Soha Lavin, president of CountDown Events Planning & Design in Toronto and Vancouver, shares her tips for planning a vegan-friendly Christmas dinner menu.
How can a vegan successfully navigate holiday dinners and buffet tables?
If there’s no dedicated vegan dish, salads are a great option to start with – if there’s no cheese on them. Personally, I am a really big eater and don’t consider salad a meal – I consider it salad! I like to fill up on sides like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and root veggies, all of which are hearty and yummy – just look out for butter and cheese!
Should you let your host know ahead of time if you’re vegan?
It depends on the relationship. If it’s a friend, I’m sure she would be happy to adjust her menu – she’ll want to take care of you. That being said, letting the host know that there’s going to be a vegan guest can create a bit of stress. She might start thinking “I have to cook tofu!” which I personally don’t even eat. Give the host a heads up, but include an immediate, easy option: Say that you’re happy to bring your own dish and enjoy their plant-based salads and sides.
How can a host make vegan guests more comfortable?
Whenever you’re hosting an event, the best thing you can do is to take care of your guests. Ensure that you have an array of dishes available to suit everyone’s needs and tastes. If it’s a bigger event, place an ingredient card next to each dish on the buffet table, pointing out whether a dish is vegan or gluten-free or caters to another dietary restriction. If it’s a smaller event or sit-down dinner, use what I call a “silent ingredient card.” If a dish contains meat like ham, place a large ring of ham on top as a garnish – it acts as a red flag and lets a vegan know that the dish contains meat. And, obviously, don’t seat your vegan guest in front of the turkey.