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How to Cook Vegan for a BBQ

I love summer in Japan! It is the only season that I can feel truly comfortable with the weather – on most days, at least. On some days, the intense Japanese heat and humidity make me wish I had never left the Caribbean and it’s tropical marine climate. However, another reason I love summer, is because this is the time when everyone is having a barbeque – and I love a good barbeque! But, back in Jamaica, we had barbeques all year long.

Jamaican BBQs
To many Jamaicans, a BBQ is usually a professionally catered community event, where you pay for a packaged meal and enjoy live entertainment. But, when I was growing up, my parents would often bring us into the backyard to sit around the coal stove, a barbeque grill or my brother’s pan (the traditional Jamaican grill made from a repurposed steel drum) to grill up dinner. Sometimes we made popular dishes like roast fish, BBQ chicken or jerk pork. But most of the time we would just make a feast of roasted corn, sweet potatoes, yams and probably some frankfurters. On those days, my brother, sister and I never complained about what was for dinner! LOL. It was such a delight to watch the food cook on the mesh wire, then eat it under the open sky.

All About the Sides
Although most people focus primarily on what meats to serve when they are hosting a barbeque, what really makes a great barbeque menu are all the creative side dishes, refreshing drinks and lip-smacking desserts. So, if you’re hosting your first backyard grill-up, don’t forget to toss some fresh vegetables together for a quick salad: garden salads and coleslaw are popular. You can mash some potatoes to soak up all the BBQ sauces and gravy or mix some macaroni with mixed vegetables and raisins, for quick dishes to pair with your favourite entrées.

Snacks, Drinks & Desserts
Dinner rolls, hotdog and burger buns will balance out other side dishes like rice n’ peas, festival or roti; and fill a bowl with your favourite chips and dip to tackle the munchies while everyone gathers near the grill to fill their plates. Try to prep a platter of fruit to keep your guests cool and hydrated in the summer heat and don’t be shy to offer everyday delights like fried ripe plantain or steamed bammy when you spread your table. The key to a great BBQ menu is preparing a little bit of everything to fill everyone’s plate and appetite. If you choose to serve alcohol-based beverages, be sure to have lots of water, iced teas, and fruit juices as well, to help wash down the bickle. Then some slices of sweet potato pudding or a platter of chilled sugarcane sticks is sure to settle every craving after all the plates are empty.

The Main Dishes
With all of that yumminess up for grabs you’re probably wondering who will have space to eat anything else. But, you should try to put something on the grill, if you really want to call your linkup a ‘BBQ’. So, what do vegans throw onto the grill? Well, even after I had stopped eating flesh foods, my mother would still have barbeques in the backyard, and she never failed to cater to my new palate. She would buy frozen veggie burgers, cans of veggie links (hotdogs) and fill skewers with cubes of marinated tofu, pineapple chunks, onions and other veggies. Of course, we always had to make extras because my friends and relatives would happily fill up on the vegetarian goodies, as well.

Fire Up the Grill
If you’re looking to keep things simple, some of the most popular veggies to toss onto the grill are: corn on the cob, marinated mushrooms, asparagus, stuffed sweet peppers and slices of eggplant. Slabs of tofu, smothered in jerk seasoning, hold together well, if you firm them up in the toaster oven ahead of throwing them on the grill. You can also find simple recipes online for making bean burgers, veggie sausages and wheat gluten ribs for putting on the grill. If you’re not into ‘creative cooking’ then you can buy meatless burgers and other treats in the refrigerator section at major supermarkets. This list of plant-based grilled dishes isn’t extensive since non-grill entrées like baked beans, curried chickpeas, lentil patties (handpies) or ackee lasagna are also excellent choices for your barbeque.

Whether you’ve decided to stop eating meat and are worried about what to eat at your friend’s BBQ or you’re just trying to increase the amount of plant-based foods you pile onto your plate, you have plenty of easy and delicious dishes to choose from. So heat up the grill, fill up your glass and enjoy the heat and carefree spirit that comes with it.

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