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Ask Chicagoist: Pass on the Veggie Burgers?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Jun 9, 2006 2:35PM

2006_06_askveggies.jpgDear Ask:
So, barbecue season is here. Which is great news, except I'm vegetarian and I get SO embarrassed going to BBQs all summer long but not being able to eat anything. Or everyone makes fun of me! What should I do? Should I bring some meat, just to get them off my back? Or should I just sit there and try to be invisible?
Thanks,
VegBQ.

Hi VBQ!

With a few notable exceptions, Chicagoist believes that no social activity should be dampened by your food choices. As a vegetarians ourselves, we think that as long as you aren't being the infamous "pushy obnoxious righteous" vegetarian, you'll find it easier to blend in than you might think. But just because you don't want to push your eating habits on anyone else doesn't mean you should hide them.

First of all, who are these people you are hanging out with who make fun of you for not eating burgers? Is it good-natured ribbing, or are they seriously offended by your diet? Either way, Chicagoist believes that a little respect is demanded in friendship, or you have the immediate right to throw their teasing right back at them. Don't be invisible -- make sure they know you don't appreciate their comments. If it's family or co-workers who are snickering at your meatless ways, be sure to point out that your abstaining means all the more hot dogs for them. Regardless of what you say, stand up for yourself, and don't let anyone other than yourself question your life choices.

Next, don't starve! Even the most die-hard charred meat enthusiasts tend to eat a variety of food, so there is usually a great array of side dishes found at cookouts (more potato salad over here, please!) that you can enjoy without ingesting meat products. And don't forget the dessert and free beer, which Chicagoist always recommends filling up on, especially if these are the people who are making fun of you.

And what about bringing along your own food? You don't have to bring meat! It's good etiquette to bring something to the barbeque, so why not whip up some of your Aunt Martha's famous veggie casserole? Wow your carnivorous pals with your favorite meat-free dish. And what about grilled vegetables? Chicagoist grew up in Indiana, and therefore maintains that nothing beats grilled corn on the cob (we prefer ours plain, but you may like salt and butter on yours). Want to get a little more fancy? Grab some of your favorite veggies, cut and skewer, baste them with a nice marinade, and grill. Everyone will want to try a taste. No one's going to give up their ribs for a veggie-kabob, but they won't argue with having more food around. There are even whole books written on the subject of vegetarian grilling you might want to check out. Even when it's not BBQ season, bringing along a dish to share is a great icebreaker.

If your idea of cooking is calling for takeout, you can always come armed with a box of your favorite veggie burgers or veggie dogs to toss on the grill. The frozen fake meat product industry has really gone crazy in recent years, so you'll find something for any occasion. We even have a couple of seemingly die-hard meat-eating friends who are big fans of the grilled garden burger. Added bonus: your stuff will be done long before everyone else's!

Finally, don't be shy! Tell your hosts your dietary restrictions when you're invited, be it for a summer BBQ or a winter dinner party. Regardless of whether you're vegetarian, vegan, allergic to peanuts, or lactose-intolerant, Chicagoist thinks you'll find that most people will want to go out of their way to make sure there is plenty around for you to eat. After all, they invited you for your company, not because they had a meat-excess that needed to be consumed immediately.

Bon App├ętit!

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Are your veggies overcooked? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.