Whether you’re hosting one or attending one (as a veg*n or not), a potluck doesn’t have to prove challenging or formidable. Let’s take a closer look at the best way to navigate this type of social gathering.
When You’re the Host of a Potluck
As a host, throwing a potluck can get tricky without the veg-only challenges. The appetizer people are late or a main dish entree’ guest doesn’t show. But make it an all-veg food event, and you’re in for a ride. Unless you plan on providing the majority if not all of the spread yourself. Otherwise, you just never know what may arrive at the table.
If you’re a veg*n host, some of your guests may react in a way closely resembling panic at the prospect of attending a party without any meat in attendance — let alone trying to figure out what to bring that will pass inspection and security. Some who discover there won’t be any meat may stop on the way to the party to scarf down a burger. They’re afraid that there won’t be enough food — or any “real” satisfying non-bird food — there for them to eat.
You could choose to closely orchestrate the food contributions ahead of time. When someone offers or wonders what to bring, tell them specifically what you’d prefer. Let your guests know in advance that you are hosting a veg*n potluck party. Use Evite to list the preferred contributions that your guests can pick and choose from to prepare and / or purchase to bring to the event.
If you’re a veg*n (or mainly veg*n) host, serve or ask others to bring what you’d like depending on your comfort level — maybe you’re okay with eggs, dairy and some seafood dishes. Or there’s always the option of hiring a caterer if your event is not technically a potluck.
If you’re a non-veg*n host who knows there will be veg*ns in attendance, try to have some other plant-based options available for consumption. Safe bets include salads, desserts, dips / chips, veggies / fruit and beverages. Remember: Chicken and fish are not vegetarian, while eggs and dairy products are vegetarian. And none of those items are vegan, but thankfully there are plenty of faux meat and non-dairy products available on the market to satisfy most carnivores and omnivores.
When You’re the Guest at a Potluck
You wonder if there will be anything there for you to eat. Or worse yet, you stand there and stare at the food not knowing if it’s meat-free or not. You possibly ask for volunteers to taste the food on your behalf to determine whether it contains animal products. Or you can always bring your trusty meat tester*. If still uncertain, you can go for a safer bet like that emergency stash of trail mix you always keep in your car.
*Not yet invented. Patent pending…?
Bring a Veg*n Contribution
My advice is to bring a veg*n dish so you know there will be something you can eat. This also presents an opportunity to share a tasty dish with other guests at the party. If you’re attending a barbecue, you can bring a plant-based burger, braut / dog or some marinated tofu to throw on the grill. Just never assume the host will understand or accommodate your dietary dilemma; they’ve got enough on their plate [pun intended] by hosting the party.
And for an extra potluck anal retentive touch: Include the ingredients (and for extra credit, the recipe) for the dish you’re sharing. However, keep in mind that this can sometimes backfire. Once I made a batch of vegan chili to contribute at a meat-heavy good old boy event in Colorado. My friend — while meaning well — had put a “Vegetarian Chili” sign on the crock pot. Needless to say, no one there touched the chili until I stealthily sneaked up and removed the sign; the chili was quickly devoured soon after the label disappeared.
If you’re a mainly vegan guest and can make an exception to consume cheese and crackers or dishes with eggs and dairy to avoid starvation / drinking too much on an empty stomach, then all the better. Or you could tactfully ask the host or another guest about the dishes on the table and your desire to avoid meat and/or dairy products. Just try not to make a big deal out of it. There’s almost always something available to eat (in addition to your contribution). If not, maybe you can grab a veggie burger to scarf down on your way back home…