General Etiquette > general

S/0 taking food for kids: taking food for vegetarians

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The recent thread on taking certain buffet items intended for children got me thinking about a party I was at recently.

The food was served buffet style, and there were probably about 30-35 people present, of whom I'd say 5-10 were veggie. The food was mainly BBQ food, and there was wayyyy more meat available for each of the meat eaters than any sane person could eat in one sitting (there were tons of leftovers).

There were also some veggie sausages/burgers available, but an amount which would give a more modest (but still fine) portion to each of the vegetarians (I took one sausage and one burger, I didn't see anybody take more than that, and they were all gone).

However, what I did see was a couple of guests (who I KNOW to be meat lovers) taking the veggie sausages because 'they just wanted to try one'. I didn't comment (because that would have been rude), but inside I was screaming 'Dude, there's a big pile of sausages that you can eat, right there. This smaller pile has to be shared between all the people who CANNOT eat the meaty sausages.'

I've felt the same at pizza parties when people are loading up on the one veggie pizza knowing that I can't eat the meat feast. This feels a bit weird since I suppose I'm sort of rooting for people to eat meat, but this is meat that these people will eat, eventually. They'll just be stuffed and I'll still be hungry!

Part of the problem lies in poor planning. When I planned parties (when I still ate meat), I make sure that most of the food was veggie so that everybody who wanted some could take enough to satisfy their stomachs.

I guess my question is: If you are NOT on a restricted diet, and there is clearly a smaller amount of 'special' items, is it rude to take some? I would say yes, at least until you are very sure that everybody has taken a reasonable amount (i.e. the party has got to the stage where people are just 'picking').

Miss Unleaded:
The people I know are very different.  I can't think of a single occassion when omnivores would voluntarily eat vegie options to the point that there's none left for the vegetarians.  Provided there were additional dishes to eat (potato salad, rolls, devilled eggs, etc) I'd probably be happy to be in the company of people willing to experiment with new stuff.  If there wasn't additional food to compensate then I think that yes, it could be rude, but then again I wouldn't ordinarily expect that everyone in the crowd will know how many vegetarians are present and whether there is enough food to cover the numbers.

is is rude? Truthfully, unless there is a big sign that says "for vegetarians only" I'm going to have to say no, not really.  The food is put out with the other food so it is there for anyone.  But, like Miss Unleaded , I can't understand why an omnivore would eat a veggie option where there was a ton of meat available? 

I should clairfy the above when I mean veggie option - I mean veggie burgers/sausages/veggie meat of some kind.  Because I can understand people wanting the veggie pizza or a veggie dish.

But, I have to say since being in charge of ordering food for work events you can NEVER figure out what people are going to eat.  We use to order pizzas a lot for lunchtime meetings and I use to watch and see what was eaten and what wasn't and go by that the next time I ordered; but the next time - different results.  The other thing I will never do is order something (sandwiches in particular) thinking people will only take one - nope, not going to happen unless you police the food (yeah, that happened the first time I ordered sandwich rings  :-\ )  Or order say lasagna and chicken and order enough thinking people will take EITHER the chicken OR the lasagna - nope not going to happen some people will take both.

eta:  I just read the one post on the front of ehell about the OP taking a drink out of a cooler and was told "hey those are for kids only" - so yep, you can never tell who is going to take what.  And, in her case I don't think she was wrong at all to take it.

I would feel differently if there was clearly an abundance of a particular food (e.g. there was lots of potato salad, which everybody could take), but when a particular item is clearly provided in a smaller amount, I think it's polite to think about why that might be, and to adjust what you take accordingly.

For me, it falls under the same basic rule of buffet etiquette that I think everybody should abide by: look at particular dish, divide by number of people who will be eating, and take ONLY that amount or less, at least initially.

If there are ten cupcakes and ten people, you don't take two straight away. Similarly, if there are 10 veggie sausages and 30 people, I'd think 'that's less than one per person, I'd better make sure that all the veggies get one before I take one'.

If you know there are people with restricted diets and you aren't on one then I think it is very rude to take from their available food if there is much less of that available.

In my family we have vegetarians and at gatherings we make sure to have multiple all-veg side dishes so vegetarians can get their fill.  My father will also cook up veggie patties or salmon patties on demand for those who don't want red meat.

Hosts should do their best to anticipate the needs of their guests but it's impossible to guess who will want what at the time if there are different groups of food for different diets.  I remember working a serving line for an event where the vegetarian entree was stuffed peppers.  No one had told anyone that the stuffed peppers were the vegetarian only option, consequently the servers (myself included) were handing out stuffed peppers to anyone who asked.  Once they realized they had a problem we were instructed to stop giving them out unless the guest had pre-requested a vegetarian meal.  I have no idea how that all turned out in the end but I assume they had to scramble to find more food.  Point being, there should have been clear instructions because it's unreasonable to expect omnivores not to eat a veggie option if they don't know it's in limited quantities for vegetarian guests.

The hosts should either set aside the vegetarian food clearly or make enough of the vegetarian food that there will be plenty for all.

And guests should use common sense based on the information they have.  It's a two-way effort.


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