How to avoid conflicts with meat-eating housemates

Maintaining a vegetarian kitchen in a non-vegetarian household.

By Paula Carnogoy (Only Cookware)

For a vegetarian, sharing a home with people who eat meat can be a touchy subject. Many vegetarians don't like to use cookware or utensils that have been used to prepare meat-based dishes. So here are some tips on how to maintain a vegetarian kitchen, even when other members of your household prepare meat-based dishes.

Can vegetarians eat from cookware used to prepare meat?

This is a very personal question. Cookware that has been washed properly will not normally retain enough meat-based residues to affect a vegetarian diet. The exception is pans that require seasoning, like those made of cast iron. With these pans, the fats and food particles from previous meals are not washed away, meaning that vegetarians should avoid sharing this type of cookware with people who are not following their diet.

Furthermore, some people believe that they can detect a faint odor or taste of meat in a dish that has been used to cook or store meat-based dishes. Also, some vegetarians simply have a distaste for using pans that have been touched by meat. If you feel this way, you should maintain a separate set of cookware for your own use.

What about utensils and other items in the kitchen?

Aside from cookware, other kitchen implements might be used to prepare meat dishes, and these can be a problem for vegetarians. Cutting boards, for example, can soak up meat juices and other residue. Wooden boards are particularly prone to this. It's a good idea to have your own cutting boards if you want to be sure to keep your meals absolutely meat-free.

Knives and other utensils are another point of contention. As discussed above with cookware, metal utensils and most dishware will not retain a noticeable amount of meat residue. But implements like wooden spoons may retain a small amount of meat product. If either situation makes you feel uncomfortable, you should use your own utensils.

Setting boundaries with housemates

Hopefully, you'll live in a household where your housemates will respect your principles and take measures to avoid doing anything that would offend them. However, some people have difficulty understanding the issues, or may simply forget and accidentally grab a vegetarian pot or utensil when cooking with meat.

To help avoid misunderstandings, it's a good idea to store your vegetarian cookware separately from what is used by the rest of the household. You can use a cabinet to store your cookware and cutting boards, and use plastic storage containers for any utensils that you want to reserve for vegetarian cooking.

If there's no room in your kitchen, you could also look into buying a rolling storage container that you could keep in your room when not in use.

Paula Carnogoy runs Only Cookware, a resource for professional cookware, stainless steel cookware sets and enamel cast iron cookware.

February 2008

Please note: Neither Veg World nor its contributors are qualified to give medical or nutritional advice. If in doubt, always consult a suitably-qualified professional.

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