Vegetarian, Non-Veg Mom, Birthday Party Menu Planning

Vegetarian Advice: Birthday girl has vegetarian party menu ideas, Mum says her birthday party menu plans are self-centred

21st Birthday Party 

Message for Savvy Vegetarian:

I’m vegetarian, my 21st Birthday is in January and I’m planning a big party which my non-veg mum is very keen to have and pay for.

Birthday Party Menu Planning: I would love for the food at my birthday party to be ovo-lacto vegetarian with lots of vegan options, but I didn’t think my mum would like that very much. About 10 of the guests would be vegetarian or vegan, and I’ve found a local vegetarian caterer.

I asked my dad, also a vegetarian, if he thought my mum would mind having a vegetarian party menu and he said he didn’t think so, but I spoke to my mother about it last night and I was right, she isn’t keen, saying it might come across as self-centred. She comes from a country where meat is a real status symbol.


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Even at home in Australia, barely a family party goes by without a whole roast pig on the table. I know some of my guests, even the non-vegetarians, would find that confronting. When I cook for my close friends it is always vegetarian and they make fun of me but are happy to eat it.

Is it unreasonable for me to want a vegetarian birthday party menu? My parents are paying for it after all. I could let my mum cook a bit of non-veg food. Really that’s not what I would prefer but if I must compromise, I must.

If it is NOT unreasonable to have a vegetarian party, do you have any advice on helping my mum be okay with my idea? I’d hate for her to be sour about it, but I do want the party to reflect me, and possibly show some of the guests that I eat more than salad and boiled vegetables. Vegetarian food at parties is usually terrible if there is any at all.

Any advice or information would be great. Thank you, K. C.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Veg-non-veg issues are covered in the free report, Veg and Non-Veg Eat Together, and I have answered similiar letters in the relationships veg advice section. But I haven’t come across this exact problem, so I’m happy to give you advice.

My personal view of birthday parties – well, any parties – is that they are held for the guests. As the birthday girl, you should shower love & gratitude on all of your guests who are gathering to celebrate your birthday with you. And so should your parents, as hosts.

It’s very nice of your Mum to want to give you a birthday party. On the other hand, even though she’s paying and hosting, the party is in your honor, so the party menu ideas should make you happy, too. I don’t think that it’s self-centered of you to want your 21st birthday party to reflect who you are to your guests, but the dominant birthday party theme should be that you’re 21 – yay!

So I suggest that you and your Mum compromise and produce a blended party menu plan. I recommend a buffet serving arrangement as the easiest way to do this.

Here are my party menu ideas:

Things To Keep In Mind: Of course, do not expect the vegetarians to “just pick out the meat” from non-veg dishes. And try to accommodate other dietary restrictions among your guests such as diabetic, or food allergies. So have a dessert & main dishes that are sugar-less, egg & dairy & gluten free, and don’t put peanuts in anything!

There should be a good variety of vegetarian and vegan foods, as you are a vegetarian, and 10 of your guests are vegetarians, plus your Dad. But they should be familiar tasty dishes that everybody, both vegetarian and non-veg, will enjoy. If you do that, the non-veggies won’t even notice that the meat is missing and that they are (gasp) eating vegetarian food. You won’t need to announce that these foods are veg, except to the vegetarians.


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Some vegetarian party menu ideas: nut loaf with veggie gravy, lasagna, quiche, salads, rice pilaf, soups, breads, fruit, cheese or chocolate based desserts, hummus or guacamole, bowls of roasted nuts, a fruit platter. Of course there are recipes for almost all of the above on Savvy Veg! Avoid tofu and other exotic ingredients such as quinoa or buckwheat, as non-veg don’t usually enjoy them or even know what they are.

There should be a reasonable number of meat based dishes for whatever number of non-veg guests – nothing like a whole roasted hog, or a bloody haunch of beef that will gross out the vegetarians. These non vegetarian foods should be set together separately, or at least pointed out to the vegetarians so they can avoid them. They should be different from the veg dishes in ingredients and appearance (apart from the meat) to avoid confusion and add to the variety of the spread.

A word of caution: This won’t be the best time to introduce your non-veg guests to vegetarianism. At a party, everybody is supposed to enjoy themselves, and it may make your guests uncomfortable if you insist on telling them that you’re vegetarian and all the reasons why. So be diplomatic, spread your birthday magic around, and talk about other things. Maybe your veg friends will agree to do the same.

Hope this helps. Happy 21st birthday!

All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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3 Responses to “Vegetarian, Non-Veg Mom, Birthday Party Menu Planning”

  1. Carmen says:

    I have major issues with serving meat at a mixed party. I am veg for ethical reasons and I am not going to drop my ethics and purchase meat just to make someone happy. It’s 1 meal for goodness sake! Is everyone really so spoiled and ungrateful that they can’t step out of their meat eating cruelty supporting lives for 1 meal?

  2. Savvy Veg says:

    Thanks, Audrey! The chocolate fountain sounds like a winner! Yes, ethnic themes work very well for party buffets, depending on the tastes of the guests, the kind of party etc. In Australia, it’ll be summer, so a cookout might work too – unless its 110 degrees in the shade!

  3. AudreyGS says:

    What about an “ethnic” theme? For my daughter’s bat mitzvah, about 10% of the guests were vegetarian. We catered from a Japanese restaurant: veggie sushi, vegetarian tempura, agedashi tofu, rice, and teriyaki chicken for non-vegetarians. We have also done a Mexican theme, “make your own” burritos and tacos, with two kinds of vegetarian beans, Spanish rice cooked in tomato rather than chicken broth, all the veggies you could want (for example, fajita-style onions and peppers, avocado, multiple salsas). Again, you could have meat/chicken — or not. It’s fun, buffet style so easy to do, and would satisfy everyone. The bat mitzvah menu was a hit.

    (OK, some of that had to do with the chocolate fountain with Guittard dark chocolate, pineapple, and giant strawberries and vegan marshmallows…).

    Happy birthday! Since it’s 21, are you serving alcohol? We had a great assortment of sakes at the bat mitzvah, at a Mexican party you could do Mexican beer and/or sangria.

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