We sometimes get so involved in the amazing vegetarian options we encounter in our small section of life that we forget we are just that – a small section of life. Dallas is a fairly diverse city, so we have a variety of options at our fingertips, but Texas in general remains a beef-loving state. When people plan large dinners, the standard options are barbeque or some chicken dish. Vegetarians are often considered the inconvenient guests who create extra work for the organizers. Who hasn’t heard this conversation at least once?

“Let’s serve barbeque.”

“What about the vegetarians?”

“Who cares?”

We’ve all been there, which is why it is impressive that the planners of a recent conference dinner made sure to order a vegetarian option and asked the caterer not to use any hidden broth or lard in any of the food items. If it wasn’t labeled as “beef,” it was a vegetarian option. Thanks! This seems like such a simple thing, but sometimes it takes multiple phone calls to get these simple things accomplished. They did a great job planning and the caterer’s spread was beautiful.

Unfortunately, running out of the meat dish only meant pulling the meaty spoon out of the empty tray to use in the vegetarian version. That matters not only because the vegetarian dish went empty just as the meaty one was being refilled, but also because it puts meat into the veg. There was a reason the organizers went out of their way to keep the two separate, but attendees at well-run events shouldn’t know how much care goes into planning and execution behind the scenes. As with any conference, dinner is only part of the whole so the overall experience is what matters.

We did take away a few tips, though. These may be obvious to caterers and event planners, but we masses who rarely plan or attend catered affairs found them helpful.

First, when planning an event involving a buffet, remember that everyone can, and will, eat vegetarian dishes, but vegetarians tend to go hungry once their options run out. Perhaps ordering half and half seems like overkill, but people moving through a buffet line tend to grab a little bit of everything without thought to the dietary limitations of others. (And of course that’s great. We should all able to relax and enjoy a meal without wondering if we’re depriving the person behind us in line.)

Since there are different levels of vegetarian, maybe putting something like the salad or mixed veggies between the meat and veg dishes can remove the temptation to share serving spoons. Or place extra spoons near the dishes to remove the need.

Finally, there is the vegetarian catering option. We mentioned Crosby Catering last week and can’t wait for a reason to try this place out. Spaghetti, lasagna, any pasta dish, and many Indian dishes can be made vegetarian without even trying, so serving these could be a valid alternative to the “beef or chicken” question.

If you have tricks to survive group events as a vegetarian, we’d love to hear from you.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.