Potlucks are always interesting when you choose not to eat meat, especially when you know all of the guests are going to be carnivores. I still find myself planning and stressing about what I should take for weeks before the actual event. My family is hugely into potlucks on the holidays, as well as random other days of the year. I don’t always enjoy them, but I’ve learnt to survive.
There are several considerations I need to make before actually settling on the dish I would like to contribute.
1. It must be a substantial main course for me. When I first became vegetarian, I would always contribute a dessert to the dinner table. But 99% of the time, that would mean that I was literally eating a plate of dessert for my meal. I can’t rely on someone else to bring something I can add to my meal. Sometimes someone will bring a salad, but invariably the salad on the table is either Caesar (anchovies=bad) or one that has chunks of ham that the contributor assumes I can pick out (don’t make me go there). I have to assume that the item I am bringing will be the only thing on the table I can eat. So make something substantial and delicious.
2. Because it must be substantial, it is best that I am not the one providing the salad. I can make some delightful salads, but on the off chance that someone else brings a salad I can enjoy, I don’t want to be eating two conflicting salads on the same plate.
3. It must be something that appeals to the meat eaters of the group. I like to show off the foods I eat, to show that I still eat delicious food, and that delicious food does not need to contain meat. Most of my family will never agree, nor do I want them to, but it doesn’t hurt to show people that we can eat good too.
Tips for surviving:
1. We have all been to those events where the dish you have contributed has been the most well received of the night. Back when I was starting my vegetarian journey, I would bring my vegetable lasagne to all potlucks. However, each time, by the time I got to plate up for myself, it would already be gone. I have to admit it would suck having to sit and watch everyone else eat but have nothing myself. A couple of times, the dessert that had been brought would either include gelatin or lard, so I couldn’t even have that. I have since learnt to bring a ziploc of whatever I’ve made for myself so that I am always guaranteed a hearty portion.
2. Bring sides. Along with your main contribution of a dish, bring a side of rice for yourself to have with your main course. Especially since I only ever seem to eat what I’ve brought, I refuse to feel bad about only bringing enough rice for myself. Or edamame. Or both? So that you are able to have a full meal on your plate.
3. Bring snacks. Particularly if it is going to be a long or late evening, bring something to snack on. I generally keep some trail mix or dried fruit in my purse so that I can have a snack when the meat platters start to come out.
4. Don’t make a big deal about what you can and can’t eat. Simply put what you can eat on your plate, and if someone offers you something you won’t eat just say ‘no thank you’. That is if you have no desire to go into the ins and outs of your diet at that particular time.
5. Just have fun. Focus on spending time with your friends or family, and enjoy the holidays!