Not An Alien, Just A Vegetarian At Christmastime

November marks that time of year when we all begin to plan our Christmas. For those of us whose turn it is to host the entertainment there's always that dilemma: What to feed the vegetarians. Well, actually there's not, or at least there shouldn't be. Although, to read most foodie magazines this month, you'd think that having to cater for a vegetarian is some kind of purgatory designed for wayward hosts and hostesses who failed to come up to scratch last year. Even the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver this year described being asked by Sainsburys magazine to come up with tasty options for veggie guests come Christmas Day as fun because he "can't resist a challenge". Come on Jamie, it's hardly rocket science now is it? Vegetarians are not aliens from the planet Zog, they are just normal people who choose not to eat meat. Just like some people choose not to eat, say, bananas. Okay, it's a bit more complicated than that, but you catch my drift.

As it happens I, and the four people with whom I spend my Christmas Day are vegetarians (well, we all eat fish, but that's another story). We are not forced by our meat-eating families to join up in some veggie ghetto, nor do we choose to isolate ourselves from the mere scent of a basting turkey, it just happened that way. Non-veggies always seem perplexed by this. As if you simply cannot celebrate the Festive Season without chomping on roasted poultry. Of course, many people don't eat turkey come Christmas. At least two hostesses of my acquaintance routinely cook more than one option –  turkey and beef, or goose and ham and so on. They want to impress and to give their guests choice. Well, their meat-eating guests at least. Both are seized by apoplexy at the very idea of providing a vegetarian-friendly option. One even suggested to a prospective in-law that she bring her own food to cook!

Most vegetarians realise that for people not used to catering for them, providing a meat-free Christmas dinner can seem awkward. But really it's not. No-one is going to mind if you rely on good old Sainsburys or Marks and Spencer to provide the meat alternative this year. A nice veggie pie, a strudel, an en croute, even a nut roast or wellington, all sit very happily alongside the usual Christmas fayre. And look online and you'll find there are some really simple recipes. And, unless you cook your spuds in goose fat a la Nigella, or lard a la granny, there's unlikely to be anything besides the bird and the gravy for which your veggie guests will need an alternative. After all most of the Christmas dinner is veggie-friendly - sprouts, roasties, parsnips, cranberry sauce and bread sauce even stuffing (cooked outside the turkey, of course) are unlikely to offend anyone. I can't say the same for the effects of the sprouts the next day, but sometimes you have to take your chances … 

Next year you might even consider doing the entire meal veggie – after all there'll be no turkey leftovers!