You get home, check your email and there are four more invitations to summer cookouts, BBQs and parties. That’s great! You’re a popular person and everyone wants you at their gathering. But instead of feeling warm fuzzies, you’re feeling like you did the morning of the SATs and all because you don’t eat meat.
Summer is all about barbecues, cookouts, and picnics. Despite the scorching heat, people love cooking their burgers and hot dogs on an open grill and sitting down to a spread of mayo-filled salads and slaws. That may have been you once but it isn’t anymore. Now these events can be more frustrating than fun. You can’t take the sight or smell of meat cooking over the flames. There never seems to be anything to eat since almost everything contains some animal products. Once again you end up holding a plate of wilted lettuce, feeling awkward and fielding questions about where you get your protein from. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these tips and your summer cookouts can be meatless, delicious and even fun again.
1. RSVP the Right Way
When you get an invitation, you need to RSVP. In this case, that means Relay Status Vegan Promptly. Let your hosts know that you don’t eat meat so they can plan their menu accordingly and add some veg-friendly dishes. Make sure the hosts know what being vegan means. We’ve all been there – we tell someone we are vegan and they ask if we eat fish. Sigh. Make it clear what you do and don’t eat. Depending on how comfortable you feel with your hosts, you can offer suggestions for veg-friendly dishes or recipes. Offer to bring some ingredients or foods your hosts may not be familiar with like vegan mayo or salad dressings. You never know – your hosts may be grateful to have someone else take care of this since they already have so much to do.
2. Bring Your Own Dishes That Everyone Can Enjoy
A cookout is the perfect place to showcase delicious vegan food without having to advertise that it is, in fact, vegan. After all, no one should arrive to a party empty-handed; that’s just rude. Every cookout needs more than just burgers and hot dogs – there should be lots of other main dishes, side dishes, salads and desserts. Bring food that’s fresh rather than cooked and colorful rather than brown so your dishes will stand out from the crowd. Bring a beautiful fruit salad, potato salad, or quinoa salad that won’t go bad in the heat because it’s dairy- and egg-free. Check out these 10 Summer Salads that are so much more than lettuce. Everyone loves fresh veggies with a creamy dip like these 15 Double-Dip Worthy Dips and Spreads. Wow everyone with a vegan cheese plate. Here are 25 Vegan Cheeses You Can Make at Home. Show your sweet side with a batch of yummy cupcakes or a no-bake vegan cake. Whatever you bring, bring enough for a crowd because everyone is going to be drawn to the bright colors of your fresh dishes.
3. Show Off All Your Meatless Options
Even though grilled Portobello mushrooms are delicious, there are more “meaty” meatless options than ever. There are over a dozen brands of store-bought vegan burgers, hot dogs, and sausages that are really delicious and rival any meat-filled product. Or you can make your own vegan hot dogs, sausages and burgers. Take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Meats and Meat Substitutes to see the huge variety available to plant-based eaters. Bring these Seitan Hot Dogs and Spicy Italian Sausages that hold up on the grill. Enlighten people about how there are at least 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With and watch their eyes bug out when they see you piling the toppings on these Buffalo Quinoa Burgers, Spicy Cauliflower Chickpea Burgers, Kidney Bean and Kale BBQ Burgers, Stupid Simple Bean Burgers with Paprika Garlic Burgers, and Smoky Black Bean and Hemp Burgers. Show off your BBQ savvy with these 15 Savory and Saucy Vegan BBQ Recipes. Again, bring enough for you and for the other guests who might want to try something healthier and kinder. It’s a perfect opportunity to show that being meatless doesn’t mean we are deprived – not one bit!
4. Step Up to the Grill
The best way to have some say over what happens on the grill is to offer to cook a dish or two. Impress everyone with your skewer skills and make some Grilled Seitan Kebabs with Creole Coconut Sauce, Spicy Balsamic Tofu Veggie Kebabs or even some Grilled Fruit Kebabs. Cook up this Buffalo Tofu Po’ Boy with Apple Slaw and see if you don’t draw a crowd. Make these Grilled Avocados with Roasted Tomatoes and Charred Corn on the Cob with Chili-Lime Mayo. Everyone will appreciate that you, most of all, know How to Grill Veggies like a pro. Before you know it, people will be standing in line to get your recipes and cooking tips.
5. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverages)
When it comes to the question of “is it vegan?” many people don’t even think about the drinks. Not all beer and wine is vegan, even if it’s organic. The safest route is to bring a few bottles of a brand you know and love. Besides the booze, you might want to bring your own soft drinks if you want to avoid all the syrups, sodium, and artificial sweeteners. Quench everyone’s thirst with delicious drinks like these Papaya Coladas, Peach Ginger Sangria and Watermelon Cherry Coolers.
6. Leave Your Soapbox at Home
Sometimes the best activism is quiet activism. You were invited to the cookout as a friend, not a guest speaker. A party or friendly get-together is not the place to be judgmental or lecture anyone. If you make comments or remarks about the meat or try to make people feel guilty for eating it, you will never be invited again. Of course, if someone asks you about why you aren’t eating meat, tell them your reasons for being meat-free in a simple and non-graphic way. If they want to know more, they will ask and you can have a private talk now or at a later time. The best activism at a cookout is through the delicious food. Remember, you can’t change anyone’s mind if they avoid you or tune you out. People will listen if you express yourself with kindness and respect rather than anger and sarcasm. If someone asks where you get your protein from, remember there was a time you didn’t know the answer to that question either. You’ll catch more flies with Vegan Pineapple Honey.
7. Host Your Own Cookout
Navigating someone else’s party can be tough so why not host your own cookout? If it’s your event, you can set the parameters. You can keep it entirely meat-free and show off all your mad cooking skills by providing all the food yourself. You can also make lists of acceptable dishes and brands of food that others may contribute. You can even share your favorite vegan BBQ, grilling and summer recipes with your guests (and of course, your favorite One Green Planet recipes) and get everyone involved in some meat-free cooking.
Summer should be filled with fun but it can be frustrating for those of us who don’t eat meat or other animal products since almost every event involves food. Letting people know our food choices in advance, bringing our own delicious dishes, offering to help cook, and hosting our own parties can help us have some control over the situation. Most importantly, being kind and friendly can make all our summer get-togethers easier and breezier.
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Lead image source: BBQ Jackfruit
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