What does a non-drinking vegan do when invited round by neighbours on Christmas Eve for mulled wine and mince pies?
I actually got out of it because i was just about to head off in the car, but in other, hypothetical circumstances, what’s the polite response? When it’s people you’ve never spoken to before, except for small talk in the lift or car park?
Do you say, I’d love to come round but I don’t want any wine or mince pies? Because then you’re really just inviting yourself round for conversation, and you have nothing to say to these people, and it would be kind of awkward just sitting there perched on the edge of their sofa, refusing all hospitality. It’s Christmas, you’re meant to be stuffing yourself.
Do you say yes, but explain you’re vegan and send them off in a last minute panic run to the shops, trying to find vegan mince pies? (And no point asking me where you’d get them, cos I don’t like them anyway… But that’s just me being fussy).
My vegan sister went for the BYO option and turned up at her neighbours with her own wine and some stollen, but that was OK because most of the street was invited and they know what she’s like anyway.
I’m sure some people would say it’s just plain rude not to accept someone’s hospitality, even if it means compromising. And I’ve certainly been in situations where I’ve had a cup of milky tea plonked in front of me by an elderly person and I’ve had to sip politely at it, or where someone thinks they’ve cooked something you can eat, and it’s actually got dairy in it so you try to eat round those bits. (Meat would be different… If it had meat in it I wouldn’t touch it).
Sometimes it’s easier to let people assume its because of an allergy or intolerance. If peep think you’re going to die if you eat something you shouldn’t, they tend to be a bit more sympathetic. In countries like France, Russia or Spain where they have near total contempt for vegetarians, the “I cannot have” dairy line is by far the best option.
But the bottom line is, being vegan – or being ‘fussy’ about food in some other way, whether it’s being a Muslim or coeliac or whatever – does limit your ability to socialise. If someone’s having a dinner party I’m quite happy to say, look, I’m vegan, it would be a real pain for you to cook, go ahead without me, we’ll catch up some other time… But of course, they’re always far too polite to take you at your word.
The answer to all this is simple. Can’t beat going for a traditional Christmas curry!