The Vegan Guest, The Religious Wife, Sept. 05

Dear Meg,
My friend Tom has a new girlfriend who’s a hardcore vegan. Tom used tocome over for dinner often, but now I’m afraid to invite him with his girlie because I’m not a big vegan chef or anything. Do I have to cook a special vegan meal for her in order to invite him/them over? I miss seeing Tom and would like to get to know his new flame. Help?
—Laurel

My Dear Laurel,
Help? Sure thing, just as long as I don’t get stuck doing the dishes (smile). This is not an uncommon predicament these days with so many people on special diets. Having a few friends over for dinner and coming up with a menu that will satisfy everyone can feel so overwhelming that a lot of folks decide to skip the whole shebang and just go out to a nice restaurant.

My advice is to go ahead and prepare whatever meal you might normally whip up for an evening with Tom, making sure you have some kind of whole grain and steamed or sautéed veggies to serve. Most vegans are more than happy to be accommodated in this fashion. Heck, they’re often thrilled not to be desperately searching through someone’s cupboards for saltines, canned corn, or an old jar of pimentos. If you choose the grain and veggie route, you are being considerate without going overboard and taxing yourself needlessly.

Hey, Laurel, one more thing. Last Thanksgiving, Dave Burt made a point in an interview that I quite liked. He noted that some vegetarians and vegans are well-mannered enough that when dining at another’s home, they eat a little of everything—meat, dairy, or whatever—because not to do so would be an insult to the host or hostess. Nice point on the dangers of being overly rigid about anything and acknowledging that courtesy is a two-way street.

Thanks for writing.
Love, Meg

Stumped by New Religion

Dear Meg,
I’ve been married for seven years and my wife just joined one of those hyper-strict evangelical fundamentalist churches. All of a sudden she has gotten really preachy on me, and expects me to go with her to church and stop hanging out with my buddies from work. I think her church is just weird. They play with snakes, speak in tongues, and do all kinds of stuff that kind of freaks me out. To top it off, I’m desperately afraid of snakes. Plus, I’m a Jew. I love my wife but I’m stumped. What should I do? —Abe

My Dear Abe,

Hey, it takes a mighty big man to admit a fear of snakes. I’m impressed. Your wife’s new church sounds fascinating to me, but I’ve never found snakes all that terrifying. Now millipedes, on the other hand—those little buggers will send me running to the bathroom and crying like a baby for my mother everytime.

Any chance you could attend church with your beloved and view the journey as a kind of sociological experiment, or an experience of what philosopher William James referred to as the “educational variety”? You never know what you might find there and it would be good manners to humor your wife a bit.

It’s difficult when someone we care about gets all caught up in something we find kooky, but it is wrong of her to expect you to stop hanging out with your old friends and adjust to her new beliefs and standards. That’s the problem with evangelicalism in any arena. It’s fundamentally rude to attempt to force anyone to change their behavior unwillingly. I’ll be cc-ing this reply to the White House, by the way.

There are many happy couples in the world who practice different faiths or where one is a believer and one is not. The bottom line is respect and acceptance, Abe. Love and tolerance ought to be the code of any decent faith-based organization. Feel free to quote me on that.