my company’s holiday party is at a steakhouse … I’m a vegetarian

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

A reader writes:

Every year my company does a really nice holiday dinner for employees, with plus-ones (except during a break for the pandemic). In the past we’ve usually gone to fancy places with lots of options, and everyone has enjoyed themselves. This year the dinner is going to be at a steakhouse. I’m vegetarian, for both health and ethical reasons. I figured, no problem, steakhouses usually have really good sides I can eat so I got online and looked at their menu … they do not. It’s all meat. Even the sides have meat in them.

I would just skip it except that my boss is really big on everyone showing up to work events like this. It’s not officially mandatory, but I’ve seen him give a hard time to people who didn’t attend in the past. And hey, if it were a party where I could briefly circulate and then leave, I would. But this is a sit-down dinner that will last for several hours, and everyone else will be eating. I guess I’ll just … sit there? Can I get out of this?

You can read my answer to this letter at Slate today, as well as:

  • My coworker wants to do Secret Santa but refuses to buy their partner anything
  • My manager wants us all to go Christmas caroling and I’m Jewish
  • Should I be giving my bosses better gifts?
  • Is alcohol appropriate for work gift exchanges?
  • What can I give my awesome manager?

{ 386 comments… read them below }

  1. WellRed*

    OP have you brought this to the attention of the party organizers or your boss? Thats the first step.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      At a previous job, a client hosted a dinner party at a very nice steakhouse in town. While sides were a vegetarian option, we weren’t ordering off the menu, so I asked the organizers if there was any option not to have meat. (Otherwise, my plus one was going to eat two meats and I was going to have ALL the sides.) Turns out, there was a vegetarian option not listed on the menu. It was a pasta and vegetables dish and it was, genuinely, one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. So, ask! You never know!

      Wild side plot to this story was my boss was going to call the steakhouse himself, see what the vegetarian options were, then pay for it himself, out of pocket, without telling the client. I was absolutely gobsmacked because 1) a vegetarian dish is super common- there’s no way I was the first person to ask for this and 2) the mental gymnastics to get to this point seemed buck wild. How weird would it have been to be sitting in the middle of a small, crowded room of 50+ people, all eating steak, and then have a server bring ONE unaccounted for plate out? If I didn’t have to explain then and there, surely the client would have noticed being short one meal and then the steakhouse would have to explain what happened. It seemed weird all around- I asked, the client was super gracious about it, my food came out perfectly with everyone else’s, easy peasy.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I agree with everything else, but I doubt the client would have noticed being off by one meal. Especially if there were some employees without a +1 for whatever reason.

      2. kalli*

        > How weird would it have been to be sitting in the middle of a small, crowded room of 50+ people, all eating steak, and then have a server bring ONE unaccounted for plate out

        That happened to me once, and what happened was the waitstaff didn’t know who it was for and just went about asking ‘do you want this’ and someone took it before it got to me, while I was trying to wave the waitstaff down to say it was for me (and we had NAMETAGS), so I went without that part of the meal. My entire table tried to get someone’s attention to say something but nobody stuck around to listen and then I think they must have gone home, but it got too awkward for me with people asking if I was hungry, if I was okay, if they could ask for something specific for me etc. that I eventually just started saying I was fine and please stop.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          Fortunately, since it was planned ahead, they had the vegetarian option on my place card and they knew *exactly* where to bring my food. Your scenario sounds like what probably would have played out- or, the person in charge was a pretty boisterous person, so if he had gotten wind that there was a stray vegetarian meal floating about, he would have yelled, “WHO GOT THE VEGGIES?!” I know this because when my fancy tea came, he hollered from across the room, “HOW MUCH AM I PAYING FOR THAT?” I replied very quickly, “Less that my +1’s Glenlivet on the rocks, thank you very much,” and drank my fancy tea. (The fancy part being the box the teabags were in lit up.)

    2. VaguelySpecific*

      It’s entirely possible the event organizer thought the same thing as OP initially did and assumed there would still be a few meatless options without necessarily verifying it or reading the menu too closely (ie assuming the spaghetti platter is vegetarian but in small print it says there is meat in the sauce). I wouldn’t get too offended by this before politely bringing it up, which OP absolutely should do.

      1. C.*

        I understand what you mean, but I’m also a vegetarian, and this attitude—which is highly prevalent!—is irksome to me. Just because I’m vegetarian, it doesn’t mean that I like every vegetable or non-meat item in every preparation—or that I, too, wouldn’t want a choice between items like meat-eaters seem to enjoy at every restaurant on the planet. Having the “””option””” of one item is not an option—especially when everyone else gets to pick from 10, 20, or 30+ different items and meal preparations. And it neglects the fact that there may be other dietary restrictions at play for the consumer, including gluten, which typically leaves things like pasta or bread out.

        I get that vegetarianism (and even more so veganism) and other dietary restrictions aren’t necessarily the norm yet. But I can’t tell you how frustrating it is—or how hungry I end up being!—to get stuck with the same side of french fries or garden salad when everyone else gets to eat like kings.

        The next time you go to a restaurant, I would encourage you to open the menu and count just how many full meal “options” vegetarians have to pick from. It’s usually not very many.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          Although I am not a vegetarian I fully understand how irksome this is. Recently I was forced by my family to go to a seafood restaurant. I don’t like any seafood (i have tried multiple types and made different ways) and it is not something I like. But family (insert eyeroll) guilted me in and said there would be other things to eat. There were like 2 things. I got a potato which tasted like it was microwaved. the bread was good though!

        2. Anon for this*

          I don’t like seafood, and too much mushroom makes me sick, so I avoid it completely. It’s amazing how few options there are at fancy steakhouses, once you remove the fancy seafood dishes and meat with truffle butter from the equation.

          1. datamuse*

            It’s true. My favorite steakhouse does have quite a few non-steak entrees, but they’re mostly seafood. Of the two entrees that don’t contain meat or fish, one is pasta. About half the apps and sides have meat in them. I love going there but if I was having dinner with a vegetarian friend it wouldn’t be my first choice. And if I were choosing a restaurant for a workplace function I probably wouldn’t choose a steakhouse at all.

          2. Banana Pyjamas*

            It sounds like you have a mushroom intolerance. Mushrooms and shellfish can be cross-reactive because of a protein called chitosan. I’m allergic to both. With a mushroom allergy I also have to avoid blue-veined cheeses. Just an FYI in case you have any unidentified triggers.

            1. Miette*

              Oh, this is useful data for me, because I have an allergy to mussels and only *some* blue cheeses–so I tend to avoid both as a precaution.

        3. WellRed*

          I understand it’s not easy but where OP is at right now is nowhere. Hence, the first step of investigating possible options, if any.

        4. Willow Pillow*

          I had an anaphylactic allergy to black pepper pop up in my 20s. My employer at the time would have a big social event in the summer, and while the venue was able to provide a safe meal it was so bland. I mentioned a twinge of envy about all the buffet choices everyone else had and got an earful from a manager about how I had my own meal… I’m allowed to want something that won’t make my throat swell AND isn’t just sauteed in butter!

          (My parents didn’t use pepper when I was growing up, and I managed to grow out of that allergy, but I still don’t enjoy it)

        5. Gumby*

          The next time you go to a restaurant, I would encourage you to open the menu and count just how many full meal “options” vegetarians have to pick from.

          The place I went to on Saturday: 14 out of ~30 total entrees so almost 50% of the menu
          The place I went to 2 weekends ago: 4 out of 13 total entrees so about 30% of the menu

          Move to California! We have vegetarian food! It’s totally worth paying $2500/month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment!

        6. VaguelySpecific*

          You are absolutely right in both your point and to call me out on it! I’m also the kind of person who will eat a bowl of potato salad or rice a roni for lunch, so I’m not exactly very sophisticated when it comes to my diet.

          I do have dietary restrictions although I hate calling it that because it’s due to specific foods triggering migraines which on one hand, won’t kill me, but I also don’t like having migraines so I do what I can to avoid them. The primary trigger for me is fake sugar, which isn’t something I run into eating out that much (yet) but I’ve noticed a trend in the grocery store if them including those in especially snacks for kids and advertising them as “low in sugar”

        7. Nightbringer*

          I feel this so much. One ex job gave birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. It was always a gift card for two to a steakhouse. They had one side dish without meat. One. I always brought a friend. They ate like a king and I had one small bowl of poorly cooked, gross corn. What a gift!

          1. Nightbringer*

            Oh and work knew I was vegetarian. They would comment on it every time they gave me the gift card. Sometimes suggesting I give it all to a coworker. Isn’t it supposed to be my gift?!

          2. C.*

            It’s such a hard dynamic to navigate (!), especially at work, where you want to be seen as a “team player.” I completely understand why older generations or more traditional folks would see a gift card to a nice steakhouse or seafood restaurant as a great gift from the boss. On its face, it’s certainly a nice gesture. I get it.

            I’m not in the business of shaming people for what they do or don’t eat. If someone asks me about a vegetarian diet or why I choose to follow it, I’m more than happy to answer, but it’s always couched in a way where the door is open to them if they want to try it out for themselves or learn more. And I understand that being a vegetarian allows me to have this perspective, but man, oh man, is it frustrating to see meat always always always being treated as the default. The thing to work around. That attitude or approach that meat-eaters (without other allergies or restrictions) can have literally anything they want off the menu, while the rest of us have to essentially take what we can get is beyond frustrating. And in a workplace setting, this flies in the face of so many inclusion and belonging efforts.

            I’m not asking for every restaurant in the world to completely overhaul their menus. But once you flip through and see that the majority of them are essentially temples to meat, it’s impossible to un-see.

            It is 2023… almost 2024. This is not new. The LW’s leadership should absolutely know better by now.

            1. whingedrinking*

              I eat meat, and I am always blown away by the fights that ensue when someone’s like, “My guests are mad that I, a vegan/vegetarian, won’t serve them animal products at my house.” I just do not know how to explain to people like that that we meat eaters do not need to be “accommodated” like people with dietary restrictions do.

              1. Anonymous For Now*

                This came up at one of the non work related columns, Ask Amy I think. The writer was part of a group that rotated having dinner at different group members’ homes. Their attitude was that since they had to accommodate the vegetarians why shouldn’t the vegetarians accommodate the meat eaters!

                I may have left a comment to the effect that would be like expecting someone who keeps kosher to provide ham for their guests.

                I guess that LW was actually a member of the cat family and simply had to have meat at every meal.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Yes, OP1 I’m sorry you’re stuck in this scenario! I’m vegan, our holiday party is at a steakhouse this year, and the coordinator checked in with them, and then me, to make sure that they could do a full entree for me before announcing the venue to everyone. This is exactly how it should be!

    4. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Right? This seems like the easiest thing to do. I was a vegetarian for a long time and whenever someone would mention steakhouse I would say, “Ok, as long as there is a vegetarian meal” and there often is not. So we pick someplace else. But you have to say something.

  2. The Starsong Princess*

    Some years ago on a work trip, we went to a steakhouse with a guy who didn’t mention that he was a vegetarian. Like this OP, he thought there would be some entree or side he could eat. There was not. So he had two desserts – one as a starter, one as an entree. His grace and flexibility meant everybody was fine.

      1. Rainbow*

        I’m vegetarian too, and I’d freaking love two desserts. I’m not particularly normal though (as you may have figured out!)
        I’d be absolutely raging if they had no food for me. It’s 2023 and half of Gen Z seems to be vegan (at least in my city)…

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Yes, I’d be down – particularly if the choices include banana pudding, any fruit cobbler, or pecan pie. I usually don’t eat desserts because I’m full from my main.

          I would not be okay if this was a regular occurrence.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I love desserts too. But not as a meal. I like something filling. Sweets on an empty stomach is a no go.

          My law school did an Alumni Christmas Party every year, right at dinner time. All they served was sweets. Not even a cheese platter or appetizers. I asked the organized why since it was right after work, people would be hungry. She said: I thought people would enjoy a treat. I stopped going.

          1. Freya*

            Speaking as someone who usually puts ‘lactose free diabetic’ on the forms, because it’s less complicated than the reality and gets most of the point across, the dessert menu is usually completely off-limits for me.

          1. Nightengale*

            I’m diabetic and I can and do eat dessert. . . but also I ideally would be having some protein and complex carbohydrates as part of the meal that includes dessert.

          2. Misty_Meaner*

            Yes, they CAN, if they are prepared and have their insulin under control, etc… but that doesn’t mean they SHOULD (hell NOBODY SHOULD eat two desserts in lieu of a proper meal), and it doesn’t mean they won’t feel like crap if they do. They can also drink alcohol and fruit juice, but according my husband’s doctor, he really really shouldn’t. Diabetes medication doesn’t magically make you “able to eat like a non-diabetic” and I don’t think Unkempt was being flippant with that comment. It probably IS a good thing he wasn’t if that’s all that was available to him.

        1. tired of diabetes "jokes"*

          So tired of this. Diabetics can eat desserts/sweet foods. Some may not want to because they have poor bg control, but we can eat them. Saying they can’t eat dessert is as ridiculous as saying they can’t eat pasta or potatoes (huge carb loads that push your bg up).

          I could eat two desserts as long as I made sure to take an appropriate amount of insulin (I’m type 2, insulin dependant). My body doesn’t make enough insulin, so I provide it with the needed insulin. I’m assuming a type 1 diabetic could also eat them, again, with appropriate amounts of medication.

          And jokes that imply eating something sweet will give you diabetes are just really idiotic. That’s not how diabetes works.

          1. Equally tired of diabetes 'jokes'*

            Type 1 diabetic here – yes, we absolutely can and do eat desserts! And if someone made the tired old joke about diabetics not being ‘allowed’ to eat dessert, I’d eat five :)

          2. Misty_Meaner*

            My husband is diabetic. He doesn’t take insulin because he makes it, but his body doesn’t metabolize and process it efficiently, so instead he’s on compensating drugs like Jardiance and Trulicity. However, his blood sugar can skyrocket with just one beer, and remain high even 12 hours later, so 2 desserts would put him at a dangerous level (200+). So yeah some diabetics CAN eat dessert, even 2 of them, especially *if* they can shoot themselves up with some insulin to help compensate for that influx of sucrose/glucose but he takes one injection of each per week, so he can’t just say “Oh I’ll take some more trulicity and be fine”. It may or may not put him in the hospital, but at the very least, he’d feel very sick for a day or two.

          3. Modesty Poncho*

            I’m so tired of all of those myths…sugar doesn’t give you diabetes, salt doesn’t give you high blood pressure, gluten isn’t dangerous for non-celiacs… food you’re not allergic to is not harmful.

          4. Billie Lusk*

            the only reason i just assume diabetics can’t eat sweets is because growing up, my grandfather was diabetic, so he had ONLY sugar free items on hand. which makes children sad. but you can’t be sad because it’s all grandpa could eat! My aunt also has diabetes, also cannot eat sweets. so, it’s just what I know. (though i did once save some persons life who was crashing because their sugar was soooo low… they ate some of my fruit salad. the good kind with whipped cream and marshmallows)

      2. Mad Mac*

        Yeah, this 100%. I love me some double dessert in theory, but being an adult with a body that needs nutrients to function optimally means I also would like to eat actual meals instead of just sugar and empty carbs. Not complaining on the outside =/= being okay with a situation that not only excludes a person but also means they don’t get dinner.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          I would have genuine concern about vomiting if I attempted to eat two restaurant desserts as my meal. I don’t have diagnosed blood sugar issues but the way my body responds to sugar seems…idk hypoglycemic-adjacent. Even if I didn’t vomit, I would definitely not feel right until I had a high-protein meal and a nap under my belt after that kind of meal. I don’t perceive this as “grace” so much as “person with dietary restrictions forced into a really uncomfortable social/dietary situation”

          1. Menace to Sobriety*

            Exactly. I love donuts, but even eating ONE makes me feel sick for hours. If I am hungry, I need real savory food, a MEAL with protein and veggies. I could not in any way power through two DESSERTS without being sick. This wasn’t grace, this was “well this is what I have to work with, I guess.” I feel really bad for that guy. I hope HE didn’t feel sick!

      3. Rainy*

        Indian food is the default “accommodation cuisine” in my area and has been for a decade, and I’m allergic to everything but a subset of breads (or white rice, I guess, but I honestly don’t like rice much and I for sure don’t want to eat just white rice for lunch), including desserts. I’m very tired of sitting at the end of the table eating naan while everyone else has a delicious and satisfying meal. :/

      4. Dinwar*

        You can’t know that. Sometimes it’s fun to indulge yourself, and if someone gives you an excuse…. I know a few people who use travel for work as an opportunity to eat things their spouse isn’t allowed to have, for example. I’ve actually seen people with dietary restrictions object to accommodations because they took away their excuse to indulge themselves. Such behavior is common enough to not dismiss this out of hand.

        Secondly, while in an ideal world yes the organizers would try to find a place that satisfies everyone, it’s not always possible–either for the organizer to find out what would satisfy all dietary requirements (due to scheduling pressures) or to find something that does accommodate everyone. A certain amount of flexibility is required by all parties to make things work in most cases. If it’s an occasional thing, and even more so if it’s a one-off thing, good on him for finding a solution. My spouse and I value such an attitude so much we took “Fac Fieri” as our family motto. Issues like this only become a problem if they are a pattern and if the person involve objects (if they’re using it as an excuse to pig out on desserts, who am I to take that joy away from them?).

        1. Rainy*

          Speaking as someone who is both not afraid to speak up for themself AND someone who has a ton of allergies, speaking up often does absolutely nothing. Especially when your office has decided that X type of food has “options for everyone”, because what they usually mean is “options for everyone important” or “options for everyone whose food restrictions I’ve decided are legitimate or worth respecting”.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            Yeah, I wish the “just speak up!” crowd would stop speaking over us about things we constantly deal with.

            1. Rainy*

              I was on the committee that organized a staff teambuilding retreat one year and I did the games etc, found the venue, did all the planning–but the person on the committee who had experience with managing catering did the food order.

              The only protein was chicken (allergic) and the veggie sides were brussels sprouts and a mixed broccoli situation (allergic). The salad had kale in it (allergic). The lemonade was artificially sweetened (allergic). I ate bread and a cookie for lunch at the event I had done most of the work for. At least there was iced tea. My coworker who did the catering order said “why aren’t you eating?”

            2. allathian*

              Well, to be fair, this was in response to a comment about someone who didn’t inform the organizers he was vegetarian and decided to eat two desserts at the restaurant since there were no vegetarian options. Looks like he didn’t mind doing that.

              I’m very glad that I don’t have to deal with food restrictions. My only “food restriction” is that I need food regularly, and preferably at no more than three-hour intervals. Any longer than that and I get hangry. If I go without food for more than five hours while being awake, I get a migraine. Sitting out a meal would not be an option for me under any circumstances.

              I prefer to avoid uncooked strawberries, tomatoes, and carrots, but that’s usually not a problem. Sometimes I’ll make an exception and eat a cherry tomato or two, because my allergy’s not severe enough to risk anaphylaxis.

              1. Willow Pillow*

                All we know is that he decided it wasn’t worth speaking up. This could be because he was fine with two desserts, or it could be because speaking up has been a hassle before, it results in a fight, etc. Speaking from experience, the answer is likely in the middle. Comments like “he should have spoken up when the restaurant was booked” are predicated on the assumption that asking will result in accommodation and not pushback.

              2. C.*

                You’re making a lot of assumptions here, and I wish you would treat that individual’s dietary restrictions with the same sanctity you seem to treat your eating habits. For someone to eat two restaurant desserts for their meal should tell everyone that their choice is not a “fad” or a way to get attention or be difficult. They didn’t/couldn’t break their restriction, and for that not to be factored into the initial planning is really disheartening to see over and over again.

        2. Chili Heeler*

          He thought that there would be options available and didn’t know otherwise until they were already in the restaurant and ordering.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I’ve been to restaurants like this as a gluten free person; two starters like a soup and a salad, and the amount of people who think that’s fine! While everyone else has surf and turf.

    2. metadata minion*

      Was going to another restaurant not an option? Yes, sure, go Dessert Guy for being flexible, but I kind of think it was on the rest of you to find somewhere your colleague could eat a normal meal.

      1. Stipes*

        The way The Starsong Princess tells it, it sounds like the vegetarian didn’t say anything until everyone was already sitting at the restaurant and ordering. I’d 100% push a group with a vegetarian to go elsewhere, but they’d have to know about it in order to take it into account!

        1. metadata minion*

          I agree that he should have said something, but if I’m sitting down with a group and looking at the menu, and one person can’t eat anything but dessert, I’d get up and go elsewhere unless I knew the person well enough to tell if he was actually ok with just eating dessert. (Obviously there are exceptions, like if there are only 2 restaurants in this tiny town, or there’s no chance of getting a reservation elsewhere)

          1. sparkle emoji*

            The size of the group might have meant an impromptu trip to a new restaurant with no reservation wasn’t an option.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      My employer once hosted a dinner with an Important Client at a seafood restaurant where there was absolutely nothing on the food menu for me. I’m vegetarian, and my employer knew that. I ordered a very expensive glass of Scotch, and that was my dinner.

      It was a very good dinner (if not particularly nutritious), and I think I still paid less than some people paid for their actual food meals.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I’ve found that seafood places are the worst for vegetarians because they cover anyone pescatarian.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My conspiracy theory is pricing. Seafood tends to be the most expensive protein, and vegetarian food is generally very cheap to make. (Yes, you can go wild with fancy ingredients, but it would be hard to come anywhere near the cost of good, fresh, high-end seafood.) They can’t justify super high prices for vegetarian food but also don’t want something noticeably cheaper than everything else on the menu. So they exclude vegetarians.

      2. There You Are*

        Hold up. Your employer *hosted a dinner* but you all still had to pay for your own meals / drinks? I’m confused.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Sorry—sloppy wording on my part. I should have said that my “meal” still cost less than some of the actual food meals.

          BTW, for context, my “meal” was a Macallan 25. Darn fine pour, that was. This was a couple of decades ago, so the 25 wasn’t quite as expensive as it is now, but it wasn’t cheap, either. I figured I got my employer’s money’s worth out of that dinner.

    4. Ainsley*

      Yeah, he sucked it up so not to make a scene but I wouldn’t call it grace and flexibility. I’m sure he was pretty annoyed inside.

    5. Menace to Sobriety*

      I’d strongly disagree that “everybody was fine”. He had no protein, no vegetables. Nothing but sugar and carbs, and probably didn’t feel great. If I ate that much sugar I’d literally be sick. He bent over backwards to make EVERYONE ELSE feel fine, and yes he showed a lot of grace in doing it, but … don’t assume for a moment that he walked away from it feeling like “yeah that was fine.” I am surprised though, every steakhouse I’ve ever been to had salad, broccoli, baked potatoes, fries, and usually rice, on the menu. Not ideal, but enough to make a meal off of and at least he’d have had some veggies.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The prep can be key: fries done in lard, bacon bits on everything from salad to potatoes and they’re all prepped in advance, etc.

        Also the level of trust in the kitchen keeping ingredients separated.

        1. Janne*

          Yep. Two weeks ago I had a dinner with work. My colleagues enthusiastically told me that there was so much salad so I as a vegetarian would be really happy – it was tuna salad and bacon salad.

      2. MistOrMister*

        Unfortunately a lot of places sneak meat into things and it can’t be easily renoved. Like pre-cooking greens/green beans and having ham in them, or bacon cooked into mac and cheese. I have been very unpleasantly surprised when I’ve checked the menu for places and absolutely everything is meat based. It boggles my mind because surely these places could think to make their sides meat free!! But many do not. Also, you can’t always count on things that you would think should be vegetarian. Rice is often made with chicken stock/broth. Soups tend to be made with a meat broth. It can be incredibly frustrating.

        1. C.*

          Yes! I’ll see things listed under the “vegetarian” or “vegetable” section of a menu, and when the waiter starts picking up on the fact that I don’t eat meat, they’ll let me know that the rice is cooked in chicken stock or that the soup is a beef broth, etc. I would never know from the menu if they didn’t say anything.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            I hate that.
            My mom is allergic to all seafood and chicken. More than once we’ve been at a restaurant where something is listed as to imply it’s vegetarian and yet, the risotto was made with chicken broth and/or the french fries were fried in the same oil as the fish.

      3. Bast*

        I am the one in a million who apparently does not like steak. Not vegetarian or vegan, just don’t like it. I’ve done a baked sweet potato or regular potato with either broccoli or a side salad as a meal many times over when visiting a certain local steakhouse that doesn’t offer anything but steak and sides. I love my dessert, but I’d be pretty annoyed at having ONLY a dessert, as much as it is delicious.

      4. Daisy-dog*

        They probably offered fish which counts as “vegetarian enough” for many places. It could just be a small, local place (rather than a chain) that only offers a limited menu.

        For one single meal (not multiple), I would absolutely pick a piece of cake over a salad that contains only romaine & croutons.

    6. Lenora Rose*

      His grace was beneficial. This does *not* mean his grace should have been necessary or the situation was fine.

    7. Despachito*

      Yes, but please remember it was HIS grace and flexibility, and everybody was fine because HE was generous. Or perhaps he felt he was part of a problem because he did not mention he needed vegetarian food (although it was a honest mistake) and did not want to cause a scene about it (understandable).

      I can imagine doing the same either in his situation, or in a situation where there is a bigger party of people I genuinely wanted to meet (i.e. not a forced work event) and it would be difficult to find another restaurant. The other day we had a hobby meeting in a beer pub, and I do not drink beer, while most of the other people do; I was happy to order tea because drinks were not the main reason I was there and because I preferred the time spent with the people to having food that fully suits me. But it would have been MY decision, not an expectation of these people.

  3. aarti*

    WTF. I should be able to opt out of caroling just because I can’t sing! No one wants me to sing at their clients’ house. Not even to mention the religious aspect. Sit down and count how many christmas songs actually don’t mention christ or religion in some way. Very, very few. And Christmas is religious. Those of us who aren’t religious often celebrate it in some form or another because it’s the dominant holiday and because it’s everywhere and we want to take part in the festivities and avoid the cold dark winter too, not because we really want to.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      The boss in that letter seems incredibly out of touch for a few reasons, but not least of which is that assuming there *are* people on her team who celebrate Christmas, none of them seemed all that interested in this fun little activity either! I celebrate and I certainly wouldn’t want to do this.

      1. aarti*

        Yeah I love Christmas music (sorry! i know!) and I don’t particularly like caroling. It is cold and damp for the carolers and for the listeners? I am just supposed to sit there with an adoring look on my face?

        1. Frickityfrack*

          We had carolers last year and it was freezing, so I’m standing by the glass door watching them out of obligation while being cold and it was so uncomfortable. I can see caroling at like, a nursing home or something, where people might like to have a visitor and everyone is inside in a comfortable temp, but door to door is not my favorite thing.

          1. This_is_Todays_Name*

            YES! I think if I knew in ADVANCE there would be carolers (hint: put it on your HOA/community FB page!), I’d have some hot cider or hot chocolate and cookies for them, but I’d feel weird to just watch, do a little clap and say “Thanks, Happy Holidays. Bye now” and shut the door!

            1. Dinwar*

              That was part of the tradition, only it was punch (which was strongly alcoholic) and mulled wine instead of cider or chocolate. It arose from the British wassail, and evolved into basically an adult version of Trick or Treat. And remember, at the time choral singing was extremely common, mostly because the only music you’d ever hear was live music (recording devices hadn’t been invented yet). Good fun in the culture it arose in, where odds were you all knew each other and it was something you grew up with and probably participated in at various times. But not something our culture really desires or requires.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Or, as a friend puts it, “Europeans sure developed a lot of traditions where you go door to door and bother people!”

                Nobody wants to hear me sing, either.

                1. Irish Teacher.*

                  Ireland has yet another one that doesn’t seem to have made its way abroad (and has pretty much died out here too): St. Stephen’s day, the day after Christmas, it was also traditional for children to go door to door and get gifts, much like Halloween. This one was actually pretty horrible (which may be why it didn’t make its way abroad, now that I come to think of it) as originally, it involved hunting and killing a wren to bring door to door, collecting money “to bury the wran.”

                2. allathian*

                  Out of nesting, replying to Irish Teacher. I agree with you and suspect that the animal cruelty’s probably one reason why this tradition didn’t make it outside of Ireland and why it’s dying out there as well.

                  Fun fact, the wren has a funny-sounding scientific name, Troglodytes troglodytes, referring to the cave-like nests it builds.

                  Finland has its own tradition where kids go door to door on Palm Sunday, usually dressed as witches and rabbits or pirates (!) with willow branches that have been decorated with dyed feathers and tiny papier-mâché Easter eggs, to celebrate Jesus riding into Jerusalem.

                  We don’t have palms, so willows are the nearest equivalent, especially given that pussywillows are normally the first signs of life after the long winter. Pussywillows tend to show up in very late March or early April in Southern Finland, so when Easter occurs in March, the branches are usually still bare.

                  The kids recite a short verse, “Virvon varvon tuoreeks terveeks tulevaks vuodeks. Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle.” Loosely translated this is something like “With this twig I wish you a fresh and healthy coming year. Twig for you, pay for me.” The kids hand over the twig and get candy in return. If you put the twig in water, it’ll often sprout green leaves in a week or so.

                3. Easter traditions are weird*

                  What Allathian talks about sure confused me a lot when I moved to Finland from Sweden! Suddenly there are kids outside my door waving some branches and chanting something I don’t really understand. And of course I didn’t have any kid approved candy to give them, even though I principally approve of anything that involves dressing up and candy. I just didn’t know about the tradition. In Sweden kids dress up as witches and collect candy during Easter, but another day of the week than the Virvon varvon.

          2. AnonORama*

            My high-school choir sang Christmas carols in a nursing home, and the residents haaaaated it. We could carry a tune, if barely, and at least everyone was indoors. But being herded into the common room to listen to yet one more rendition of “Sleigh Ride” didn’t go over well (I’d guess at least half the residents were Jewish, but no one seemed thrilled). The crotchety guy who yelled “shut up” and threw rolls was probably speaking for a lot of folks there. No, I’m not sure if they were cheap-ass rolls — and I admit they were preferable to the cup of orange juice another resident decided to throw!

            1. MigraineMonth*

              My school decided to take some of the students who had performed in the school talent show to a local nursing home. So after a boy played the violin and a girl sang (probably “Memory” from Cats), I got up and recited the “Double, double toil and trouble” song of the Witches from Macbeth to a bunch of elderly people who weren’t sure why I was even there.

            2. Misty_Meaner*

              OMG that must have been horrible at the time, but I am laughing so hard imagining it right now! It honestly sounds like something I’d see on a sitcom and it is glorious to envision crochety old people throwing (probably) stale dinner rolls and yelling “SHUT UP” at a group of HS students singing Xmas Carols! I want to be one of those old people!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Caroling is one of those things that get heavily idealized: pseudo-Victorian people on a Christmas card. Presumably some people genuinely enjoy it, but the evidence here suggests that this is a small minority. The “team player” argument would hardly be necessary otherwise.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I REALLY LIKE Christmas carols, and go to a caroling event regularly, and I can confirm that the “stand in front of someone’s house and sing” style of caroling is not actually all that great. Either nobody knows the words, or you have a competent organizer who provided caroling books, but then it’s a question of whether you have enough light to see, and usually your fingers are cold, as is your nose, and if you wear a scarf and gloves, no one can hear you and also it’s hard to handle the book. Even if you have ten or fifteen good singers who largely know the same body of music, the singing experience itself is not especially fulfilling — you’re all spread out in a line and it’s hard to keep pace with each other, and you sound kind of thin and peevish in the big emptiness of outdoors.

          And that’s not even getting into the logistics of WHERE you’re going to sing (Do you know enough people in walking distance? Or do you need to pack everyone into cars between houses? Are the people even home? Is there space to park all of those cars at every house?)

          Singing carols together in someone’s house: great, if you’re into that kind of thing.

          Being a roving band of carolers on the sidewalk: logistically complicated, and the singing is much more challenging. The one good thing I will say about it is that when you do find someone who’s home and is actually interested, they’re completely delighted for the song-and-a-half before they get too cold and slink back inside.

          1. Rara Avis*

            I like caroling too. There’s an event in my town at a historic schoolhouse where the attendees sing for themselves, songbooks and candles provided, and then go inside for cookies and cocoa.

            1. Lucien Nova*

              This is similar to what my city chorale group does.

              We gather in a group at the city’s largest park, or at the front of some smaller shops, and sing. If people want to come by and listen, they do. If not, they don’t. We have a blast. (One year we’d been given our choice of silly headwear, I was wearing a jingle bell headband and our director (stood next to me) was frustrated with the sopranos not keeping time properly so she reached over, plucked it off my head and used it as a makeshift metronome – we even mostly managed to make it through the whole song before we all fell about laughing hysterically!)

              Yes, it does get cold, and the park caroling is at night so we end up either bringing booklights, headlamps, or getting as close to the lightposts we’re stood by as we can. That bit of it genuinely sucks (we do get breaks – crowd inside, warm ourselves up, then head back out) and I think if we had to do door to door there would not be a single one of us who’d agree to do it! But as a stationary group, where we can choose to participate *and* people can choose to listen or not, it works great.

              1. Happily Retired*

                Those dang sopranos!

                Thank you; this is a great story. It’s not the nineteenth century any more, so sometimes you just have to tap dance. I’d love to wander up to some stranger’s house and start singing (and get booze!), but those days have passed.

                btw, if this is an ongoing thing, ask a local handbell group if they have booklights. Our handbell choir has clamp-on lights (a pair, so each page is lit). If your music has some sort of stiff backing, even a clipboard, you’re in business. I just checked – google “clip on music stand lights” or some such.

                Also, they make awesome Halloween headgear when needed. Think lighted antennae.

          2. ferrina*

            You paint a poignant picture.
            I also love caroling in theory, but also wouldn’t sign up to go caroling with my boss for all these reasons. If it was warm, well-lit, etc., yes, sign me up.

            But the fact that this boss hasn’t realized that very very few people like signing up for this makes me skeptical that she’s thought through the other logistics that well.

        2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          At this time of year, I’m actually a professional caroler. We get hired for all kinds of events, but very, very few of them involve going door to door. We do a lot of things like markets, corporate parties (usually something like singing by the door for the cocktail hour), apartment or condo buildings who hire us for an hour in their lobby, etc. Very rarely, we’ve been hired to carol at someone’s door for a family event. In that case, we ring the bell and sing for them, but at least one person knows we’re coming, even if it’s a surprise for some of the attendees.

          And to Cyborg Llama Horde’s points: All of that. We sing in quartets or trios, with sheet music in front of us. It’s hard when you get bigger than that.

          For outdoor events, the goal is to warm up from the inside out, so that the outside layer is picturesque and classic (we don’t do Victorian costumes, but things like wool coats and nice boots in a specific colour palette, not puffers and boots). There are many foot warmers, hand warmers, strategic scarves to protect throats, and insulating base layers under that outer layer that looks “crisp and chilly” not “absolutely freezing”. And Santa hats. Solves the toque issue and everyone’s head stays coordinatedly warm.

          1. Modesty Poncho*

            Same here! We do lots of house parties, business luncheons, hospitals and nursing homes, but never randomly door to door. I love to sing and I don’t mind the story-telling religious songs (there’s one song in our whole book that feels too devotional for me as a non-christian, and it’s a gospel number) but I still wouldn’t do this more than once or twice a year for free.

          2. Happily Retired*

            Oh, this is an amazing gig! How does this come about? Are you already in a local community/ symphony chorus, etc.?

            1. Aitch Arr*

              Not Polyhymnia, but my local community chorus carols at a local zoo and several town tree-lightings. We do it for free every year, but are more than happy to refer people to our website if they want to make a donation. (We are a tax-exempt 501c3.)

      3. OldMtnLady*

        Lord have mercy! I love Christmas music, but please don’t punish people by asking me to sing in public. Let my voice stay in the shower and the car, where it belongs.

    2. AnyaT*

      I very much doubt the clients themselves want a business they work with turning up at their homes to sing at them either.

    3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Also, if a vendor I use for work showed up at my house to sing Christmas carols, I would be SO weirded out! Even if I’m a direct client of some professional services, this would weird me out.

      And if any of the carols were religious in nature, I would be mad because as a Pagan, I celebrate Yule, not Christmas. Someone singing about Baby Jesus on my front lawn would have me seriously rethinking my business relationship with them.

      1. Mortimer Snerd*

        You do get that not every carol is about Jesus? For instance:

        – Frosty the Snowman
        – Walking in a Winter Wonderland
        – Jingle Bells
        – Deck the Halls

        1. aarti*

          Theres also the grinch song! I wasn’t saying there weren’t any, just that a lot are. Theres also rudolph I suppose!

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          Presumably, I GOTS TO KNOW *does* know that not every carol is about Jesus since it was specified that if any were religious, those would cause anger.

        3. Ashley*

          Many of these songs still have Christmas themes / undertones. Deck the Halls especially. Jingle Bells to an extent. The point of much (not necessarily all) caroling this year is about Christmas. Think about how many songs are still being sung on New Year’s Eve or even in January/ February if you think they are winter themed.

          1. mystiknitter*

            I’m from the town Jingle Bells was ‘probably’ written about, and nope, no Christmas/religious content in that song, just teenage foolishness on Main Street drag racing sleighs!

        4. FrivYeti*

          Deck the Halls is, in fact, about Jesus. Any song about Christmas is about Jesus, and I do not want to hear any of them outside my door. It is hard enough dealing with them being shoved at me in every damned mall, every store, every public space for six weeks.

        5. Margaret Cavendish*

          Well, no. Christmas carols, by definition, are about Christmas. A “carol” is a joyful hymn or religious song, written and performed to celebrate a religious (*Christian) occasion.

          There are lots of songs that we sing in December that don’t explicitly mention Christmas, but they’re not “carols,” they’re just songs. And they’re not what OP’s boss is talking about. The tradition of caroling does not involve going door to door to celebrate Frosty the Snowman – the tradition is going door to door to celebrate the birth of Christ. Just because you happen to toss in a round of Jingle Bells or two, doesn’t mean that the experience is a secular one.

          1. ferrina*

            This. Just because not every book in the hymnal is explicitly religious doesn’t mean it’s not a hymnal. Everyone gets the purpose- you walk around in December singing a certain type of song, you’re either invoking a religious tradition or aggressively selling something.

            These aren’t “winter carols”. “Winter carols” are the Kids Bop version of Christmas carols- small children may think they’re unique, but the adults know what’s up. There’s a reason there’s no “autumn carols” or “spring carols”

            1. Lenora Rose*

              There are historically Autumn Carols and Summer Carols and Spring Carols… but they underscore your main point rather than negating it, as any of those carols that have survived are explicitly Christian Religious and Praise God and talk about virtue… carol itself is a word meant to define the song in question as Christian Religious.

          2. Champagne Cocktail*


            While a lot of people are fully comfortable celebrating what they call a “secular Christmas” that’s really a misomer. Christmas is a religious holiday, and Christmas carols were made for just what you describe.

        6. Dinwar*

          Do you really think the manager is going to stick to secular songs? This is like saying “Oh, sure, women are allowed on the hunting trip–we just don’t send them invitations or tell them about it and really they wouldn’t enjoy it anyway.” At the very least, because this practice is so deeply associated with Christianity (despite beginning with the British wassail, which is pre-Christian) the organizer should have made it clear they were either sticking to secular songs or including songs from numerous religions celebrating holy days this time of year.

        7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Your comment comes off as SUPER biased and rude. Just FYI

          Others have pointed out what a Christmas Carol actually is.

          But since you don’t seem to have understood what was actually written: I didn’t say “caroling is bad because they are all about Jesus.” (Even though, as other commenters have pointed out, one COULD make that argument.) I said IF ANY of them were about Jesus. IF ANY is a phrase often used to indicate there are several options that could happen, and here’s the one or few options that could happen that would mean X.

          Hope this helps.

        8. Jessica*

          Christmas is a religious holiday, even if some cultural Christians and some people who are not culturally Christian choose to celebrate it in ways they see as secular.

          The fact that some songs celebrating the holiday don’t explicitly mention Jesus doesn’t change that it’s still a religious holiday and those songs are still being sung to celebrate a religious holiday. (The dreidel song also isn’t “religious”, but I wouldn’t expect Christians to feel comfortable singing a song for a holiday celebrating violent Jewish resistance to assimilation.) I’m not interested in joining with my coworkers to sing songs for a holiday celebrating the birth of the man in whose name Christians have been killing and persecuting my people for two millennia.

          The act of door-to-door caroling itself at best assumes a society in which everyone is celebrating Christmas and at worst feels like a form of proselytizing, like we’re going to come to your home and REMIND you that you SHOULD be celebrating Christmas.

        9. MigraineMonth*

          Thanks to this commenting section I recently discovered the JewWhoHasItAll parody account, which is hilarious. It’s also been really helpful for me as a Gentile to see how alienating it can be to have people insist that Christian holidays are somehow Universal.

          Personally, I’ve never heard any of those four “Winter” songs played after Dec 25th. Weird coincidence, huh?

      2. LCH*

        i mean, i was a little weirded out the one time a vendor sent me a end-of-year (read: Christmas) gift. this would be next level.

      3. Dinwar*

        I wonder what the organizer would think if I started singing Emerald Rose’s “Santa Claus is Pagan Too”….

      4. let's not reveal my normal username for this one*

        Conversely, as a pious Christian I hate carols/songs that DON’T mention baby Jesus.

        This is a terrible work activity.

        1. Dinwar*

          Really? I’m somewhat surprised. I’ve known a small handful of people like this, but it’s extremely rare even among pious Christians I’ve known and I’m curious about your reasoning. I remember a number of purely secular songs being sung at Midnight Mass back when I was a kid (grew up Roman Catholic).

          No sarcasm intended, if that’s not clear, and if you don’t want to answer that’s fine; I’m just curious.

          1. Clisby*

            It’s surprising to me that secular songs would ever have been sung at a Catholic mass. However, I grew up Episcopalian and not Catholic, so obviously I’m no expert. An Episcopal service – at least during my youth – would not have included secular songs.

            1. Dinwar*

              It may be a local thing. I grew up in a small, rural parish with a lot of unique traditions. Nothing that violated Church law, just weird quirks that everyone enjoyed.

              Midnight Mass was as much a concert as a religious celebration growing up. The choir liked to show off, Midnight Mass was their big show, and they selected music with that in mind. The view seemed to be (for anyone who considered it) that they were using a pretty, if secular, song as a form of worship, which was fine.

              There was also traditionally a mass with the children’s choir, earlier in the day, and the choir director and priest tailored the songs to suite the singers. “Somebody Snitched on Me” is a perennial favorite among kids and there are enough quiet parts within a mass that they could fit it in. Few people not related to the kids went to that mass anyway, and everyone knew you attended to hear the kids sing, not necessarily out of religious piety (the two are not mutually exclusive of course). And to be clear, they sang a lot of overtly religious songs as well; they just tossed in a few the kids would enjoy.

              One priest did object. He got a swift lesson in “Don’t anger the little old ladies.” The parish had certain traditions, and the parishioners did them with or without the priest’s permission. Among other things, I remember “White Christmas” in particular–they waited until mass officially ended, then sang it (the choir director being one of the little old ladies). That priest didn’t last long.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            I don’t remember ever doing any secular songs for a service. And we managed not to make the hideous mistake of singing Hallelujah (an explicitly Jewish song that so many churches seem to try to shoehorn in.)

            I do personally find I strongly prefer most of the explicitly religious songs from a musical perspective over many of the “Songs that happen to be about winter and got shoehorned in” and “pop songs mentioning Christmas” and ALL “The Apocrypha of Santa and Frosty”.* This isn’t a religious-based preference, but from a musical perspective they’re usually tried and tested music.

            *Exceptions include Vienna Teng’s Atheist Christmas Carol, Linda Ronstadt’s Winter Light, Tori Amos’ Winter, and a few Yule songs. (and Alexander James Adams’ Wintertide, which is both a Christmas and Yule song, just to really mess with things)

          3. Gumby*

            I’m not the same person from above but to answer from my own perspective: I don’t personally hate non-religious Christmas songs. I find many of them annoying but I’m sure there are some that don’t make me want to claw my ears off. But the non-RC congregation to which I belong doesn’t sing them *in worship services*.

            We also don’t usually sing Christmas hymns until Christmas Eve. We stick with Advent hymns in services until then. Which, come to think of it, also makes it less likely that we start hating, say, Silent Night. There are only 2 weeks each year where we would sing it (Christmas Eve through to Epiphany).

            Which is not to say we don’t sing secular songs ever at all. Just not in services and not in the sanctuary. We have a whole Oktoberfest song pamphlet that we sing from at the church picnic most years and none of those songs are religious (or necessarily German: Edelweiss is in there). Various other secular songs have shown up in talent shows, sing-alongs, and other gatherings. The reasoning for all of it being “there’s a time and a place and a context” generally speaking.

          4. let's not reveal my normal username for this one**

            It’s mostly aesthetic, I find them pointless and cheesy, and sometimes in bad taste.

        2. Happily Retired*

          + a million

          I’m Christian, singing in the choir every Sunday, but not particularly pious. But there are Christmas carols, and then there are Christmas-y/ holiday* songs. A Christmas carol is a teaching song that is specifically about the birth of Jesus, and what that means for people of the Christian faith.

          Songs about reindeer, snowmen, snow in general, holly, merriness, jingling, trees, family reunions, chestnuts, nice cozy fires, etc. can all be great (although many are so, so, so awful), but they aren’t Christmas CAROLS. Maybe Christmas-y songs. Nevertheless, for people who are of different faiths, or no faiths, they read as Christmas, and therefore Christian.

          *My husband is Jewish. I do (finally) get the thing about Christmas isn’t secular to those who aren’t even vaguely, culturally Christian, even though it has certainly broadened beyond the original definition. If there weren’t the underlying Christmas, there wouldn’t be all this stuff going on.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      Seriously. Even if OP wanted to go, who wants people along for caroling who don’t know the tunes and the words to the classic carols? Caroling is a cappella! You need to know the songs, or be really good at singing by sight reading music – a fairly high level singing skill.

    5. Seashell*

      I was raised Catholic, but I am deliberately no longer involved in organized religion. I do like celebrating Christmas with a tree & presents, but nothing particularly Jesus-y, so some of us really want to.

      I would not want to be forced into anything work-related outside of work hours, unless it was something I find fun or could leave if it stopped being fun.

    6. MansplainerHater*

      I like Christmas carols but wouldn’t want to stand in the cold singing them to clients. And I’ve been on the receiving end of carols, and it wasn’t that lovely either. Especially the time when carolers were right outside the door in the hospital when I was giving birth. They might have thought they were spreading Christmas Cheer, but they were annoying AF and my normally polite self told them to GET. OUT. OF. HERE.

    7. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Oh yeah no there are at least 3 problems here.

      1. Christmas is a religious holiday, with all the associated no-gos fo the workplace thereof.

      2. For those people who do observe Christmas, many of them can’t/don’t want to sing, and even for those people who do sing your caroling group is going to be meh at best (sorry y’all, but I’ve done these a few times and there are always people with more enthusiasm than musical talent. It’s painful)

      3. Even if A and B are not true, what person really wants to go carol with coworkers at clients instead of sitting home/going out with friends/literally anything else.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, as an atheist who participates in the less overtly Christian parts of Christmas because family tradition of decorating the house with our antique decorations (it’s less about the actual holiday at this point, and more about remembering the people who are no longer with us who made the decorations for the holiday by going through the motions of the holiday), and also carols are just FUN to sing… I would not want to sing carols with coworkers. It’s one thing to have a mostly secular celebration with family, and try to sing Silent Night better than the recording of my grandfather singing it in an acoustically perfect concert hall, in the privacy of my own home. It’s another thing to be forced to participate in someone else’s holiday traditions, which may or may not be more rooted in religion than mine.

      2. AnonORama*

        And lots of folks don’t celebrate Christmas, or just aren’t in the spirit this year for whatever reason, or have just had Christmas music blasted at them in every store and public place since the day after Halloween. For them (uh, I mean, “us”) having work-adjacent people show up AT THEIR HOME to carol at them while they try to look pleased for politeness’s sake — sounds miserable!

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Thiiiiiiis. I’m a Christian, I love singing Christmas carols, but no way do I want to go singing carols with my coworkers when I could stay at home. I have been Christmas caroling with my church choir when I lived in another town where the church music director organized it–we had a list of homes of people who attended our church that wanted carolers to come. And that was somewhat fun, but it’s a lot more fun to sing somewhere inside where it’s not freezing.

        People who want to sing Christmas carols with other people need to either join a church choir or a Christmas choir/choral group. They exist all over the place.

    8. Part time lab tech*

      I find the door to door aspect weird although I’ve seen it through popular culture. Here, there tend to be council or church or property developer sponsored events in most councils with an MC and choir and a large audience with LED tealights. It will be held in a large local park. Shopping centres might have carols sung by local choirs at a set time.

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I’ve only been to one steakhouse and was surprised at how limited the menu was. I guess they assume if you’re there, you’re there for steak. I think I ate garlic bread. My sympathies, LW!

    1. Polaris*

      I swear there is a huge difference between late 1990’s steakhouse sides (I could absolutely get by with a huge baked potato w/ non-bacon toppings and a house salad, with nary a sign of meat in either) and current “more meat is better would you like meat with your meat?” steakhouse sides.

      Super frustrating, LW, and I’d probably go with the script given and bring it up with the organizer and/or boss.

      1. aarti*

        It kind of surprised me to be honest. I just googled a few of the steakhouses in my area and they all have vegetarian options, though not vegan. I don’t discount the writer, I’d just like to know what steakhouse doesn’t even serve mac and cheese or some other unhealthy, but vegetarian, dish.

        1. metadata minion*

          A lot of places put bacon and/or lobster in their mac & cheese these days. Plenty of places will happily leave it off, but some won’t.

          1. Polaris*

            Same with baked beans (a local steakhouse does this baconization of an otherwise could be great vegetarian dish, as do most of the local BBQ places). Or they use beef/chicken stock, which means they’re not vegetarian.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I was once served what was clearly Kraft mac and cheese at a BBQ joint (only veg option at a work meal). I was seriously unimpressed by that.

              1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

                I once went to a Texas Roadhouse with my family around the late 2000s/early 2010s and they literally ADVERTISED that it was Kraft. Like with the logo on the menu.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, some of the BBQ places I’ve gone go all-in on adding pork to every single side dish. It’s mac & cheese with bacon! Green beans with ham! Broccoli fried in lard!

              Aside from how many people don’t eat pork, it seems like that would be repetitive, like the potluck where every single dish had squash in it.

          2. aarti*

            Oh I believe you! It’s just these restaurants DO have vegetarian sides. like, no bacon or anything. Like fried pickles, rattlesnake bites (jalapenos and jack cheese), and hosue salads. Not like, a ton of options, but I am shocked at places that literally have nothing.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’d also check how they fry things. Is it crisco or lard? Are they using the same fryolator for the fried veggies & the fried chicken?

        2. Mortimer Snerd*

          OP should call the restaurant and specifically ask whether they have no vegetarian options, instead of just going off the menu. (I agree it’s not particularly customer friendly to omit them from the menu, but that happens.)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This is true. And if it’s a big work thing, they might have a separate catering menu that isn’t as easy to find online.

        3. Ess Ess*

          I know of at least one that says right on their menu — “Vegetarian options: we serve Coke products”. Deliberately giving a middle finger to vegetarians.

        4. Ess Ess*

          There are some that deliberately want to antagonize vegetarians and choose not to have any vegetarian options on purpose. I know of one that has on their menu, “Vegetarian options: we serve coke products.”

          1. I take tea*

            Yes, very annoying! Don’t go and put meat things that are not meat. How hard is it to use veggie stock, there are quite a few good options. (See also: fish sauce in a lot of Asian food).

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Agreed, as a vegetarian I’ve seen both the “these are sides to go WITH your meat, why would they have meat?” steakhouses, and the “I have built a Temple to Meat” places, especially for pork-focused restaurants.

      3. Zipperhead*

        Back when I was a kid — back in the AGO TIMES — every time we went to any steakhouse, there was a full salad bar and maybe a baked potato bar. And this was in Texas!

        Clearly, steakhouses have declined from their golden years…

  5. BubbleTea*

    Vegetarian. Vegan. Jewish. Muslim. Buddhist. Jainist. Seventh Day Adventist. The list of people for whom meat, meat and nothing but meat would be an issue is long enough to be its own menu.

    Honestly, I’m surprised there are restaurants that don’t have a single vegetarian option. Even steakhouses here can do something.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Nope! It is a separate religion with very specific rules about animal treatment. It is a dharmic religion, though, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.

    1. Annika Hansen*

      I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years. Many restaurants don’t have any vegetarian items. Seafood places are the worst; steak houses come in second. However, I have gotten some pretty good special meal made by steak houses. Call ahead! In general, the smaller the town, the worse the problem (unless it is some kind of hippie enclave).

    2. metadata minion*

      It’s surprisingly common, still :-/ And there are even more places where yes, there are technically a couple meatless dishes, but an order of fries and some sad iceberg lettuce does not constitute a meal for most people.

    3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I’ve noticed a trend where lots of restaurants are putting meat into sides that they wouldn’t normally. That bacon mac and cheese that’s so fancy? Sorry, can’t do. The baked beans with chunks of ham? Hmmm, no thanks. Inexplicable pork in the mashed potatoes? Grrr. (It feels like it’s a bunch of pork. Is there a glut of pork right now?)

      1. mlem*

        A local donut chain mixes “bacon” into their scrambled-egg mixture that they distribute to their individual stores. You can’t get most of the sandwiches without meat, *even if the advertised sandwich does not list meat*. (They claim they don’t sell that mix in my state due to something about the cage-free laws, but … they absolutely do sell that mix in my state, or at least in my city which borders a different state.)

      2. enough with the bacon already*

        It’s a huge thing, and it’s so awful and persistent. We’ve started calling it Stealth Bacon.

        I’ve even seen bacon on desserts. *eyeroll*

        1. Dahlia*

          TBF if you like bacon, bacon desserts can be really good. I had a bacon donut once that I really enjoyed, because I’m a big fan of sweet and salty together.

          Also, meat or meat-adjacent products in desserts are not an unheard of thing. Gelatin for one obviously, but lard, beef tallow or suet, things like that were often used in baking in the past. Or just straight up meat, like with mincemeat. So bacon isn’t really that strange to me personally.

            1. allathian*

              Not anymore, but it used to contain suet, i.e. white fat like lard from beef, lamb or mutton found around the loins and kidneys.

        2. Freya*

          One of my happy memories was a time I went to dinner with my family, and there was a baked prosciutto wrapped fig thingy with balsamic vinegar on the menu. It was fig season and it used fresh figs and a really good prosciutto. Between us all, that dish got eaten at every point of the meal – starters, mains, dessert. It was SO TASTY and I’ve never been able to duplicate it or even come close.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            Devils on Horseback but with figs? Sounds delicious.

            (if you’re struggling to duplicate it, it might be whether it was soaked in alcohol, and if so, which kind – fresh figs doesn’t make me think brandy, but might have gone well with a sherry, perhaps)

          2. MsSolo*

            Ooh, devil-on-horseback but with fresh figs? Sounds delicious. I wonder if the mystery element might be a liqueur; fresh figs wouldn’t need soaking like the traditional prunes would, but something like a sweet sherry might complement them.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        A restaurant near me had absolutely done that but at least the menu was very good at making that clear. Literally every dish on the menu had pork in some form in it. Fortunately at some point in the last several years, they decided maybe they should open up the scope of their menu and stopped pork-ifying every single dish.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Their logo was a pig so I shouldn’t have been totally surprised, but seeing pork in every side dish really drove their (old) concept home.

      4. Charlotte Lucas*

        I think people need to wake up to how delicious broccoli and/or peas are in mac and cheese. (I am all for the cauliflower trend, but the green is so pretty!)

        My late grandmother asked me a few years ago why all the TV cooks put bacon in everything. Pretty sure she thought it was to cover up a lack of cooking skill, imagination, etc.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          In Catholicville, we have a fancy mac and cheese place that, as far as I can tell, will throw *anything* into the mac and cheese, maybe including the kitchen sink. It’s buck wild, but yes, the vegetable versions are delicious. It’s very expensive for how much mac and cheese you get, though, and it feels slightly unsatisfying to eat just a big bowl of mac and cheese as a main and not as a side. I keep expecting there to be something else with it.

          There’s probably a reason why it started as a brewery- I suspect it’s wonderful at 1:22 AM after about six craft beers.

      5. Bast*

        I am the (apparently) only person in the world who does not care for bacon or steak, not for any dietary restriction reason, but because I just don’t like them. Bacon seems to be in everything, even dishes I do not expect to find bacon in. It’s always a huge disappointment to get some regular mashed potatoes and find bacon chunks, despite it not saying “loaded mashed potatoes” or giving any other indication that there is bacon in it. I agree it’s been a trend lately.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          When I find a potato soup that doesn’t have bacon, I’m so thrilled. I’m too lazy to make it myself and it’s SO GOOD. *sighs*

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I make mine with onions, corn, sorrel (if I can get it, otherwise kale), milk, and butter. Now I want some.

      6. SnackAttack*

        Omg, my husband’s family does this an it drives me insane as a vegetarian. For holiday meals, I’m normally more than happy to skip the turkey/ham/whatever and just eat the non-meat sides, but they literally put meat in EVERYTHING. Potatoes, salads, green beans, pasta, even the breakfast biscuits. And ironically they’ll talk about how the vegetarian diet isn’t healthy (because everyone suddenly becomes so obsessed with protein intake) while failing to realize that the ideal human diet doesn’t involve processed meat in every single dish.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      It is really shocking how many restaurants don’t have a single vegetarian main, in the liberal large city where I live.

      1. C.*

        Same. But I think what’s even more shocking to me is how, even for those who do have one, there’s only ONE main to “choose” from. Like, thanks I guess (?), but I’ll reserve my gold stars until you balance the entire menu with options for EVERYONE. I think restaurants and meat-eaters forget that, just because someone is vegan/vegetarian (for whatever reason), it doesn’t mean that we like every vegetable or meal preparation there is. Or that we don’t have other allergies? I’m vegetarian, and I hate beets. I have a mild allergy to mushrooms, too, so I have to be careful with how much I eat. I love salad, but that doesn’t mean I want it for every single meal? It’s just really annoying to open a menu to see one, maybe two options for those who aren’t eating meat, while everyone else gets to pick from dozens and dozens of items.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This! And I detest mushrooms. But they are often the vegetarian offering, which is so odd, because many people don’t like them.

        2. TriviaJunkie*

          Yes! This is on my Top 5 list of reasons for not being veggie. I have an emetic allergy to onion and hate peppers and mushrooms… yet every veggie dish is heavily focused on one of those veggies if not all three! I’m basically not veggie because I can’t be without being forced to go hungry at random, often unplannable intervals

        3. I take tea*

          I am lucky in that I actually like beets, but I was just looking at the lunch lists around work for a work related lunch, and the three nearest places all had some variation of beets as their vegetarian option. It was almost funny.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            Depending on your location, it could be that the restaurants are featuring in-season veggies, we are exiting beet season.

    5. Frickityfrack*

      I’m a vegan, and I honestly just expect that I’ll never be able to eat at a work event. Even when they’re trying to be accommodating (which I genuinely appreciate), it’s honestly kind of funny how often things go wrong. Coworker brought me chips, and they had dairy. The people buying supplies for the company picnic bought impossible burgers, and the people cooking stuck them in the same pan with the regular burgers so they were swimming in beef juice. I was “invited” to a breakfast with upper management, everyone else got breakfast burritos, I got one Bobo’s oat bite.

      I would totally skip the holiday party, though. In all the previous situations, I had access to other food because I already knew I’d likely need it. At a steakhouse, where I know going into it that I can’t eat a thing, hard pass. The company needs to either join the rest of us in 2023 or they need to just expect that some people won’t want to go and may or may not feel left out.

      1. jtr*

        – and the people cooking stuck them in the same pan with the regular burgers

        THIS!!! We had a large group of employees from India visiting for training one year, and had a BBQ party at the end. They did at least supply veggie burgers, but I had to stop the dude grilling from just plopping them on the grill right after regular burgers, and flipping them with the same greasy spatula. I mean, nice thought, but the execution?!?!

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Honestly, I try not to be super bothered by my food being cooked on the same grill. I don’t love it, but I also know that it’s not going to kill me and I can’t stress about it. But these were literally just soaking in a puddle of meat juice. I will say, though, when some of us brought out the leftovers the next day, our lovely code officers made sure to cook mine first and on a separate part of the grill when they found out what happened at the picnic.

        2. Dz*

          I’m a vegan for ethical reasons, and no extra animals are being harmed by my veggie burger contacting meat juice, so I don’t really care. Some people do though, and I respect that.

      2. Sally Rhubarb*

        My favorite is the pizza party. “Just pick off the cheese!” Gee thanks, I love eating overcooked bread with salty yet tasteless tomato sauce.

        1. Bast*

          Off topic, but this is a thing in Rhode Island. Pizza bread. I am not from RI and was totally baffled by this concept of non-pizza pizza the first time I was offered it.

      3. Cold and Tired*

        I’m not vegan but I am strongly lactose intolerant so I really have to be careful. I was shocked when I was first diagnosed to realize just how much dairy is hidden in sooooooo many foods. And that’s just dairy. I can’t even imagine how many other hidden animal products there are in things. Luckily I work remote so I’m spared the holiday parties because this is a very dairy heavy time of year…

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Yes! Hidden dairy is way more of a nightmare than people realize. I was vegetarian for a super long time before going vegan and it was much harder than I expected because so many things have dairy that you would never expect. I’ve gotten very good at skimming labels now and I mostly know what I can and can’t have, but it took a while and a lot of “WHY DO THESE CHIPS HAVE MILK?!”

      4. Aggretsuko*

        They get custom food for my vegan coworker at mandatory office food gatherings and she never even opens the box. I’m not surprised at that since I would assume something that you mentioned would probably happen.

    6. old curmudgeon*

      There are some states in the US (including one where I lived for close to two decades) where it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find zero meatless options in most or all restaurants. It’s definitely not an isolated problem.

    7. Dinwar*

      I’m not surprised. There’s a bit of cultural pushback against vegetarianism–not a strong one, but enough that a few restaurant chains are buying into it. Look at Arby’s entire ad campaign, for example, or Brazilian steakhouses (you CAN get vegetarian items there, but it’s going to be a very, very limited selection). And this is a steakhouse we’re talking about. The name sort of implies meat will be served. I’ll grant that it’s possible to have non-meat items–perhaps even desirable, even to us carnivores–but given that there’s a market for “Not vegan/vegetarian”, it’s hardly surprising you’d see someone step in to fill it.

      I’m not saying that the organizer shouldn’t have chosen something else, to be clear. I’m just saying that it’s hardly surprising that such places exist.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Arby’s both surprises and disappoints me. They used to have some really good vegetarian options.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Is Arby’s the one with the logo that’s a hat that looks like a penis? I’m not that surprised.

          (A Brit who’s visited the Midwest a couple times.)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            It does have the big hat logo. You used to be able to get baked potatoes there with different toppings.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Its a strong enough one that my teenager picked up on it. We had eaten at a vegan restaurant, and said teen wondered why there were none of these (its a small chain) nowhere near home. And then answered themself with a “because immature people think it makes you a fem-bot or something equally stupid. Idiots. Never mind.”

        1. Dinwar*

          C. S. Lewis’ take on maturity is applicable here: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

      3. metadata minion*

        Though I’ll note that some Brazilian steakhouses have *amazing* salad bars. Their whole Thing is still that people come around to your table with giant skewers of meat until you tell them to stop, so not really the best place to bring a vegetarian, but they can sometimes have actually very good non-meat food.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I have been to a few of those places, and my experience is that stuff is either Meat with a capital M, or not-meat – that is, side dishes are reliably vegetarian and frequently vegan because the Meat is the star. I agree I wouldn’t take a vegetarian there, but I’ve seen someone make a hearty meal with no meat at all.

  6. Former Retail Lifer*

    I’ve been with the same company for eight years. I’m one of the more tenured people in my region. All of the higher-ups know me. Yes still, no one ever remembers that I’m a vegetarian when planning events. If I don’t speak with the person planning the event ahead of time, I’m left with nothing I can eat. Every single time.

    1. Jeff Vader*

      Well, you could ask for the drinks menu and order the most expensive item there in lieu of food.

      so everything on the menu is meat but you do have single malts? excellent !

      1. mlem*

        I’m presuming this is a joke, but even if the vegetarian drinks alcohol (a decent number of us don’t), and even if all restaurants in all states/jurisdictions serve that kind of alcohol (they don’t necessarily), drinking hard liquor on an empty stomach at a work event seems like a bad idea ….

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I just flashed back to the kerfuffle when Vegetarian Times (RIP) started giving wine suggestions with their recipes. Some people were Very Disappointed.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I wonder if 2 desserts guy knew/suspected the restaurant wouldn’t have anything for him and he ate beforehand. I love dessert and could maybe eat two if I already had some food in me to sop up the sugar (althought at restaurant portiins, maybe not). But no way could I eat 2 desserts and not feel sick if I didn’t already have something in my stomach.

          1. metadata minion*

            Same here. I have a huge sweet tooth, but I’d feel very ill if I just ate dessert for dinner.

          2. Rocket Raccoon*

            Honestly, my first thought on reading the original letter was “fill up beforehand, then go the steakhouse and return Awkward to Sender.”

            I wonder if Dessert Guy had an idea how this was going to go down and wasn’t expecting to get a meal, just entertainment (and dessert!)

    2. Kerosena*

      Have you reached out to the Admin. Assistant to the main event planner? People in admin roles are typically very good at making a note of this sort of detail and following through.

      Part of their job is to anticipate needs before they arise. Sometimes correcting errors like this just requires getting the info to the right person. If there’s no assistant in event planning, there’s someone like an old-timer or an assistant in corporate who can fix it or tell you who can.

      Please don’t give up! There’s probably a designated person in your OG that would feel terrible to learn that any person went without a meal at a company event.

    3. Jackalope*

      This is bringing back memories of the time we had a pizza party at work. I asked for the option of one pizza that was either cheese or vegetarian, and was told that would work. Normally I know better, but I showed up without another lunch because pizza is super easy to make vegetarian and I’d been promised. Well apparently in the intervening time someone else had talked to the organizer and convinced her that “everyone eats meat on pizza, we don’t need a vegetarian option”, and so they just got meat options. I was super cranky. The organizer felt lousy about it and got me a lunch on a different day, but it was something like a lunch of a bean sprout sandwich, not something actually filling.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I eat meat but I prefer plain ole cheese pizza to any other. I usually pick the toppings off if there’s no choice. I’d be very unhappy!

        And in my experience at pizza parties, the cheese pizza goes faster than any other kind!

      2. C.*

        Ugh, this is so frustrating. Relatedly, when my office does order vegetarian items (always so few), in many cases, they’re usually the first to go (…which should tell the event planners something). So, if I don’t get there at the very beginning, I run the risk of not eating that day. It’s hard because I don’t want to begrudge others of their food choices, but if they’re normally a meat-eater and choosing not to eat meat for that meal, then it’s not such a big deal for them if they’re last to the party and can still eat something else.

  7. IHavetheBestJobEver!*

    Every time I see someone having to say this, it makes me sad. So terribly tone deaf on the part of the organizers. I do this kind of thing for a living and it is just not that difficult to figure out a way to make it work for everyone. All you have to do is ask if anyone has a dietary restriction then work with the restaurant to accommodate. Perhaps reaching out to the executive assistant who is probably tasked with setting it up might be a way to resolve it-we do sometimes have the power to move mountains-even when they are made of meat!

    1. Ranon*

      At my company the first week you start work you get an email from our admins about whether you have dietary constraints. If I want to organize something with food I tell the admins who is coming and they look up the dietary constraints for everyone. I eat predominantly vegetarian and have never not had a vegetarian option available went when food was provided even when I was in a different one of our offices. It’s not that hard?

      1. Throwaway Account*

        I’m vegan and I find it is really tough for organizers to figure it out! No one seems to understand what vegan means apparently. The worst is when they go way out of their way to make a thing, and then it is covered in cheese or “just has beef broth” or it is pasta with butter.

        1. enough with the bacon already*

          …or they served it with the same utensils that were in the ham a minute ago.

          …or it’s “just a little bit” of bacon/ham and “you can pick it out.”

          Et cetera.

        2. MistOrMister*

          Or when it’s a raw vegetable plate/tray!! I mean, thanks for thinking of me, but no this plate of raw carrots and cucumbers is NOT a filling meal. And usually there is a dairy based dip, not even hummus which at least would round things out a bit abd still be vegan.

        3. Nina*

          The most popular brand of beef-flavoured broth in my country is vegan, which I find hilarious. The same brand’s chicken-flavoured broth is not even vegetarian and does contain actual chicken.

          1. Dahlia*

            That’s like how cheap bacon bits are usually vegan because they’re made of soy.

            My favourite ramen’s flavour is “roasted chicken” and it is completely vegan and also has 20 grams of protein. It’s also organic and I get angry that it’s so good XD

          2. Freya*

            My favourite chicken stock powder is vegan, gluten free, low FODMAP, and tasty :-P

            (For those in Australia, it’s Massel – I have no idea if it’s available elsewhere)

      2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

        It can be that hard. My relative keeps strict kosher and has celiac. There are two restaurants in our major metro area where they can eat. Neither is near the office areas.

      3. Happily Retired*

        My young grandson has (literally) life-threatening allergies to dairy and eggs. I call him our vegan carnivore, because he happily eats meat, but he can’t eat anything with milk products or eggs.

        If I eat buttered toast and then kiss him on the cheek without washing my face first with soap, he gets hives. Immediately. If I use the knife that I used to spread the butter on something else that he then eats, he’s off to the emergency room for IV meds and oxygen, hoping to avoid CPR and anaphylaxis. He’s only 6.

        People, this stuff can be serious. Take everything – vegetarian, vegan, food intolerances, food allergies – very seriously. Food choices aren’t always by choice.

        1. Butt in Seat*

          Vegan Carnivore is a great description for that!

          My kiddo is allergic to milk and eggs, and also to peanuts and most tree nuts. So Vegan doesn’t always mean safe (because of nuts), but it’s a place to start when we’re looking for things that are not meats.

  8. None the Wiser*

    Regarding wine as a gift.

    My boss gives out wine. Nice wine. I love it. I also don’t think it’s a problem for his group of direct reports.

    I did give wine to my group for a few years, and I think it was much appreciated and enjoyed.

    However, several years ago someone who is Muslim joined the group, and someone with food sensitivities shortly thereafter.

    No more wine! Small gadgets (think a MacGyver-type pen-screwdriver-flashlight-bottle opener thingy), puzzles, or this year, a knit cap with a built-in LED light (shhhh! Don’t tell them!!).

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          They are the gift of the moment — they made a couple “what to give at a white elephant party” lists. Have seen at Amazon, Costco, and my local Ace Hardware. I’m betting most general retailers have them.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        We have those knit caps too with lights built in, but now you can also buy tiny clip on lights to put on any hat. They are so helpful.

      1. Em*

        I mean, that’s true, but “to what extent are you strict about your religious observances” isn’t really my business when it’s fairly easy to accomodate the more widespread ones.

      2. slashgirl*

        Not the manager’s business if their Muslim employee is observant or not. It’s work, so they did the correct thing in no longer gifting alcohol.

        I don’t drink because I don’t like the taste of alcohol, so I wouldn’t appreciate getting a bottle of wine.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          As a Jew, I’d find it really uncomfortable if they just assumed I kept kosher and/or didn’t eat pork.

          1. BubbleTea*

            More uncomfortable than if you were given a ham and you DID keep kosher? I feel like realising the potential issues when someone who might raise them arrives is worse than having thought it through properly in advance, but way better than not ever realising.

    1. Lea*

      Honestly wine is great bc you can bring it to holiday parties to regift or something but it could be problematic if you have people with substance use issues you don’t want to have them disclose

      1. cindylouwho*

        My boss gives me wine every year despite me not drinking. It’s regiftable, but it just makes me sad because he knows I don’t drink, and it feels very thoughtless/not a gift of someone who recognizes me as a person.

        1. This_is_Todays_Name*

          I love wine. WHITE wine. Red gives me a migraine. Every.Time. Everyone who knows me at all knows this. But the number of people who have known me for years who give me a bottle of “this really nice red we found in XYZ city” is astounding. Like “HELLO???? Do you know me? Do you remember me?”

        2. ferrina*

          Exactly this. It’s one thing to bring wine to a gift exchange where you don’t know who will get it; it’s another to give it to someone who you know doesn’t drink. My mother taught me that “it’s the thought that counts”, and this shows that your boss didn’t think about you. It’s a gift that you can’t use and requires more effort on your part to get rid of- so really, not at all a gift to you and more a gift to your boss so he can pat himself on the back for getting you something he likes.

      2. Tammy 2*

        I don’t drink red wine and I guess I don’t get invited to enough parties because it piles up.

        I did once take great pleasure in braising a pot roast in an entire bottle of very pricey red given to me by a horrible boss. It was delicious.

      3. MistOrMister*

        I hate getting wine as a gift. It is incredibly rare to get a kind I like and I don’t have tons of people to give it away to. I think while a lot of people are happy to get wine, there are as many or more who absolutely do not want it and don’t consider it a thoughtful present, whether they have substance abuse issues or not. Also getting something just to have to regift it can make youfeel bad that the person didn’t take the time to pick out something you actually would like to have.

      4. myfanwy*

        Yeah, this is the one that really bothers me. Personally I don’t drink because alcohol makes me feel crappy – I get a flush reaction and just feel out of it and slightly paranoid, not relaxed or happy at all. So wine for me is an eyeroll and regift. Not a pleasure but not actually a problem either. But plenty of people have honest-to-god life-changing difficulties with alcohol and would not want to have it in their house. It blows my mind that this is a default workplace gift.

    2. cindylouwho*

      My boss gives me wine every single year despite absolutely knowing I don’t drink. It’s regiftable, but it’s just sad that he does it despite knowing I can’t use it. So I appreciate your changing it up.

      1. Sally Rhubarb*

        Wine would absolutely not be regiftable for me. I’m straight edge and none of my friends drink either.

        1. allathian*

          Unless your employer is 100% remote, there’s always a coworker or two who’ll happily take your wine off your hands.

          I’m so completely done with accepting useless to me gifts with good grace, particularly from employers. There’s no shame in instantly regifting an unsuitable gift from the boss that someone else would enjoy. (And I’d be glad to take your bottle, too.)

  9. Dulcinea47*

    It’s not at all shocking to me that places don’t have vegetarian options (hi, have you been to the midwest?) but how are you even supposed to eat a steak w/o a baked potato? It’s mandatory!

    1. Elsewise*

      I’m sure they serve baked potatoes, but they might only serve it as a side you can’t order separately or they put something like bacon bits in it. Some places can make anything non-vegetarian!

      1. mlem*

        And while bacon bits are often soy, these places probably take pride in using *real* bacon instead, and/or draping the potato in bacon while it’s cooking, and even if they *say* they’ll make it without bacon … can you trust them not to, or not to think “well, we took the bacon off after it cooked!” is sufficient?

          1. enough with the bacon already*

            Yeah, a lot of places somehow think you can’t see/smell/taste the residual bacon grease after you send something back to the kitchen and they pick off the bacon and send it back… *sigh*

            Like, this supposed-to-be-cheese pizza still has little circular indentations full of red grease on the top, soooo thanks for picking off the pepperoni I guess?

          2. Dahlia*

            Some people coat the potato in oil before baking it. All it does is make the skin crispy. If that oil is bacon grease, and I just get a potato with a crispy skin, I don’t know if I’d be able to tell it’s bacon.

            1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              I have never ever heard of anyone greasing a potato with bacon grease. I think olive oil is pretty standard. You could ask but this fear seems far fetched to me.

                1. CommanderBanana*

                  It WAS Texas Roadhouse!! The waitress assured me that the “bacon grease burns off with cooking.”

                  Granted, I do not go to Texas Roadhouse expecting copious non-meat options, but we were traveling and it was the best of the various chain options available.

      2. Dulcinea47*

        No…. just no. If they have baked potatoes they can give you one without meat on it. They must not have them.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I’ve been some places where they won’t because of billing. If something isn’t on the menu, it doesn’t have an official price, so they can’t charge for it. I mean, I guess they could, but they won’t.

      3. Misty_Meaner*

        Then you order the entire dish and ask for it on separate plate and give someone else the steak, and ask for the potato plain, butter on the side, etc…Although, having lived all over the US and Europe and currently in the midwest where we go to a lot of steakhouses, I’ve never found one that doesn’t offer it’s sides ala carte. I live with 3 lactose intolerants, a nut allergy sufferer, and a vegetarian who leans veganesque. We’ve never had an issue except at an Indian restaurant where we didn’t expect nuts in a dish and didn’t mention the allergy, so that was on us. It’s not quite as hard as people are making it sound to find something to eat unless you’re suuuuuuper strict like “no, I can’t eat anything here because it was made in the same kitchen as meat was cooked”. Well yeah, then you’re outta luck, I suppose.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          As someone else mentioned though, it is not really an option if the only thing is a baked potato. Why should the OP have to only have a potato or just a side when everyone else gets a full meal?

          I think the OP should call the restaurant to find out if they have items that are not listed on the menu or ask the person who scheduled this to see what the restaurant will do.

        2. Jackalope*

          Read the stories above; some places truly don’t have any options that are meat-free, or think vegetarian is “eats no meat except bacon”, or whatever. Many restaurants will have vegetarian options but some of them actually don’t.

        1. Kippu*

          That’s really dismissive and clearly in opposition to the lived experiences of multiple posters on this topic?

  10. Rainbow*

    It was well, well over a decade ago that Teenage Me took part in a £5 Internet Secret Santa through LiveJournal, and didn’t receive a gift. I’m still mad about it! OP2’s coworker wants to tread very, very carefully…!

    1. Potato Potato*

      I’m still upset about the year in high school where I participated in two different secret santas and didn’t receive gifts for either one! Like, I already felt like an outcast, but that just cemented it for me. (One of the gifters apologized and brought me something the next day. The other one didn’t.)

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      I have done enough of these exchanges over the years where I have given a gift and not gotten anything back that I no longer participate in any. I made an exception a couple of years ago for one that was supposed to be well ran and had good participation in previous years and got burned again. No more exchanges for me.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Heck, while it was nobody’s fault, I was quite disappointed my student teaching year when we had a Secret Santa (we were told the gifting limit was €5, but I think they rounded it down a bit for us as we were poor students; the paid staff seemed to be giving things that I suspect cost a little more than that, so I’m guessing the real limit was €10 or even €20) and the school chaplain, a local priest, got me (back then, schools in Ireland still had chaplains, which really just meant the local priest that would call in to say the school Mass once a year and maybe call in to offer staff and students ashes on Ash Wednesday) so I got a really generic gift, because he had only set foot in the school a handful of times, if that and didn’t know me.

      The gifts weren’t anything special, but we were encouraged to do something slightly funny, so like I got the school secretary/accounts person and I got him a kind of novelty gift calculator or somebody might get the French teacher something with a French flag on it, that sort of thing. So I was a little disappointed to receive a gift that would clearly have been the same whoever he got. And I still remember it twenty years later.

      It sounds silly, but it’s more about feeling like you aren’t fully included than about the gift. And this was completely unintentional and nobody’s fault. Somebody just not bothering would be actually hurtful.

    4. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      One year our department had a Secret Santa game where players who came next in line could opt to swap their present with one of their choice from an earlier player. The rules of the game deemed that the earlier player didn’t get a choice not to relinquish the item. At one point, I got a book voucher, which was ideal, as my colleagues knew I wanted to study. But the last player in line asked for it, which I was annoyed about as she had just finished a part time correspondence degree and didn’t need to buy textbooks etc. I ended up with a DVD that wasn’t to my taste at all and I donated it on the way home. Thoughtlessness in seasonal giving comes in many forms.

  11. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*

    Hahahaha, caroling? In front of clients at their homes!? I am shocked that even one person signed up for this.

    This is especially bad because of the religious exclusion, but even aside from the religious part, this is a terrible idea. I have run so many icebreakers and facilitation games for employee trainings, and the bar for embarrassment is so low. Some people find it awkward enough saying their favorite animal out loud. But singing? In front of CLIENTS? I would never dream of asking anyone to do that.

    Also, who thinks this is a good idea for the clients? I personally do not want anyone showing up at my door who I pay for services to come and sing to me. I would just feel obligated to keep the door open and be dying inside the whole time waiting for it to end, then immediately texting my friends about how weird it was.

  12. annabelle*

    I prefer the religious Christmas carols to the secular ones but either way: you couldn’t get me to go caroling or watch caroling even with money (unless it were like, Powerball jackpot-levels of money, maybe). Does your boss not own a TV or anything???

    1. Whyamihere*

      I am an atheist and I prefer the religious carols to the secular songs. I think it is that they are played out for me during the season.

      1. allathian*

        I’m a culturally Lutheran secular humanist and I also prefer the religious carols to the secular songs. I can listen to them for a few hours on Christmas Eve, but that’s about it. Until my FIL developed dementia to the point that he had to move into a care home for dementia patients, he used to sing in a choir. We used to go to their Christmas concerts every year, usually on the First Sunday of Advent. It was definitely the start of the holiday season for me.

      2. Tau*

        Same – there are some really lovely religious carols, while I don’t like many of the purportedly-secular songs very much, especially the recent pop ones. There’s exceptions (some of the Christmas songs from the former GDR are quite nice, IMO) but it’s the general rule.

        And it’s not like doing this with only the Christmas songs that don’t explicitly reference Jesus would make this exercise suddenly inclusive and unproblematic.

  13. cxxxb*

    my petty ass would have sat there eating nothing. and when people asked why I was eating nothing, I would have said it’s because I don’t eat meat and a meatless option wasn’t available. I would have let the organizers of the party sit in their uncomfort. They will never forget that you don’t eat meat again.

    1. Owly*

      Yeah, you’d show them. They’ll definitely be chastened rather than just wonder why you didn’t just ask for another vegetarian option or anything.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I don’t think that would be the super effective riposte that you are expecting. More likely awkward for the table-neighbours who ask (who will be wondering “is cxxxb expecting me to talk to the organisers on their behalf and say how unfair it is? what am I meant to do here?” and will just say out loud “oh, hmm, and there wasn’t anything on the menu at all you could eat?” – and if I was the table-neighbour, I’d ask whether you had actually used your words with the organiser or with the restaurant directly).

      It isn’t a good look, to passively / passive-aggressively do something like this and expect the message to be received, rather than try to do anything to solve the problem. Especially if it gives the impression that you would do the same in a work context (this problem happened, so I let it happen and didn’t try to solve it, and now look!)

    3. Throwaway Account*

      You could do a passive/aggressive dig at the boss if that makes you happy. When seatmates ask why you are not eating, say, “I asked for a veg meal but the restaurant did not have an option and the boss said I still have to come.”

    4. ee*

      In my experience as someone with celiac disease, this strategy simply doesn’t work. I have been to many work things where I asked about the food, found out there was nothing celiac safe, and was expected to attend anyway. As far as I can tell, if you are sitting there relatively politely, people just assume you don’t mind, and are actually less likely to make an effort to find safe food next time.

    5. girlie_pop*

      At the last company I worked at, the people in charge of planning events didn’t care that I was vegan (even after I had requested multiple times that they provide something for me and the couple of other vegans on staff), so I finally just started doing exactly this! I would go to the lunches and stuff that were supposed to be morale-builders, sit with my team, not eat anything, and when people asked why I wasn’t eating I would just say, “Oh, I asked them to provide some vegan options but they didn’t, so there’s nothing I can eat.”

      A few of the office busybodies complained to the organizers, but they didn’t do anything until after an executive saw me sitting without anything in front of me at the company ice cream social and asked me why I wasn’t eating any! After that, there was always a separate vegan option and they made sure to tell everyone not to take any until after the few of us who needed it took our portions.

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I’ve found that some people won’t comment on the fact that you’re not eating (or not eating a meal). I’ve been at an event which served BBQ and my plate had a few pickles on it. No one asked. Sure, there are absolutely people who will ask, but it’s not guaranteed. Plus, some people may think the answer involves an upset stomach.

      Also just personally, I had a b*tchy director a few years ago who ~wasn’t going to accommodate people’s preferences~ and never ordered me vegetarian sandwiches for our weekly lunches. So I don’t like to draw attention to the fact that I need ~special~ foods.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        There’s even a good reason for not commenting — asking people why they aren’t eating skates dangerously close to unwelcome conversations about food / eating / bodies. Making people explain why they aren’t eating or drinking feels icky.

        1. Despachito*

          Exactly this.

          I assume if a person isn’t eating they had a good reason for this which is probably not my business, and in most situations it would be awkward to ask.

        2. myfanwy*

          Yeah, I would default to not commenting because there are tons of personal reasons why someone might be eating very little or only eating very specific foods, and not everyone wants to give a TED talk on their food issues at every work lunch. So pointedly waiting for me to ask about an empty or unusual-looking plate wouldn’t work, I’m afraid!

    7. Despachito*

      Another petty ass here, as this was the first thing that sprung to my mind. However, the other commenters are right that this is a passive-aggressive approach and it is better not to use it IF THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS AVAILABLE. But in a situation which may be the one OP described – she asked and the restaurant had no other options, meat was in every meal and the boss insisted that she participates, I would probably ask directly the boss (if possible), whether she really expects me to sit for several hours looking at people eating because I would not be able to. And if she (cannot imagine that but nevermind) STILL says that this is what she wants me to do, then I’d do it because I would be out of other options, but I would make sure I am seen and heard because it is outrageous.

      1. allathian*

        In a situation like that, I would simply order something I could eat from another restaurant through a service like Door Dash just before going to the restaurant, and bring it with me to the table. If the restaurant kicked up a fuss for bringing my own food, I’d simply say that there’s nothing on their menu that I can eat and that I’m not going to sit here eating nothing while everyone else is enjoying their meal.

        It’s very unlikely that the restaurant would throw me out for refusing to eat their food, generally they get paid per cover for catered meals rather than for what people actually eat. I would also feel some schadenfreude for the organizer having to pay for nothing because they refused to accommodate my dietary needs.

        After that, I’d at least try to expense the meal, but I wouldn’t make a fuss if my employer refused to reimburse me. Just the satisfaction of “so-thereing” the organizer would more than make up for that.

        Thankfully this is all theoretical. My department of 20+ employees has at least two vegans, a handful of vegetarians, and a pescatarian or two (including my manager), two celiacs and a few who avoid dairy, and it’s never been a problem for our offsites. Granted, I live in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, where an estimated 10% of households are completely meatless. College students and young people in general are even more likely to be vegan or vegetarian, almost 20% of households in the 17-24 year old group are meatless. So there are a lot of good options.

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          Honestly I would do that too at this point. Or if I was at a place that could give me a naked baked potato, I’d bring my own vegan butter.

  14. blue fields*

    I agree with the comments saying to mention it to organizers! Start there and see what they say. If not, I’ve always had luck politely requesting a vegetarian option–doesn’t hurt to ask and usually the employee is happy to help. I’m a vegetarian who ends up at steakhouses on a semi regular basis and they can usually do a pasta (sometimes on the kids’ menu), baked potato with toppings on the side, a salad without meat, veggies with no bacon bits, rolls, etc. The kitchen typically is able to omit meat from a number of the items if you ask. Just be careful about things that you don’t expect being cooked in meat/pork gravy, like fries or mashed potatos.

  15. Salsa Your Face*

    I am a Jewish person who has been a part of many (paid!) Christmas choral events throughout my life…and there’s still no way in hell I’m succumbing to pressure from my non-singing related job to be part of a caroling group. I see my participation in Christmas events as a gift from me to people who celebrate the holiday, but it’s a gift that I choose to give and not one that I’m going to let myself be coerced into.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      This. I’m a choral singer and church music/Christmas music comes with the territory. That’s my choice. It’s not my job and I don’t want to sing Christmas music at work.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      THIS. I love caroling (even though I cannot carry a tune in bucket, sorry anyone who had heard me). I love the religious songs, I left organized religion because of people not music. But I still would not do this. I also wuold seriously question the judgment of any company I worked with who sent people to my house to carol.

  16. La Triviata*

    I went through a thing with a Secret Santa – not only did I never receive anything, but the person running the thing got the acknowledgement for having given my recipient what I’d bought … and drowned me out when I tried to say that I’d been the Santa.

  17. Spiders Everywhere*

    A company I worked for used to do white elephants every Christmas, and like half the gifts were booze (also, as usual a lot of people ignored the spending cap, so if you opened something from someone who followed the rules, you were usually stuck with it. The rule exists for a reason!) I remember one year I was determined not to get alcohol again, so I picked a package that couldn’t possibly have a bottle in it. It was a set of shot glasses and drinking game accessories.

  18. CindyLouWho*

    Have y’all seen the comments to the letters on Slate? They sure don’t follow the same commenting rules as this site.

    1. jtr*

      I was planning on posting just that, thanking AAM for being willing to moderate replies to ensure that this isn’t a cess pool of incivility. It’s SO NICE to be able to read comments without random insults being thrown about!

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I used to read a lot of Slate and was active in the comment section. I had to give up and stay out of there because half of the mean and offensive comments I read (and boy howdy, there were a lot) came straight from a moderator! When I complained, people said that the mod was just really sarcastic, but if every comment you post sounds angry and hateful, it stops being ironic and is exactly what it sounds like.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I stopped reading Slate because of the uncivil comments section. Now I just don’t look at the comments if I go there.

      2. myfanwy*

        This is a significant part of why I’ve been reading AAM for years and will never ever stop. I would anyway for the advice, but the moderation makes it such a great corner of the internet.

    2. Sally Rhubarb*

      You should just suck it up and eat a meal your body isn’t accustomed to/violates your personal ethics. SNOWFLAKE

      /Sarcasm if it wasn’t clear

    3. Ann Stephens*

      I agree! Some of those comments are just plain mean. We appreciate some good snark here at AAM, but not directed at another commenter or the LW.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I am impressed by the endless string of non-vegetarians declaring it impossible that there are no vegetarian foods available interspaced with the vegetarians saying yeah, I’ve seen this happen.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I live in a very veg-friendly city (in the Midwest, thank you very much!), and I’ve seen it happen here. (I am more surprised when it happens here than other places.)

      2. Zombeyonce*

        It went well with the huge number of comments from meat eaters explaining how annoying vegetarians are and that they should just suck it up. I’m sure no vegetarians have heard that sentiment ever before. /s

        I also loved the people commenting about how they could never give up meat and that food without meat is terrible, all super helpful comments. I have a feeling these people are nutrient-deprived if they can’t even bring themselves to eat a vegetable that hasn’t been cooked in bacon grease.

      3. Labrat*

        One of my coworkers got laughed at when asking if a resturaunt had a vegitarian option after asking if they could accomadate a large group. (I think we guestimated up to 60 people.) Guess where we did not hold the dinner…

  19. Overit*

    In 1979, I was a starving college student. I wad paying my way thru college and could only afford one meal per day. My RA incessantly pressured me to participate in the floor Secret Santa. Being 17, I gave into her pressure and sacrificed to buy a gift. I got nothing in return.
    I was so angry. Angry enough that I worked up enough righteous anger to go to the RA. She got mad and stalked down the hall. Confronted my SS, who laughed and said she participated to GET a gift and would never be so stupid as to actually give one. Giving was for losers.
    44 years later and I still hopes she DIAF.

    1. Victor WembanLlama*

      Wait, were they all in on it like in Carrie? How cruel.

      At least you can look back 44 years later and know you acted with dignity.

      Can’t say the same for your schoolmates.

      Kindness costs nothing yet is one of the rarest commodities

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yeah BS like that can you kicked out the dorm. Good for your RA for confronting the person.

  20. H3llifIknow*

    Even if the foods “have meat in them” ON the menu, most restaurants will allow modifications so perhaps “may I have the steak salad, sans steak” “”can I get an order of the brussels sprouts without bacon” “may I have a baked potato, butter only”, etc… could work? Not sure how strict vegetarians tend to be (i.e. can you eat food that’s been prepared adjacent to meat, or is that still a no go?, etc..) Just a few ideas *if* you want to go. But I definitely agree with Alison to call the restaurant first. If this is a large party they’re expecting, they’d probably appreciate a heads up that there may be some modification requests and you’re likely not the only one!

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      You’d be surprised how much is prepared ahead of time. Sure, you can ask, but that doesn’t mean there’s a solution in the moment. And broth can be a problem. (If you don’t start with flavorful potatoes, I guess you need to add chicken broth? Very strange to me.)

      This is why all the vegetarians have been suggesting that the LW try to find out ahead of time if they can be accommodated.

    2. C.*

      I mean, sure, but this isn’t advice non-meat-eaters haven’t heard before? I know how to speak with waitstaff and restaurant owners. You’re missing the point, though. How much does that steak salad cost without steak now? Am I still paying $22 for some lettuce and cucumber? Would you want to do that? And again, why do I have to cobble together some modified sides while everyone else gets to feast on what they actually want to eat?

  21. Doctor is In*

    Boy, the tone of the comments on Slate sure is different than AAM! Snarky… Thank you ALlison for fostering an atmosphere of politeness!

      1. allathian*

        Snarky I can live with, up to a point. And I admit to sometimes being a bit snarky myself. But I really appreciate Alison’s “don’t be mean” policy.

        Thank you, Alison!

  22. Grey Lady*

    Reading Alison’s answer thing has really set my hair is really on fire over my office’s mandatory prayers at the start of each meeting to the aboriginal gods. I pray to one god, not the God of the eagles and the rising sun. It’s expressly an irreligious and apolitical office.

    Next time that comes up, I’m going to excuse myself. I’ve brought it up before, but really my patience has run out. I realize how unpopular it is going to be, and I guess I’ll have to let the chips fall.

    1. allathian*

      I wish you luck, forcing people to participate in religious worship is horrible, regardless of the religion.

      Are there any Indigenous Australians at your office? Or are the people who are insisting on the prayers all white and not actual believers? If that’s the case, it’s even worse and smacks of cultural appropriation at best.

  23. Honey Badger just don't care*

    How is it that in 2023 we STILL have to fight for awareness of dietary restrictions? It’s so easy to check! My team is going to lunch this week. A place we’ve been to was suggested as the venue. We pulled up the menu and everyone reviewed it to confirm that there were suitable for everyone’s dietary needs. It was so place has been selected for our lunch option. It. Was. Easy.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      And really, being vegetarian is not that hard or unheard of. It’s not as restricive as vegan. They should have something that is vegetarian-friendly. Heck! They could probably charge more if they offered the side as vegetarian and then charge an extra 50 cents or whatever for the meat to be added!

      1. Honey Badger just don't care*

        People who claim it’s too much of a hassle to accommodate everyone shouldn’t be involved in arranging meals either! Where I work, the Admin takes care of it. She sends out the invite, lets people know what is being ordered and invites anyone with special dietary needs that aren’t accommodated by her standard order (which covers carnivores, non-pork eating folks, and vegetarians automatically) to reach out to her with their needs and she will work with them to find an appropriate alternative either from the same place or another venue. And she does this for a team of 100 people. It does take a bit of effort but it’s super inclusive. I’ve got a coworker with extreme allergies. She’s always happy to provide her own food because it’s pretty tough to find things she can eat. But the Admin manages. When we have small group things, she does bring her own but all of us check with her about what she can/can’t have and we work to accommodate it. Bit more effort, sure. But making someone part of the group is worth a bit of effort!

  24. CommanderBanana*

    Man, that restaurant is bonkers. I don’t eat meat either but every steakhouse I’ve been to has one or two dishes like a chicken or fish dish for non-meat-eaters.

    I was at a chain steakhouse recently and was thinking I could get a baked potato – nope! This chain coats their baked potatoes in bacon fat before they’re roasted.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I say tenuously because it’s not if you’re Catholic and it’s a Friday in Lent but many vegetarians consider it to be.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I am a member of the North American Vegetarian Society. Full members don’t eat any flesh (including from fish). Let’s not confuse terminology, as Catholic meatless Fridays are not the same as being vegetarian. (Said as a non-practicing Catholic.)

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I don’t eat pigs or cows for religious or ethical reasons and have mostly phased out chicken/turkey/other birds.

        I’m not going to debate the definition of meat with you. There are many permutations of vegetarian.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I mean, there aren’t. There are many permutations of non-meat-containing diets, but vegetarian has a definition and it is ‘does not eat meat, fish, poultry, or other animal products requiring slaughter’. Words have meanings for a reason.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this.

            My sister started her journey by cutting out red meat, then she quit poultry, and then fish. About 10 years ago, when non-dairy “milks” became more commonly available, she quit using milk in her coffee.

            She enjoys eating cake occasionally, and won’t object to organic free-range eggs in baking, but other than eating non-vegan cake maybe twice a year or so, she’s vegan. She does still put honey in her tea, and her reasoning for that as an environmental scientist is that without pollinators, even vegans would starve.

            That said, because my sister’s objection to eating meat is mainly ethical and ecological, she’s said that she might consider eating venison. There are too many deer and not enough large predators to eat them, so hunting is absolutely necessary. She doesn’t object to that, because humane hunting methods ensure a “better” death to prey animals than being eaten by predators, their natural end, does. But she hasn’t eaten any red meat for about 40 years, and she suspects that her digestion wouldn’t thank her if she ate venison now.

          2. CommanderBanana*

            I mean, there are. I run large conferences and we stopped putting vegetarian as an option for dietary restrictions because ‘vegetarian’ diets can mean a lot of things. Instead we have lots of things people can select as stuff they don’t eat. “Other animal products requiring slaughter” could mean anything from honey to cheese containing rennet.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I’m wondering if there was some misunderstanding and they think the OP does not eat RED meat, which fish and chicken do not count as. It could also be something like some places find that chicken and fish are not meat culturally, but they really are.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          It could also be something like some places find that chicken and fish are not meat culturally, but they really are.

          Fish isn’t considered meat under my religious tradition and isn’t subject to the same restrictions. So I don’t consider fish meat.

          We don’t know what the OP eats or doesn’t eat, or even if a dish with dairy, eggs or cheese would be okay with them, or whether they’re a pescatarian or ovo-lacto-vegetarian because they didn’t say. I’ve found the only way to find out what someone’s particular brand of vegetarianism is is to ask them (same with kosher). Vegetarian has a lot of different interpretations.

          I guess if I had to be absolutely crystal clear about mine, it would be ovo-lacto-pescatarian-kosher-when-it-comes-to-pigs-and-cows-the-closer-it-is-to-a-dog-the-less-likely-I-am-to-eat-it-but-I-do-eat-shellfish-because-I’m-not-that-kosher.

          Hopefully that clears it up for everyone on this thread.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This is why so many vegetarians use the phrase “no food with a face.” Because so many interpretations from non-vegetarians confuse matters. The categories are:

            lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs are OK)
            lacto (dairy but no eggs)
            ovo (eggs but no dairy)
            strict (like vegan but slightly different philosophy about non-food animal products and might eat honey or wear silk, for example)
            vegan (no animal products, including honey, leather, and silk)

            There are some sub-categories (like the raw food crowd), but those are your main types.

            Pescatarians are not vegetarian. They are people who follow a mainly plant-based diet and include fish and other seafood in their diet. (I am perfectly happy that they exist, but they are no more vegetarian than I am vegan.)

              1. CommanderBanana*

                There’s a vegetarian restaurant in my area that serves oysters – their reasoning being that oysters have no central nervous system.

      1. Clisby*

        If I were trying to organize a company dinner party at a restaurant in my city ((Charleston, SC), I’d pick the fabulous Lebanese restaurant downtown. Plenty of meat (halal, if you want), vegetarian, and vegan. They can accommodate gluten free, if you let them know in advance.

        Charleston is not a really big city, although we get a LOT of tourists, so maybe that’s why a restaurant like this is thriving downtown. But I really give the side-eye to anyone organizing a company dinner who doesn’t at least accommodate vegetarians/vegans.

  25. Girasol*

    Re: Secret Santa: Forcing people to spend money, even a little, to give an appropriate gift to someone they may not like, or even know, does not demonstrate the spirit of giving. For fun office party entertainment, a “white elephant” Yankee swap works better. Everyone gift wraps some small thing that they wish they didn’t own, then each person in turn can unwrap a “gift” that hasn’t been opened or “steal” one that has. Strange sculptures, useless kitchen appliances, and peculiar souvenirs can lead to a lot of laughter. Since nothing is of great value, everyone can afford the game and no one is much miffed over what someone else got. The only waste is a little gift wrap.

    1. ferrina*

      One place I worked had a very optional Secret Santa that worked pretty well. There were a few mishaps, but most of the people who participated put thought and effort into it. And there was a price limit that was generally really well adhered to.
      I think there were three things that helped it go well:
      1) It was very, very optional. A little under half of the company participated. No one cared if you participated or not, and there was no pressure on participating. Most years I participated, but a couple times I was too busy.
      2) Organizers kept track of who was assigned what, and who had received a gift. They didn’t care if you signed up or not, but once you signed up, you were expected to play by the rules. If you didn’t gift something, the organizer would hunt you down.
      3) Pictures of gifts were posted on Slack. We had several teams in different locations, so recipients would take a picture and thank their Santa via Slack. Their Santa would also be named at that point. That kept everyone pretty honest. You didn’t give a cheap mug when you knew your boss would see what it was you gave.

    2. Tau*

      The single most fun I’ve ever had at a gift swap was an opt-in exchange at our office where everyone had to buy something, wrap it and bring it in, and then there was an unwrapping/stealing round. The trick? You had to spent (odd small amount of money, like €5.79) exactly. Cue me searching through stores trying to find a piece of candy worth exactly 35 cents, and other people scouring eBay listings. The hilarity of seeing what people had managed to scrounge together was a big part of the fun!

      It is enough effort that this one really has to be opt-in – but tbh, that’s true for any gift exchange. It worked in my office because we were a small group of people at the same level who did a bunch of social stuff together anyway.

  26. Delta Delta*

    I’m on Team Call The Steakhouse and tell them you need a zero meat meal. I was a vegetarian, and now mostly just skew veg, although I do eat some meat. More than once I’ve gone to steakhouses (or bbq joints) and have been very happy to get whatever they make that doesn’t have meat in it. And I’ve also called to find out/arrange a non-meat meal in a similar situation. Once I got an outrageously good mushroom ragout pasta. Another time I got a roasted squash stuffed with roasted veggies and grains. People were legit jealous. It’s worth calling to see what they can do!

  27. JR 17*

    For the question about alcohol gifts – is this in a secret Santa-style gift exchange? If so, a solution – the organizers can ask people to fill our a short form about preferences (favorite foods, favorite drinks, allergies/dislikes, favorite color, hobbies, etc) and pass them along to the gift giver. The last couple gift exchanges I’ve been part of have done this, and it’s so much better!

    1. So many questions...*

      My son’s schoolmates (middle school) do this. Everyone is happy. If 12/13 year olds can organize this on a shared spreadsheet, surely adults can master it.

  28. Cranky-saurus Rex*

    I may have accidentally created a situation like this about a year ago. I worked remotely but went into the office every few months for about a week each time. On one of those trips, I decided to treat myself to a nice steakhouse dinner at a well-known local steakhouse — treat myself because one dinner at this restaurant would easily exceed the travel per diem limit! I mentioned it to a coworker I was friends with, who asked if she could join me…… we were overheard by our team lead who also wanted to try this restaurant. Eventually, the whole team (~10 people) was going, including the 2 vegetarians that we usually made sure we accommodated in restaurants we picked for team dinners. Turns out that while the published menu did not list any vegetarian (or even pescatarian) options, there were off-menu vegetarian options. The plates they were brought looked AMAZING and I’m told they tasted even better.

  29. Have you had enough water today?*

    How do places STILL not have vegetarian options? Restaurants that do not offer veg options (or vegan options for that matter) are leaving money on the table. Non meat eaters are an expanding market & when people are looking for a venue for functions it is usually a consideration. I get it, it’s a steakhouse, but at the end of the day their number one goal is to make money, so why not ensure that you have all your bases covered so people booking for a crowd can comfortably book with you knowing everyone can enjoy the meal?

    1. SometimesMaybe*

      I agree with you, I agree with you, I agree with you, but I want to say as someone who worked in commercial kitchens for years, that there is more to prepping a vegetarian/vegan/halal/gluten free menu option than just the ingredients. Depending on the size of and equipment in a kitchen as well quality of the staff it can be quite difficult to regularly prep, store, and prepare a special diet entree. For some specialty restaurants, like steak houses, the cost of offering is not greatly offset by the specialty menu items.

    2. Antilles*

      I would guess the answer is precisely because “it’s a steakhouse”. What they do is so intrinsically tied to meat that most vegetarians/vegans aren’t showing up anyways no matter how great your vegan wedge salad is. So it might not be worth the time and effort to produce a vegetarian or vegan option when any guest who’d care about whether there’s cheese on the salad won’t be dining with you anyways.

      1. C.*

        I tend to agree with this, but I still can’t help but wish this would change even just a little bit. I’m on the fence, though. Quite frankly, I don’t always love going to steakhouse/BBQ/seafood restaurants even if they *do* have veg options for me, as I don’t like knowing my money is most likely going toward their meat budget. But on the other hand, when I do see those places start coming around and realizing that there’s more than one way to eat the type of cuisine they offer, I still want to support that on some level and show them that their “leap of faith” is worth it. It’s hard!

  30. HonorBox*

    Regarding the Secret Santa – I’m generally not a person who is going to run to tell the authorities over small issues, but this is something that I think I’d talk to the organizer about. Because signing up for Secret Santa only to receive gifts is the epitome of uncool. Secret Santa is a reciprocal thing, and if you’re there to receive, you absolutely must give.

  31. Raida*

    It’ll depend on your relationship with the Boss, but I’d lean towards setting up a quick 10-15 minute meeting, and treat it as “I need your instructions on how I should perform this work-related task.”

    “Hi Boss, I want to know – how do you want me to handle this? ~put down printout of menu~
    There’s meat in every main and side dish at the restaurant.
    The event will take a few hours.
    I’ve seen you give a hard time to people who didn’t attend in the past,
    So… Do you want me to really stretch out gnawing on bread rolls until dessert? Not eat anything for three hours while everyone else eats? Is there actually a hidden menu with vegetarian options I missed?

    I am perfectly all right with everyone enjoying the restaurant. I’m perfectly all right with not attending. I do not expect the venue to be changed – it looks great.

    But what I’m going to need is, in writing, your agreement that it’s completely acceptable to not attend the dinner with no food. I need to be able to pull up that one-line message to be able to show anyone who asks that *you* understand and accept this proposed solution.”

    and if you’ve got a GOOD relationship with ’em, I’d add on
    “I need to know ahead of time that you’re not going to give me a hard time in the new year for not going. Mate, you must know that you do that when people don’t attend.”

    1. BubbleTea*

      A boss who objects to someone not attending a steakhouse dinner would absolutely have a problem with being spoken to this way.

      1. allathian*

        I’d either order something else from Door Dash or bring a lunchbox with my own food, and take a really hard look at the desserts if there’s anything there I could possibly eat.

        For catered events, the restaurant is unlikely to care if one person out of 10, 30, or whatever doesn’t eat anything they’re serving, because they’re very probably charging for the cover anyway.

        I have a sneaking feeling that a boss who’s completely unwilling to consider anything other than a steakhouse as a venue is very likely to have a moral objection to people who choose to (or because of allergies or religious convictions need to) eat differently than they do.

  32. Raida*

    “I can’t sing. I will not be caroling. I know that’s disappointing and I’m sorry you were excited and it’s not going how you imagined. That really sucks, I know how you feel – I’m planned things in the past and you can never tell what people will be enthusiastic about and what they won’t!
    But this is not a work task and if it reflects on my performance or engagement after I’ve cooked for every single morning tea in the last year there’ll be words.”

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I like a nice glass of wine, but I don’t always need one. I’m glad more places are branching out into mocktails, but I would find this annoying, too.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Everyone loves to tease me when I, a grown woman, order a Shirley Temple at team happy hours. The joke’s on them, it’s delicious (and often free because many bars assume you’re the designated driver and comp it)!

  33. Ann O'Nemity*

    Singing Christmas Carols at clients’ homes:

    Besides the atrocious pressuring of employees to participate in religious activities, does anyone else think it’s a terrible idea to get together a random bunch of employees to sing at clients’ homes?! Like, how is the boss imagining this is going to play out? Because what I’m picturing is a bunch of voluntold employees singing awkwardly off-key with no harmony. How much time is he planning on practicing? Do you all even know the songs? This sounds so bananas from start to finish.

    1. Clisby*

      Does anyone have the faintest idea whether the clients want to be caroled? I don’t mind Christmas carols, but I don’t want strangers showing up at my house to sing them at me.

  34. AnonORama*

    I’m so confused by the caroling thing. Does the boss know the client employees they want you to visit all celebrate Christmas, all like Christmas music, and all would enjoy a visit at home from work-adjacent folks? I don’t mean to be a Grinch, but I’d be unpleasantly surprised if the doorbell rang at 8 p.m. or something and it was folks from one of my employer’s client companies, caroling! Like “Hi, I’m Jewish, don’t celebrate Christmas, and have spent several weeks hearing these songs every time I leave the house! How long do I have to stand in the cold pretending to enjoy this, while they stand in the cold doing the same?” So. Weird.

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      I suspect that boss is one of those people who insists that Christmas is secular and if you say anything to the contrary they lose their ever-loving minds and accuse you of killing their Christmas spirit in the same tone they’d use to accuse you of killing babies. Which is to say, they don’t care about any of the objections you’ve raised because their “secular” Christmas vibe is not to be questioned or cramped.
      I think I shall start calling these folks Christmas Karens.

  35. Addison DeWitt*

    My wife had to put on a dinner for a dozen or so people from her department– some of them coming in to Chicago from out of town. Me being the foodie, she put me on finding a place with a private room for the dinner which could also accommodate her one vegan.

    I found several candidates but surprisingly, the most accommodating was an Italian restaurant. You might think, as I did, that Italian food would be out because there was cheese in EVERYTHING. But in fact they managed to create a menu of very tasty, non-cheese containing dishes for the vegan, who was served her plates individually, while everyone else was served family style.

    The next day my wife passed along everyone’s raves. The non-vegans loved the food, the vegan appreciated that she was accommodated so well and not treated like an afterthought or a troublemaker. I mention this because I just want to say that everyone can be taken care of in a situation like this—as long as someone in charge recognizes that special needs need to be met. The restaurant can usually do it—as long as someone on the customer side bothers to ask.

  36. Clare*

    For those as baffled by alcoholic gifts as I have been; I’m told that the logic behind alcohol as a gift is that it’s expensive, non-perishable and commonly consumed. Therefore if the gift recipient doesn’t want to drink it, it can safely sit on a shelf and you’ve given them the gift of looking generous to someone else when they re-gift it.

    All of which is true, but entirely misses the point of gift giving: to make the recipient happy.

  37. NeighborhoodEA*

    Please inform the person who is wrangling event details and logistics, and ask them to work out arrangements with the venue for you to enjoy a dinner. I have made a steakhouse and raw bar work for vegs/vegans by being upfront with the restaurant and requesting a guarantee that they can prepare something meat/dairy/etc free. Your company is paying handsomely for this event, I would think the venue should be happy to accommodate. And the great venues are always happy to make it work!

  38. Ms. Murchison*

    Regarding “Not Caroling,”
    In my experience with Christmas Karens (who refuse to accept that Christmas is inherently religious, expect everyone participate, and condemn anyone who puts a crimp in their Christmas mania I mean spirit), HR may not be able to convince them that it’s Right to respect this boundary, and wrong to pressure employees into participating in religious activities, but a good HR dept will successfully shut it down nonetheless. Good luck.

    Also if anyone can think of a better name for this that doesn’t use “Karen” I’m all ears. Can’t think of a better way to describe this behavior at the moment.

  39. CupcakeCounter*

    Unless the workplace trying to find volunteer carolers is some kind of home-adjacent employer, I would be less than happy if my banker or car mechanic showed up at my house singing carols.

  40. Les Cargot*

    Dear Grateful (who was wondering what to do for the wonderful boss),
    Alison’s recommendation of a note expressing your gratitude was spot on! Some years ago, one of the best bosses I ever had took the whole group and our families to a family-friendly event. He even included the contractors. Afterwards, I sent him a thank you note. It wasn’t fancy, just thanking him for his consideration after the group had been through a very hard-working stressful few months. Weeks later, I was in his office, and he had that card on his desk. It meant that much to him.

  41. Pink Geek*

    A friend once picked a steakhouse for her birthday party and despite being a vegetarian I went because I love her. I asked the server if there was a vegetarian option they could recommend and was told, “If you wanted a vegetarian meal you shouldn’t have come to a steak house.”

    I told her after and now she picks a different steak house for her parties.

    I don’t have any advice, I’m just complaining :P

  42. Anonymous For Now*

    As someone who has been a vegetarian for most of my adult life (decades), I’m really surprised that the sides at the steakhouse all have meat.

    I’ve eaten at a number of places that are either steakhouses or otherwise heavily meat oriented and I could always get non meat sides, such as a baked potato and one or two vegetables.

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