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Apr 18, 2012 07:50 AM

Vegetarian invited to a BBQ - Should I offer to bring something for my entree?

I've been invited to a BBQ. Only a few people will be there - 6 adults and 5 kids. 3 of the kids (6 YO) are friends at school so the get together is a play date for them with the opportunity for the adults to get to know each other better.

The invitation mentioned the possible menu: "We'll probably be cooking shrimp, chicken and hot dogs on the grill."

So, here's my dilemma: I don't eat chicken or hot dogs. I do eat shrimp. None of the above sound like a given. Normally I would certainly offer to bring something (with the expectation that they might decline) and normally I would not expect there to be something at a BBQ that a vegetarian would necessarily eat (especially as they don't know that I am a vegetarian) and normally I wouldn't give it a second thought...I would just load up on salad or sides and not draw attention to the fact that I'm not eating anything off the grill.

But, I feel like this gracious invitation deserves a different response for a few reasons:
1. The group is small (so everyone's eating or not eating is likely to be noticed)
2. As she mentioned a possible menu I would feel very strange to show up and not eat. I envision the conversation: "Oh, I told you what we were having...why didn't you say something?"

Here are the options that come to mind: All of the below are preceded by a gracious acceptance of this invitation and expressing our delight at attending.

1. Ask if she would mind if I would bring veggie burgers to share. The downside I see to this is that this creates additional work for the host and also that it doesn't sound like she's serving hamburgers so perhaps I should offer to bring buns too? But then it seems like I'm taking over the menu.

2. Offer to bring a main dish sort of salad or maybe something like hummus. I guess I would preface this by saying "I don't eat meat. Would it be all right if I brought some veggie items to share?"

3. Say nothing other than my usual offer to bring something nonspecific.

4. Your thoughts?

I do want to reiterate that if the situation were different I would be delighted to go without any fuss, flying under the radar screen and enjoying whatever food was offered that I eat. I'm not a big fussbudget in that regard (other ways to be sure!).

Your constructive ideas are appreciated.


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  1. I've found myself in similar situations, albeit with people I knew better than you know these people. I do offer to bring vegetarian burgers or hot dogs, and usually the host tells me not to bother and just picks up a package. If the barbecue is more pot luck-y, you could certainly suggest bringing a salad or something. It sounds like a pretty informal gathering, so your contributions would likely be appreciated.

    1. I always offer.

      My offer usually goes something like, "I'm so excited to come to the party, and can't wait to see everyone. Being a vegetarian, I absolutely do not want to put you out or be a pain and ask you to cook something specific for me. So, I would love to bring something that I can eat, and share with others- do you think x, y, or z would fit better with everything else? Again, I don't want you to feel like you need to do anything special, so I'm excited to bring something good to share!"

      2 Replies
      1. re: erin_grogan

        This is a great way to do it. If I know I have veg folks I plan the rest of my menu accordingly. Usually the only non veg item I will do is the main protein and at least one of my sides pairs well as a main too.

        I would offer and let them know you do eat shrimp in case that helps but that you would love to contribute anyway.

        1. I would be REALLY annoyed if a vegetarian guest didn't let me know her diet. Offering to bring something IMHO a gracious way not to be an undue burden, but I agree, I'd probably decline the offer and pick up extra shrimp or a package of vegetarian burgers. At least I'd know not to put bacon in the salad.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sr44

            Absolutely. You must let the hostess know that you have certain dietary restrictions and it would be reasonable for you to offer to bring something that you know you can eat. If you were going to be my guest, I would feel awful if I wasn't able to ensure that you would have a good time.

            1. re: josephnl

              and that's the key. if you say "i'm on a diet, so don't fuss over me" and just eat sides, it'll be fine.

          2. It sounds like they're doing the grill and that usually means other people will bring sides. So you could bring a side that could be your main or just bring along a package of veg burgers and matching buns. I don't see that as "taking over the menu" and if they don't get eaten I would feel free to take them home.

            1. As a host I would want to know about allergies, food preferences, etc. A diplomatic way to bring it up would be a variation of your #2, except I would offer to bring something like ceviche prefacing it with the fact that you are pescatarian (not vegetarian). A good host will pick up on that and probably make sure she's got some extra shrimp and/or veggie burgers.