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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Sweet Scoop

I bet you know what I’m talking about. You’ve invited someone round for dinner. You’ve got a plan; you have the pasta and the cheese to throw together in the ten minutes between when you get home and they arrive, and then they tell you. “Oh, by the way, I’m vegan/gluten-free/only eat locally harvested fruit juice.” Then it’s panic time, frantic googling “do vegetables contain gluten?” and last-minute treks to Kelburn Four Square or New World Metro, in search of the soy cheese that they inevitably don’t stock. Well, in large, friendly letters, Don’t Panic! I’ve heroically done the googling for you…

Vegetarian

Definitely the most common on the list. Even if you aren’t vegetarian, chances are that you know at least one person who is. Despite this, for habitual meat cookers, feeding a vegetarian can be pretty mystifying. Like, where’s the meat?

Doesn’t eat: There are different grades of vegetarian—some identify as vegetarian, but still eat fish, or white meat, or eat meat sometimes. It is safest to assume that a vegetarian doesn’t eat any meat, fish, or meat products, such as chicken stock or fish paste.

Does eat: Eggs, dairy products, tofu and other soy products, any vegetables and grains.

Recommended meals: Vegetable soup with bread; burgers made with bean patties; nachos with beans, guacamole and lots of cheese; quiche with tomatoes and onion; stir-fry with vegetables and tofu; pasta with mushrooms and cheese; any meat-free curry; roast vegetables; potato salad.

Vegan

Veganism often gets a reputation for pretty dire food, mainly through non-vegans’ experiences with really awful vegan baking. I think the best way to successfully cook vegan is to pick dishes that are already vegan, or nearly so, rather than attempting elaborate substitutions. In other words, skip the tofu soufflé, and try a curry, vegetable soup or bean dish.

Doesn’t eat: any animal products. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey are all out.

Does eat: Tofu, beans and pulses, grains, fruit and vegetables, oils, coconut cream.

Recommended meals: Thai curry made with coconut cream and a fish-free red/green curry paste; pasta with a tomato sauce, fried in olive oil not butter; rice or barley risotto, made with olive oil not butter, and without the cheese; pasta or potatoes tossed with pesto; meat-free chili, served with natural corn chips (watch out for dairy products in the flavouring powders) and guacamole. For dessert, try a fruit crumble, using a flavourless oil rather than butter in the topping, or chocolate fondue with dark chocolate.

Gluten-Free

The gluten-free diet has boomed in popularity over the last five years, yet most gluten eaters (myself included!) find it difficult to know what does and doesn’t contain gluten. Those on a strict gluten-free diet, particularly those with coeliac disease, need to avoid all gluten sources, which are far wider than just wheat products. It is also important to check the labels. Traces of gluten lurk in the most unexpected items (I’m looking at you marshmallows, cheese corn chips and soy sauce) and could make a gluten-free person sick.

Doesn’t eat: anything containing gluten. This means wheat, rye, barley, semolina, spelt, oats, beer, ale, lager, and malt vinegar. It also includes couscous and most pasta. When in doubt, look carefully at the packet.

Does eat: meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, corn products, rice, quinoa, potatoes, millet, nuts, gluten-free flours (rice flour, almond meal, coconut flour, chickpea flour etc.), buckwheat, and seeds.

Recommended meals: Rice risottos; meat/vegetable and chickpea casseroles; quinoa salad with sweetcorn and feta cheese (so good!); falafel (beware of wheat-based tortillas); roast vegetable salad; shepherd’s pie; Thai curries. For dessert, try ice cream, anything fruit-based (baked apples and custard are pretty great; so is any fruit, e.g. pears, boiled with sugar and wine until just soft), rice pudding, chocolate mousse, jelly.

Freegan

Freegans are vegans, who also totally boycott the economic system (at least, according to their website). They buy nothing, or as little as possible, and prefer to forage for food, both from gardens and through dumpster diving. The internet wouldn’t tell me whether it is enough that they haven’t bought the food, or if you have to scavenge too. Try raiding your parents’/neighbours’ vegetable gardens, or visiting VUWSA for their free bread or instant-noodle giveaways.

Raw-Food Diet

Raw foodists eat only raw food, heated to less than 40ºC. They range from raw-food vegans and vegetarians to raw food carnivores. I guess it would save on your power bill.

Doesn’t eat: anything cooked, or heated over 40ºC. This includes pasteurised dairy products.

Does eat: anything raw.

Recommended meals: Large salads, with lots of different vegetables, nuts and seeds; ribbons of vegetables (use carrots and zucchinis, cut into fine ribbons with a potato peeler) with a peanut-butter sauce or pesto; raw sushi, made by filling the nori paper with vegetables/fish and skipping the rice. For dessert, try fresh fruit.

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