With the 4th of July right around the corner, the summer grilling season's about to hit its peak. The 4th may very well be the actual peak for lots of people.
For vegans and vegetarians fortunate enough to have a largely veg friend group, or a veg party/event to attend, this is always a great time. For those of us with a more "diverse" social group, this can sometimes be a source of stress or anxiety. Amy and I are lucky enough to have a really supportive group of friends, who not only respect our lifestyle, not only cater to our lifestyle when they have parties, but many of whom are happy to eat vegan themselves some or most of the time.
Still, any time you're in the minority and your beliefs are openly available to public scrutiny--in this case eating--there's bound to be some conflict, question, or exchange. Over the years, I've noticed one really good way to keep this positive is to bring something homemade to grill. Here's why:
- People are far less likely to criticize something that you made yourself. They may not agree with your beliefs, but they're your friends, and it's a bold move to call bullshit on something someone made. It's a like a personal attack. Invariably, of course, someone will tell you that your homemade brats look like poop. To which you should reply: "That's funny. So funny that the first time I heard it, I fell off my dinosaur I laughed so hard."
- In my experience, folks are more curious about homemade grillables. On many occasions they're even tried our homemade burgers, brats, and patties.
- If you can name all the ingredients in something, it's not so mysterious. People often ask, "What's in that?" If you can tell them, it becomes less foreign, more acceptable.
- If you've used local, organic ingredients, it's almost ethically unassailable. The conversation doesn't always have to be about animal rights. It can be about supporting the local economy, reducing environmental impact, not eating stuff that's processed, avoiding packaging, steering clear of hormones, food safety, etc. They're your friends, right? So they're probably awesome and smart. They like to talk about these things. Any discussion that raises or brings to focus our awareness of the food that we eat is a good discussion. You're also bound to pick up a few advocates along the way. There are plenty of meat eaters who support local and organic.
- You can vary how "meaty" your burgers/brats/patties are. This ranges from, say, a black bean burger at one end (most people are omnivores, so they do eat beans)--which makes no pretense of being meat--to a seitan brat or barbecued seitan on the other. In the middle, you've got stuff like breaded chick(pea) patties, which have a aspire to something chicken-y, but do so in the form of a pretty familiar bean. Generally, the less your grillable aspires to be meat, the less others are likely to criticize and the more likely they are to try one themselves. Small victories, right?
Of course, this isn't to say that you shouldn't get pumped about grilling veggies and such (in fact, you probably should have some veggies)--asparagus, squash, zucchini, shish-ka-bobs, portabellas, etc--just that there's something kind of nostalgic and satisfying about having a "traditional" grillable. So why not kick it the fresh, homemade, vegan way?
Some of our favorites are: