How Not To Alienate Your Vegan Friends At Your Summer BBQ
By Mike James
It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy, especially when you’ve decided to invite all your friends over for a lazy BBQ in the garden. But wait, some of them are vegan – isn’t that going to be awkward with all those burgers and sausages everywhere? Actually, it’s as much of a problem as you want to make it.
The best summer barbecues are relaxed affairs where the food is plentiful, the drink is flowing freely and the vibe is super chilled. And while the actual barbecue grill takes centre stage – a charcoal based contraption for the traditionalists or a gas based outdoor grill for the perfectionists – surely it’s not all about the meat?
Let’s take a look at the 3 key ingredients that make a successful summer barbie and what you can do to make your vegan friends feel like perfectly normal guests, not animal rights freaks with weird eating habits. Honestly, it’s not difficult to do.
- The Food
Lots of delicious food is what your friends are primarily expecting to see, but unless all your guests are vegan there’s no need to cut out your favourite grill foods altogether. Why not stick with classic BBQ fare and think about a few items that can be easily veganised?
With a few tweaks here and there, it’s easy to make a veggie kebab or quickly rustle up a yummy plant based pasta salad that will be just as popular with your meat eating friends (who may not even realise that they’re eating vegan food!).
‘Fake meats’ are another easy go-to solution. Whatever you (or your plant based pals) may think about the concept (and is it actually necessary to overanalyse?), in practical terms these meat-free goodies are a godsend for any barbecue. From ready made vegan burgers made with beans, tofu or nuts, to seitan ‘steaks’, meat-free sausages or tempeh burgers, they absolutely fulfil the plant-based brief. What’s more, they can be cooked just like their meat-based cousins and are finger food friendly for the occasion.
For the more ambitious home chef, why not brush up on your culinary skills so you can impress your friends (of whatever dietary persuasion) with something more advanced that a standard hot dog in a bun? From elaborate roasts to home made bread and mouthwatering desserts, just make sure there’s something to cater for everyone.
In terms of logistics, when it comes to cooking it is clearly unwise to mix up any plant-based and meat-based foods on the same BBQ grill – you need to keep them separate. There are 3 ways you can easily do this:
- Barbecue your vegan grillables first on a clean grill and before you put the pork sausages or chicken burgers on
- Have two BBQs (or two separate grills) – one for vegetables and vegan foods, one for meat, poultry and fish
- Use aluminium foil or a grilling basket to keep the plant based food separate from the animal products
- The Drinks
Having made your BBQ party food vegan friendly, you may think you’re in the clear. No animal derived substances in drink, right? Wrong.
While distilled spirits such as whisky, brandy, gin and vodka are usually OK for vegans, it gets trickier when it comes to wine, beer and cider. Without going into too much gory detail, who knew that it’s common for animal products to be employed in the filtering process for many alcoholic beverages? Fish bladders, anyone?
Suffice to say that, before you head to the supermarket or off-licence for supplies, you should check whether your drinks are vegan friendly. Look out for the Vegan Society trademark and visit Barnivore, a great resource for finding vegan beers, wines and spirits. Usefully, there’s a handy search function on the site to check whether a particular drink is vegan or not: Guinness yes, Thatchers Gold Cider yes, Wolf Blass Wines no, Carling Black Label no…
For non-drinkers, beware that there are also some soft drinks that aren’t suitable for vegans – those containing gelatine or cochineal, for instance. Obviously, anything with milk, cream or honey among the ingredients is also a no-go.
- The Vibe
One of the most important things to make your BBQ party a success is for your vegan friends to feel welcome. Don’t treat them like outsiders that have only been allowed in thanks to a gracious effort on your part.
This is really important, if only to stop you inadvertently embarrassing your plant eating guests by being overly attentive. So don’t be tempted to proclaim loudly: ‘Are you enjoying that Vegan Tofu Hot Dog I made especially?’ or ‘What do you think of the Chickpea Salad? It’s a new recipe I thought I’d try for my vegan friend.’
Veganism isn’t actually that unusual these days – there are over 3.5 million in the UK and rising – so there’s really no need to make a big deal. And under no circumstances should you start a discussion about the pros and cons of eating meat, the morals of animal farming or anything to do with animal rights issues. Your plant fed guests haven’t come to defend their lifestyle choices or to spread the vegan message – they’re here as your friends, and to have fun.