like corn chips or crackers, just so that you have something to fill you up. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find vegan cheese crackers, so any others at the party probably won’t be safe for you to eat. Just don’t cry too much if yours get eaten fast (maybe keep half the pack in a bag separately so you can top them up).
I bring a filling and substantial side as my main. If you’re in the cold weather, you could bring something like this Cripsy Bread Topped Mac and Cheese. If you’re in the warm weather like me, bring a substantial salad. You could bring this Potato Salad, or this Summer Salad with some extra quinoa. Whatever you bring, make sure you bring enough for everyone to have some, and there to be enough left over for you. The last thing you want to do is discover that everyone has eaten your only vegan option.
If your host is happy to cater to your vegan diet, there are some easy things that they can do to make some of the other sides vegan for you.
They can cook roast vegetables with oil, instead of butter or lard. They will need to make sure that they don’t roast your veggies in with any meat they’re cooking. I’m generally happy as long as the veggies have been cooked in a separate tray to the meat, but it’s up to you whether you’re ok with your veggies in the oven with meat.
Traditional gravy is normally made with juices from the cooked meat. In Australia, Traditional Gravox instant gravy is vegan, so you can have that in place of other gravy.
It can be difficult to make sides vegan, especially if the cook isn’t familiar with vegan cooking. However, if the only non vegan ingredient is butter, then there are a number of good vegan butter options on the market.
Some vegetable sides come with animal products like bacon and cheese. You could see if it would be possible for them to make the side, and take your portion out before they add the meat or cheese. They could even try serving the extra toppings on the side instead.
Salads can be a bit easier to veganise. Many dressings are oil based, and ingredients like cheese and bacon can be kept on the side. There are also a number of vegan mayonnaise options available in supermarkets for salads like potato salad and coleslaw.
Bread is another filling side. The majority of plain breads in Australia are vegan, but it would still pay to check. You need to look out for ingredients like milk and egg. Bread is another ingredient that it is reasonably easy to bring your own, so if you’re worried, you could just bring a couple of rolls for yourself that you know you can eat.
And now for dessert. Unfortunately, dessert can be the trickiest of the courses to veganise. On the other hand, not everyone eats dessert, so you probably won’t stand out if you just avoid it altogether.
If you want to bring a dessert, something like my Vegan Chocolate Fudge recipe works well. It is quick and easy, and gives you something to eat when everyone is indulging.
There are some vegan versions of traditional dessert ingredients available in the supermarkets these days. You can generally find vegan sour cream, cream, cream cheese, ice cream and yoghurt. I do find that a lot of these options are coconut based, so don’t always work in traditional desserts. Unfortunately, the coconut flavour can be quite overpowering in some desserts. I like to make my desserts from a combination of coconut and cashew based ones, to balance out the flavours.
I hope that these tips and recipes help you to have a delicious and conflict free Christmas. I’d love to hear any other tips you have in the comments below, or even stories where things didn’t go right like my last Christmas!