Christmas time! Summer, beaches, barbeques, family celebrations… These traditional festivities often present their own set of challenges for vegetarians, both food-wise and socially.
Traditionally in New Zealand, Christmas dinner includes a lot of meat and vegetarians can not only go hungry, but can also become the uncomfortable subject of table conversation and even mocking. As well as that, sharing a meat-laden table and watching your loved ones consume animals in front of you can be upsetting.
Christmas should be a happy time, spent enjoying good food and good company.
Many of the foods you’ll find at Christmas time have hidden non-vegetarian ingredients. Look for the NZ Vegetarian Society Approved logo to find vegetarian items. Otherwise check labels carefully.
Christmas Fruit Pies – Animal fat. Both the filling and the pastry can be non-vegetarian.
Wine – Gelatine, isinglass (the swim bladder of fish), milk and eggs are frequently used to clarify wine.
Soft Drinks – Some canned orange drinks use gelatine as a carrier for added Beta Carotene. (This would not appear on the ingredients panel).
Juice – May contain gelatine.
Olives – The stuffed varieties filled with garlic or sundried tomatoes can be favourites, but check they haven’t got anchovies in them. Vegetarians don’t eat fish!
Chips – Often use whey as a flavour carrier. Ready Salted are the certain choice, though some others are also suitable.
Chocolate – Watch out for whey and emulsifiers. Some dark chocolate is vegan, but you need to check the label.
Roast Vegetables – Ensure they’re cooked separately from meat and in vegetable oil.
Gravy – Traditionally, gravy is made from meat juices, so check before you pour. Vegetarian gravy can be made using veggie cooking water (add stock, savoury yeast, soy sauce for colour, Bragg’s liquid aminos for flavour, etc) or from vegetarian gravy mixes.
Stuffing – Obviously you won’t want to eat anything that was cooked inside an animal! But you don’t have to miss out. Stuffing can be made in separate dishes with tinfoil over the top. some commercially available stuffing mixes are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Glacé Cherries – checks that they don’t contain red cochineal colouring (E120), made from crushed insects.
Jelly – Usually made with gelatine. Vegetarian jelly crystals are available in some specialty shops. As with glacé cherries, look out for the source of the colouring if using red jelly.
Trifle – If making with jelly, choose a vegetarian jelly.