How to Survive and Thrive at an Omni BBQ

As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, Sunday was Reese’s birthday. To celebrate, we drove down Santa Cruz with a few of our close friends and had a barbecue in Reese’s folks’ backyard. It was the perfect day for a barbecue – 80 degrees and sunny, with the birds singing and the flowers blooming.

Barbecues hosted by even the most sensitive of omnivores, though, can be a bit tricky for vegans, and we are coming up on the time of year when they will be ubiquitous. They’re a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family, obviously, and they almost always involve guacamole, which is a definite plus. But it’s easy to run into some difficulty with the actual grilling: after all, it’s the culinary focus of the event, and naturally you’ll want to share in the excitement, but at the same time, the grill itself is likely to be covered in meat before, during, and after the event.

Here are my all-time top 5 tips for being good to yourself and good to your omnivore BBQ host:

1. Bring a dish to share.

I made a huge green salad topped with apple, walnuts, and scallions, and my sister-in-law Amanda made her fabulous avocado kale salad. My baked beans would also be a great option here. This does two things: first, it ensures that you will have something to eat. Second, it allows the omnivores to enjoy your delicious vegan home cooking, which we all know endears vegans to everyone! Plus, when you get as excited about salad as I clearly am, it’s hard not for your energy to be contagious.

2. Bring a cutting board, a knife, and a bowl. 

If you live in an old city like I do, many of your friends will have adorably petite kitchens that function best while housing one or two busy chefs. Everyone hangs out in the kitchen at parties, so trying to find these invaluable items in someone else’s kitchen while navigating around ten people who are looking for more beer can spell trouble. If you have to prep your dish on site, plan ahead and you’ll be in a better mood.

3. Aluminum foil.

(Hint: no, you don’t have to wear it!)

In addition to the salad, I brought some spicy Field Roast sausages to grill, but of course I didn’t want them to share grill space with the animal sausages and burger patties. What to do? I wrapped them in aluminum foil before grilling them. What you lose in cute grill lines, you regain in the maintenance of your principles. A note to my omnivore friends: if you want to bring meat over to a vegetarian barbecue, ask your friends if they’re comfortable having you wrap your sausages in foil to avoid meating the grill. If you ask politely, I bet they will say sure!

4. Smile.

Be nice. Grillmasters are often proud of their skills, which can sometimes come across as their being or possessive of their purview. Be respectful of the fact that they take their grilling seriously, and ask them politely (but firmly) to accommodate you. Hopefully they will be hospitable – I’ve never had someone deny my requests, but I live in California, so my sample might be skewed. If your host won’t budge on grill real estate, you can always eat your emergency Clif bar.

5. Listen to this song and get pumped! Do the watusi!

On the level: staying vegan at a meat-centric event can be done… by you. You can do it! And remember, after all the meat has been eaten and the mayonnaise has been put away, you’ll be sitting around a fire with your friends and family, so engaged in conversation that you’ll all forget that your iPhones even exist. Or at least, that’s what happened at Reese’s birthday party!*

The next morning, you can go out to breakfast with the whole gang and talk about the memories you’ve just created.

Let me know how your barbecues go! All the love!


*…By the way, should you find yourself in this happy, technology-less situation, I’d recommend not mentioning it. Once you remind people that their phones exist, they might remember a text they’d been meaning to send, and you’ll distance yourself from the very situation you were just enjoying.


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