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Nov 15, 2007 07:27 AM

Going To A Vegetarian's House For Thanksgiving

We're going to an acquaintances house for Thanksgiving dinner. They have told us that they are (new) vegetarians, so they will not be cooking any turkey or meat products. But, they don't want us to feel uncomfortable, so they told us if we want turkey to feel free to cook it & bring it (which we will do). My husband & I are planning on cooking a turkey breast & gravy and bringing that (since there will be 2 other carnivores there).

Is this how it's usually done when you go to a vegetarian's house?

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  1. Sorry, but I think the proper and thoughtful thing to do would be to fix a turkey, etc for your guests and whatever the host enjoys, he fixes too. That would be the way to avoid the "uncomfortable" feeling if they really cared.

    1. Often, the people I know won't even suggest you bring your own meat dishes as they don't like the smell and don't want it in their house. If they are hosting, it's their rules, unfortunately. In my experience, they don't make the most generous hosts because they want everyone to conform to their way of eating, which for Thanksgiving, is not a sacrifice I want to make, though I certainly don't mind it on any other normal dinner night. I think it's a bit poor etiquette invite people to dinner and suggest they bring anything, whether it's meat or not, but I think they are trying to be nice by giving you the option of not missing out on the turkey.

      Personally, if I were you, this is not likely to be the thanksgiving you are used to traditionally, so I might just bring a vegetarian dish, which would please them to no end, and have a traditional thanksgiving on a smaller scale on the weekend following the actual holiday. If you bring a meat dish, you will be expected to have not only brought your own dish, which is rude, but to have brought enough to feed 4 people, given the other carnivores, which is really rude of them to expect.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        This is not the type of traditional Thanksgiving dinner we are used to, but we are thrilled to have somewhere to go & they were nice enough to invite us. They told us that they don't want anyone else to feel like we have to conform to eating like they eat, ie. vegetarianism, so if we want turkey, that's fine with them. I asked if I could bring anything, as I always do when going to someone's house.

        1. re: ctflowers

          Is there something about this that was bothering *you* or were you just interested in generating some discussion? It sounds like you are comfortable with the situation, as is your host - that's all that matters.

        2. re: rockandroller1

          I'm just curious, you say "If they are hosting, it's their rules, unfortunately. In my experience, they don't make the most generous hosts because they want everyone to conform to their way of eating. . . ." Now, if you are hosting the dinner is it your rules? Or do you prepare only what your guests want to eat? If you are not vegetarian and are inviting non-meat eating vegetarians would you make meat because you like it? If so isn't that making people conform to what you like? What if even the smell of meat made them sick, would you still do it? Or would you not invite them? I would be interested in your responses .

          Also, I don't think it rude; if the OP didn't know these people well enough to know they are vegetarians, then I think it perfectly fine for the hosts to explain the situation. Much the same way when inviting people to our home for the first time I tell them we have a large dog and ask if that will be a problem.

          Lastly, what is the point of Thanksgiving? A bird or togetherness?

        3. Half of my (very large) family are veg, the other half not. One of the carniverous crew brings an already roasted turkey to the location (which is 95% of the time my parents' house, who are vegetarian). Pre-cooking it is convenient for everyone, since we all live fairly close by each other and it stays hot. The turkey comes right out of the oven and then rests for the ten minute or so drive.

          You'll probably be having a wonderful dinner, since the focus won't simply be the turkey. Think of all the excellent new sides you'll get to try!

          If you want to bring anything veg along, I have tons and tons of awesome recipes.

          1. That sounds like a great plan! Their is a wide scale of vegetarians. Some vegetarians are more comfortable with meat than others.

            I grew up around a lot of meat. (I used to watch my uncles cut up dear in my Grandparent's basement and most food in my family comes with meat in it.) I am very comfortable around meat, but would prefer not to have it prepared in my house. However, if people wanted to bring meat with them, I would be fine with it -- just take the leftovers home with you :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: adventuresinbaking

              Yes, vegetarians vary a lot in that respect. One I know won't let his spouse eat meat in the house (she is not a red-meat type but does enjoy a bit of chicken and fish). I think it is kind of them to let you bring a meat dish - I'd keep it small, as you are doing, not a "centrepiece" turkey, and take them a wonderful autumnal veg dish as well. A squash gratin?

            2. I understand that there is a wide range of vegetarians, among whom, some will not have any meat products in their home and some will "permit" it. Obviously, your friends are of the latter variety. Since your friends don't have a problem having meat in their home, they should be the ones providing meat. Telling you to provide the meat puts you in the position of either just bringing enough for yourself, which makes it wierd and uncomfortable for the other carnivores there, or providing meat for the other carnivores as well. Though now that I think about it, if you were bringing another course, it would not be for just you and your husband. I guess the bottom line for me is that I don't think it's being a good host to tell a guest I won't cook something, but if my guest wants it, s/he should bring that item.

              When my brother-in-law's sister, a vegetarian who eats dairy, joins us for a meal, we always make sure that there are choices available for her. And when it's a barbecue, for example, we don't tell her to bring her own vegetarian patties to grill. We make sure they are there and we cover part of the grill with foil and cook the burgers for her.

              As far as the "focus" of the dinner being the turkey, in a touch of irony, at least with my carniverous family, we always have turkey, but it's somehow always about the sides. And we try new ones all the time. Having a vegetarian dinner doesn't make the meal any more "wonderful," just because there won't be a turkey...

              9 Replies
              1. re: Shayna Madel

                I agree with this last paragraph. First and foremost, Thanksgiving is about friends and family - whoever you choose to spend the day with. Secondly, to me at least, it is all about the sides. I've been known to leave off the turkey to have enough room (on my plate and in my belly) for sweet potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, etc....

                I can't imagine someone feeling that their Thanksgiving experience is lacking simply because there isn't a turkey (or any meat, for that matter).

                1. re: cackalackie

                  This is exactly how I feel. First, of all, how many times a year do you roast a turkey? Certainly not for the flavor. How many restaurants offer roast turkey as a main course? Outside of diners? The sides are always the best part. I've been to vegetarian Thanksgivings before and it would absolutely never occur to me to bring meat. They were very dear friends, so it was all about the togetherness.

                2. re: Shayna Madel

                  Just because a vegetarian doesn't have a problem having meat in their home or isn't bothered by other people eating meat does not in any way obligate them to provide meat for a guest. If they are vegetarian for moral reasons they probably have a issues with purchasing meat (i.e. paying for something they believe is morally wrong) as well as preparing meat. If as a guest you think a vegetarian host is obligated to provide you with meat then you probably shouldn't accept an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner hosted by a vegetarian.

                  I think in the OP's case the host is clearly trying to make all of the guests comfortable and the offer to bring their own turkey was in no way inappropriate.

                  1. re: mocooks

                    You are correct...the vegetarians who invited us for Thanksgiving dinner actually said they could buy & cook the turkey if we wanted turkey, but I was the one who felt funny having them cook turkey since they are vegetarians, and I told them so. So, then, they suggested that if I wanted to, I could bring the turkey. Hope this makes more sense now.

                    1. re: mocooks

                      We now have OP's clarification that her hosts were willing to cook the meat and that the OP's host was amenable to accomodating OP and OP was, in return, thinking of her host. Both admirable.

                      That said, I do not think that a host is necessarily obligated to provide meat. If someone is a vegetarian, I respect that. I just don't think it's right for a host to tell you to bring your own food (apparently not the case here)--that they won't cook , but they will put it on their table if you bring it, whether it's meat, or Kosher food or some other special diet related food. If they are a vegetarian for "moral" reasons, as you put it, then at least in my mind, they would not want meat in their home. It's dead flesh no matter who brings it to the table.

                    2. re: Shayna Madel

                      Shayna, I disagree. They may "permit" meat products in their home because they don't want to tell their guests what to eat, but that does not mean they might not have legitimate ethical objections to cooking meat or wanting meat residue on their own cookware. It is along the same lines as catering to friends and colleagues religious requirements in terms of food - of course people who keep very strictly Kosher or Halal might not want to eat at a table where there is food or drink counter to their beliefs, I have often been in a position of catering to the "leniently" Halal, Kosher etc, as I work on international conferences. It is a matter of respecting people's ethical beliefs while striving to enjoy fellowship.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        I am acutely aware that there are different "levels" of vegetarianism, Halal and keeping Kosher and I am also aware that there are varying ways to accomodate guests with varying dietary needs/restrictions. It would just never dawn on me to tell my guests to bring their own food. I don't think that comparing putting meat on a table to Kosher food is necessarily a valid comparison. As said in one of my other posts, dead flesh is dead flesh. Others may not agree with me, but Kosher is not necessarily Kosher. As you pointed out, some strictly observing Kashruth won't eat at a table where there is non-Kosher food on the table. And there are varying "levels" of Kashruth.

                        What it all boils down to is a host making guests feel welcome. We obviously differ as to how that can and should be accomplished. I make sure there is food for everyone with their differing dietary needs/observances. I check with my friends with the juvenile diabetic son to make sure what I am serving is okay, I make sure there is a main course for the vegetarian, I know that my siblings who have had catered affairs have made sure there is at least one vegetarian main course choice and that a Kosher meal (tightly wrapped, with eating implements enclosed) can be brought in for the observant. I do not tell my guests to bring their own food and I do not think it is right to do so (and I do not think it is right for the guest to expect meat, when they clearly can do without it for one meal, though Kosher is a whole other thing).

                        1. re: Shayna Madel

                          I think you may have misread the OP. The hosts didn't tell the guests to bring their own food. They stated that they would be providing a vegetarian meal, but wouldn't object if the guests brought turkey. The hosts have no obligation to prepare meat, and the guests have no obligation to bring it. But if the guests think that Thanksgiving dinner is incomplete without turkey, they're free to bring some.

                          Your analogy to kosher food is backward. Hosts have an obligation to provide a meal that their guests can eat. A host who invites observant Kashruth to dinner has an obligation to provide kosher food, and the OP will have an obligation to provide meat-free food to his/her vegetarian friends when reciprocating for the Thanksgiving dinner. But that doesn't mean that a host who keeps kosher must cook treif for guests without dietary restrictions, or that a vegetarian host must cook meat for omnivorous friends.

                          In this case, the Thanksgiving hosts are fulfilling their obligation by providing a full--albeit meat-free--dinner that the guests can eat. They are going above and beyond their duties by allowing guests to bring meat if they want it. It's like a host who keeps kosher telling guests that they can bring shrimp cocktail if they think the meal will be incomplete without it. Some vegetarians wouldn't permit turkey in the house, and some Kashruth wouldn't eat at a table that held shrimp cocktail. But in either case, the hosts' flexibility is an accommodation to the guests, not an insult.

                      2. re: Shayna Madel

                        Sounds like these vegetarians ARE being good hosts by making sure their omnivore guests don't miss out on any holiday traditions. I've made the same offer to my guests in the past and it was not intended as a "bring it yourself," but rather "please don't feel confined by my lifestyle." If they make the offer, go right ahead. Plus, there's a good possibility vegetarians don't know how to prepare meat in the first place.