Those of us who’ve been living vegetarian and vegan lives, can you even remember back to how you were before you switched your diet? Do you remember thinking that cutting meat would make life more difficult for you or that your food options would drastically be altered? That’s the main worry for a lot of current meat-eaters when it comes to the transition, but what they and a lot of vegetarians catering to their meat-eating friends seem to forget is there is one place where the two worlds meet and can live in harmony: Soups and stews. And of course by “harmony” I mean “without meat but without losing any flavor or its ability to be comfort food.” So let’s help our friends and ourselves remember just how great a hearty bowl of stew or a rich helping of soup can truly be.

When someone on a standard diet is asked to consider switching from their meat-inclusive diet to a meat-free diet, the immediate worry is that they won’t be able to find things to eat anymore, and it’s a legitimate fear in that the modern culture today has ingrained this notion that meat isn’t just good, it’s best and most natural. No, I’m not going to get into how vegetarians are prosecuted or marginalized here, what I’m trying to point out is that those who eat meat almost have to keep eating it, otherwise they’ll just feel…weird for lack of a better term. Coming up with a strong reason to make the switch such as health, ethical, or environmental reasons will circumvent the problem as you’re actively looking to make a change for a personal reason rather than just something to do with your time.

So then, if you’re playing host to a dinner party or something and you have non-vegetarian friends coming over, one of the simplest meals you can plan is one that revolves around a soup, stew, or even a chowder, possibly with some fancy bread to dip. Make a point of really making the meal thick and hearty, like you’d expect a meaty dinner to be, despite it being vegetarian. Then, after dinner, ask how the guests liked the meal. If they seemed to genuinely enjoy it, you can casually point out that it was entirely vegetarian.

What this little suggestion does is actually pretty staggering and may seem basic but has some deeper strength. On the upper-most layer it just seems like a bit of trivia about dinner concerning little more than the construction of the entrees, but go a bit deeper and it’s a sort of Inception style of doing things. For one, the guest, assuming they really did like the soup, may be surprised to realize that this meal they just ate was entirely without meat and thus could still be eaten even if meat were given up. Second, they could start thinking about other dishes that are entirely vegetarian friendly and realize how little they’d actually be losing in the dietary shift. It’s all very sneaky, but this thought could continually bounce into their head, even when they’re on their own and eating a bean casserole, only to realize that it also has no meat in it, or chewing into some pasta, realizing again that there is no meat needed to add flavor. Eventually, perhaps, they might even give the vegetarian diet a try all on their own with no need from you to push them.

The goal in most interactions with non-vegetarians is to somehow find a way to convince them to really get into the notion of a meat-free lifestyle without being pushy or turning them off of the idea. Perhaps the classic soup/stew/chowder meal could prove to be rather useful if used correctly? Why not give it a try and find out?