How do you convince habitual meat eaters to choose, eat and enjoy a vegetarian dish when yummy meat dishes are fighting for their attention?
The answer is pretty simple and it’s this: cook a delicious vegetarian dish as part of the line up. And I’m not just talking about putting out more veggie side dishes and salads (although those don’t hurt either), but providing a true vegetarian meal that can hold its own against its protein partner.
Unconvinced? I have two recent cases in point.
It is our company tradition that once a week the whole office (all 25 of us!) sits down together to eat lunch. In the summertime these communal dining experiences take the shape of BBQs, which, when first started, consisted of meat-heavy grilling with a few peppers, tomatoes and onions thrown in for good measure (mostly as toppings for the burgers).
After the office vegetarians and myself requested veggie patties, portobello mushrooms and soyrizo, our BBQs became a little more diverse. And as we piled on the toppings and shamelessly enjoyed our meatless concoctions, I noticed that a few others started to skip the meats and reach for the veggie options as well.
In fact, when the weather is not BBQ-permitting and instead we get sandwiches or pizza, the same phenomenon happens! When options include caprese paninis and Greek pizzas, the veggie choice is perceived as just another choice, not one that necessarily lacks meat. And what do you know, meat-eating colleagues, once again forego the “meat-lover’s paradise” and go straight for the veg!
Another example is a recent dinner party when my husband (who is an amazing cook!) made a vegetarian lasagna in addition to spaghetti and meatballs (homemade, of course). Both dishes were fantastic, but guess what, several meat eating guests started with the lasagna and were so culinarily satisfied that the lack of meat didn’t even cross their mind. Those who had both dishes, did eat some meat, but ended up eating less of it overall. And no one left unsatisfied or hungry.
The moral of the story: if you cook it, they will come and eat your veggie offering. Try it at your next dinner or BBQ and just watch what happens.