The title of this post is not so much a question I want to ask as it is a question that’s been making its way around the web, causing vegans to opine at great length about their values and bacon lovers to proclaim they’ll boycott any and all meat-free wedding receptions. Why, you may ask, shouldn’t it be a question that’s, excuse the pun, on the table? Simple. It’s the bride and groom’s party, so they get to decide what is served. If they make concessions for dietary restrictions such as veganism or gluten allergies or diabetes, fantastic!
And if they don’t… well, frankly, as a vegetarian, I’ve been to weddings and events where the meat-free option was an absolutely boring plate of limp, overcooked vegetables no doubt scraped off the plates of meat eaters who turned up their noses at such a sorry side dish. It’s disappointing when that happens, and The Beard and I may have laughed at such a meager meal, but we didn’t complain to anyone or make a big deal out of it. After all, I could go to a wedding and find not one but two vegetarian options, both of which I hate. Or I could discover that I’m allergic to the main ingredient in the main dish. The host of a party should provide refreshments and a meal if it’s mealtime, but he or she is under no obligation to send you home stuffed to the gills with your favorite foods.
I mean, really, the notion that vegans shouldn’t serve a vegan (or vegetarian) menu because it is selfish – an opinion I’ve seen expressed quite a bit in the past few days – ignores the fact that there are plenty widely-enjoyed foods that are vegan by default and lots of great, filling meat-free foods suitable for different flavors of vegetarian. That being the case, I certainly can’t understand behavior like this:
When Patrick Moore, a salesman from Attleboro, Mass., arrived at an old friend’s wedding in 1999 to discover nothing but vegetarian options, he made an excuse about leaving the gift in his car so he could visit a sandwich shop across the street.
It was Moore’s prerogative, I guess, to go and fulfill his craving for a chicken parm, but he couldn’t wait until the wedding was over? It strikes me as rather rude to not only leave a wedding reception to go pick up food you like – really, there was nothing on the vegetarian menu he cared for? – but then to bring it back inside with you instead of scarfing it down at the shop… Classy! Maybe he could have grabbed a 40 oz. and brought that back, too, just in case the bar ran out of his favorite beer.
Anyway, here are the five main reasons I think that vegans should put together wedding menus that appeal to them instead of serving food that they can’t even eat:
Vegan Food Is More Than Just Salad
Oh, another crack about ‘rabbit feed,’ how clever. It seems to me that many of the people arguing against letting vegans have their vegan wedding menus must have had their heads in the sand for the past decade because there are about a zillion vegan recipe blogs and cookbooks out there. Vegans must be eating something beyond the occasional lettuce leaf or there’d be no money in printing all those books. If there’s one thing people attending a vegan wedding should not worry about, it’s getting enough to eat. And frankly, anyone who thinks they’ll be munching a great big healthy boring salad at a vegan wedding or dinner party should come to one of the vegan restaurants in Boston. My favorite foods on the menus at those places are probably some of the tastiest and least healthy stuff I consume.
Vegetarian and Vegan (and Gluten Free, etc.) Food Can Be Food, As Opposed to a Political Statement
A veggie menu doesn’t have to be preachy or even teachy because it’s just food. If I’m served Korean food at a wedding, I don’t imagine for a minute that the couple who just said their vows is trying to give me a sneaky geography lesson along with my namul. Likewise, I wouldn’t attend a backyard barbecue wedding and spend the reception on the lookout for someone from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Would you? My first impression would be that the groom has Korean roots or that the Bride loves her bbq. I’d suggest that anyone attending a wedding that features a vegan reception menu should not think of the main course as a lecture. Eat the food, don’t analyze it. It is not a criticism of your lifestyle.
Specialty Food Doesn’t Always Mean Unfamiliar, Weird Food (But Why Balk If It Does?)
I’m old enough to remember when you had to go to the health food store to buy tofu – now chain groceries have their own store-brand tofu, but people still assume that specialty foods are going to be something weird and gross and *gasp* healthy. It’s an attitude that strikes me as a bit silly being that I can buy gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan stuff at Stop & Shop, along with familiar stuff like slabs of meat and ice cream. Why do people assume that if they’re going to a vegan wedding or gluten-free wedding that they are going to be served something that they’ve never seen before (and is probably yucky)? A wedding guest at a vegan wedding might be served something unfamiliar, sure, but brides and grooms choose their reception menus quite carefully. There’s every reason to assume that whatever it is, it will be tasty. And really, isn’t trying new foods fun?
Most Omnivores Eat Veggie Food All the Time
I know one person who does not eat vegetables. Literally, I do not know how he manages to have bowel movements because he does not consume any veggies at all. But him aside, everyone I know who eats meat also eats grains and plants and nuts and all of the other stuff that one might find on a vegan wedding menu. They eat vegetarian foods and some vegan foods without even thinking about it. Like my dad, for example, who for whatever reason used to call The Beard’s homemade pizza ‘vegetarian pizza.’ Not because he was addicted to the meat lover’s supreme, but because we’re vegetarian. This automatically made The Beard’s regular plain pizza somehow different, but it was just pizza! Like I said above, there is no reason for a meatophile to assume that she’s going to be served tempeh bake with tofu sauce and a side of natto at a vegan wedding.
You Can’t Please Everyone
Anyone who’s thinking about serving anything at a wedding should remember that there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like the food. And that someone will not complain if they have good manners. If you want to try to please almost everyone at your reception, have a buffet with a variety of choices, but don’t include things in it that you detest or are morally opposed to just because you’re afraid someone will find your reception menu odd. Like I said, I’ve been to weddings where there wasn’t much I could eat, and that was okay. I’ve been to weddings where I just plain didn’t like the food, and that’s okay, too. Most of the people at those weddings loved the food, and maybe I stopped for fries on the way home or just filled up on delicious cake. I did not starve to death, and I wasn’t offended at the lack of real vegetarian options because it was not my wedding. The brides and grooms were not thinking about Never teh Bride when they planned their menus.
I’ll admit to having had a vegetarian wedding menu myself, and I was a tad afraid that certain relatives would wonder where the ham was hiding. But if anyone was bothered by there being no meat in the buffet, no one said anything to us. If someone had, I would have been both appalled and quite surprised. I chose a very tasty menu of foods that even the most meat-obsessed omnivores will eat fairly regularly without thinking about it, so there was, as I saw it, no reason for anyone to feel particularly deprived. Or as one Jezebel commenter put it: “…if you attended a wedding and were served crudités with pesto dip, garlic and olive oil breadsticks, pasta with marinara and sauteed summer squash, followed by blackberry sorbet, would you really go home and grumble that there was no meat?”
ed. — I’d add in some vegan sushi!