Cookouts For Vegetarians, Vegans, and Friends who aren’t too sure about this…

Grilling the corn.

Grilling the corn.

I’m posting this a bit earlier than my usual schedule for weekly posts because no doubt by now you’re planning your holiday weekend. With the Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, and the beginning of summer cookout season, vegetarians, vegans and their omnivorous friends may all look at each other and say, “What do we do?” Casual outdoor parties which prominently feature hosts who play with fire need not be impossible to navigate for vegetarians, vegans, or the people who throw the party (who might not be vegetarian). There’s lots of options for everyone and this post will link to some of the yummy cookout posts here from previous years, as well as thoughts and tips for navigating cookouts that are less veg-friendly. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there’s no reason you can’t throw a helluva party with amazing food that omnivores will scarf up with pleasure. Likewise, if you’re an omnivore, you don’t have to exclude your vegetarian friends from cookouts. Throw a great party around the grill! There are only two requirements and they’re easy.

Firstly, if you are hosting a cookout, always cook the vegetarian items on the grill before the meat items, if you’re planning on cooking any meat. (Vegetarian cookouts can be awesome! Check out the links at the end of this post.) The second requirement is that you and your guests love good food. 🙂 See? Easy.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

There are some vegetarians and vegans who just can’t stand to be around any meat at all. Please, if you’re an omnivore, find out if your veggie-loving friends are okay with a meat option if cooked after the veggie components of the meal go on the grill. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you’re invited to a cookout with friends who are omnivores, ask if you should bring your own burgers or soy dogs or if they will be provided. If you’re bringing your own, arrive early. At least early enough that the whole meal isn’t held up waiting for the veg items to be put on the grill. Try not make too big a deal about it all, or inconvenience your host. This really shouldn’t be a big deal.

If they invited you to a cookout, it’s probably because they like you, enjoy your company, and want you to have a good time. You should honor their effort to accommodate your dietary choices and be happy to be included. On the off chance they invited you as some sort of passive aggressive way of disapproving of you and making you feel uncomfortable and unwanted, then they are very clearly and sadly in the wrong by any standard of civility and hospitality. How you respond to this is a personal decision and depends on the sort of person you are, whether you’re a “turn the other cheek” sort of person or a “my way or the highway” sort of person. Please don’t start a fight: people won’t remember that the host treated you poorly, only that you were screaming at them. Remember: the whole idea is to socialize, have fun, and eats tons of good food!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

If no accommodation is made for your food choices, there are still some workarounds you can do as a vegetarian or vegan. One thing I did at a cookout was to make a sloppy joe style burger for myself out of the baked beans — which I had brought. If you didn’t make the beans you can’t know for sure if it’s vegetarian or vegan, but it’s a small compromise, as such things go. If you want to be sure such a work-around option is vegetarian, then offer to bring the BBQ Baked Beans. 🙂 They’re spicy and tasty and will win friends. I have people ask for this recipe every time I take it to a cookout where there’s people who haven’t had it before.

Frankenslaw

Frankenslaw

Social situations are supposed to be fun. Food is culture — and it’s inclusiveness, too. Sharing meals is one of those things that binds groups of people together. Making meals together, too. Also, potlucks. This is socially and culturally important. And fun. Let’s not forget the fun! Below are some previous posts about cookouts, about vegetarian burger and hotdog options, and recipes for various yummy things you can grill or bring. You will note that some of these posts refer to Thanksgiving. I live near the Texas Gulf Coast; cookout season easily extends to Thanksgiving and I’ve found that a vegetarian cookout for Thanksgiving is good analogue for a traditional Thanksgiving: everyone brings dishes and helps with the cooking, there’s a festive party atmosphere, and we all eat way too much! 😉

I don’t have a “bean burger” recipe (yet), and haven’t been diligent about creating one because I love the LightLife Backyard Grillin’ Burgers for cookouts. (Their other burgers are also good, but the Backyard Grillin Burgers are the absolute best for the grill.)

Give our blog a good browse and you’ll come up with desserts, too! (Throwing a party? Going to a party? Read about The Sticky Business of RSVPs. I wrote it for the Christmas season, but yeah, totally applicable to cookouts!)

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