It’s been four years of grueling work and now you deserve to bask in the glory of your success with those nearest and dearest to you. So get out your trusty spatula and prepare to wow your comrades—omnivores and vegans alike—with your plant-based grillin’ skills.
Backyard barbecues are homey and quaint, so if you have the space to accommodate a group of your closest friends and family, get ready to play host or hostess on your own turf. If you have a cozier yard that isn’t ideal for hosting a large group, local parks are great public spaces to have a gathering, and luckily enough, many of them come equipped with barbeques open to the community. Be sure to wipe down the grill with some of your favorite vegan cleaning supplies before using them to make sure everything is squeaky clean for you to start cooking.
The most important part of throwing a successful barbecue—aside from your lovely attendees—is what kind of grub you decide to whip up. There are countless options—from grilled veggie and tofu kebabs, to decadent veggie burgers piled high with all the fixins, to veggie hot dogs smothered in sweet relish and mustard. Stock up on your favorite plant-based brand of patties, hot-dogs, and cheeses so you can offer variety to your hungry guests. Additionally, grilled veggies are always a scrumptious offering, whether skewered on a kebab or served seared and seasoned on their own. Toppings are a must, so make sure to have plenty of ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, relish, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and any other add-ons your heart desires at-the-ready to compliment your sizzling fare. Pro tip: fire up some pineapple, tomatoes, and avocados as extra toppings to make any dish deluxe.
If you’re going to celebrating something as monumental as a graduation, you’ll need some commendation-worthy vegan brews. There are countless brands of delicious beer from newly-vegan, dark-brew Guinness, to Lagunitas classic Pale Ale. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can even grab a shaker and impress your peers with some fun and fruity vegan cocktails to kick-off the summer. Bailey’s Almande is delightful to mix with your choice of plant-based milk for a breezy White Russian, and muddling some fresh fruit with mint leaves and a splash of white rum (or club soda for younger crowds) makes for a refreshing mojito. Finally, you can never go wrong with a batch of homemade lemonade and ice-cold water to have on deck for refreshments.
No party is ever complete without the snacks. Whether you want to grab some easy vegan aged white cheddar flavor popcorn from Earth Balance or whip up a few fancy spreads—such as mushroom pâté, olive tapenade, and white-bean cannellini—to serve on toasted crostinis, guests will always be happy to indulge in some hors d’oeuvre at a social gathering. If you’re on an avocado buzz like like the rest of us, you can be sure to please BBQ-goers with some fresh guacamole and a helping of warm, homemade tortilla chips. To top it all off with an extra layer of decadence, bake a well-deserved vegan graduation cake to enjoy with your fellow graduates and proud families. As the famous chef Julia Child once said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.”
Family and friends are finally together enjoying your stellar barbecue and the summery weather. While conversation will probably be the main pastime of the shindig, it’s always a good idea to have a few games and activities in your armoire to keep the ball rolling. If your barbecue is poolside, be sure to wait thirty minutes after your sensational meal and slather on the cruelty-free sunscreen before diving in. A barbecue at the park can be livened up by bringing a ball for some friendly competition, post-grubbing. A personal favorite party trick is to have a deck of cards, or the app Heads Up, so you can take turns guessing what character or celebrity is written on your head while others try frantically—and often hilariously—to hint this to you without saying it explicitly.
Courtney Lodin, an editorial assistant from VegNews, is a recent graduate from UC Santa Cruz who plans to throw her own vegan barbecue to celebrate walking this spring.