Buddhist Food Etiquette: 4 Rules For Guests And Hosts
Buddhist food etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately plan a menu and manage the dining experience for guests who follow the Buddhist dietary principles.
Who is Buddhist food etiquette for?
Hosts should learn how to plan a Buddhist-friendly menu that their guests will enjoy.
As a guest who follows the Buddhist dietary principles, you should politely manage your food restrictions and deal with your hosts and the other guests.
Buddhist food etiquette micro-class
1) Be prepared to tend to Buddhist guests
2) Plan an enjoyable Buddhist-friendly menu and dining experience
Avoid traces of forbidden foods and cross-contamination
Create a transparent Buddhist-friendly menu
Clearly mark all the dishes or items on the menu that are appropriate, such as vegetarian or vegan. Label them with a recognized symbol or statement. Make detailed ingredient lists available to customers or guests upon request.
Serve each food on its dedicated plate
Allow your guests who follow Buddhist dietary principles to pick the foods they can eat and avoid the ones they cannot eat.
Avoid serving multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separately from food. Present each food with its serving utensils.
Include Buddhist-friendly options for your guests
Some foods present a lower risk of being inappropriate or forbidden. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. For instance, baked potatoes or salad are safe options for most guests.
Be open to accomodate the special needs of your guests
Offer ingredient substitutions whenever possible to accommodate guests who follow Buddhist dietary principles. Be transparent about potential substitutions and any extra costs involved.
Be open to customizing dishes and offering a Buddhist-friendly version. Clearly communicate any limitations in customization due to the nature of the dish or kitchen processes.
Avoid foods that may be inappropriate for the Buddhist principles
One of the main principles of Buddhism is nonviolence and the avoidance of suffering. According to this principle, most Buddhists do not eat animals, as doing otherwise would imply killing.
Thus, the meat of any animal is usually excluded from the Buddhist diet.
Fish and seafood
Buddhists normally do not eat fish, seafood, or shellfish. All of them are considered living beings, and thus eating them implies their killing or suffering.
Dairy products and cheese
Milk, dairy products, and cheese are normally included in the Buddhist diet, as long as their production does not involve any harm to the animal. Nevertheless, in some regions or in some Buddhist schools, milk and dairy are excluded.
Eggs and honey
Eggs are usually excluded from a Buddhist diet.
Honey is widely accepted.
Vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts
In general, all vegetables and fruits are allowed in the Buddhist diet. However, some Buddhists do not eat plants with a strong smell, such as onion, garlic, or leeks. The belief is that those plants lead to increased emotions, such as anger or sexual desire.
In general, Buddhists can eat any type of grain, such as pasta, couscous, quinoa, and amaranth. The same applies to bakery products and bread. Pizza is allowed too.
Condiments and sauces
Oil, salt, and spices are allowed. Buddhists that avoid alcohol may not consume vinegar made from wine.
Sweets and desserts
A Buddhist diet can include most types of sweets or desserts. However, some interpretations of the Buddhist principles suggest excluding or limiting sugar. First, sugar can be addictive. Second, in the Buddhist faith, many believe that eating food should nourish, but not bring sensual pleasure.
Drinks and alcoholic beverages
A Buddhist diet usually includes soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However, some people consider coffee, tea, and sugar drinks as potentially addictive, and thus avoid them.
In general, most Buddhist diets do not allow alcoholic drinks. However, in some regions, alcoholic drinks are present at religious celebrations. Thus, some Buddhists may consume alcohol.
3) Politely ask your Buddhist guests about their food restrictions
It is perfect etiquette to ask your Buddhist guests about their dietary restrictions. The interpretation and application of the Buddhist dietary principles may differ and may include or exclude different foods.
In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. In informal invitations, a simple “Do you follow any diet or have any dietary restrictions?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food. Never judge or question the answers you get.
Avoid asking additional questions, such as why someone follows a diet. Some guests may be uncomfortable sharing their food restrictions.
Hospitality staff should encourage guests to communicate their food allergies or intolerances when making reservations and upon arrival. Servers should ask about food allergies before taking orders, and convey this information to the kitchen.
4) Etiquette for guests who follow Buddhist principles
Clearly communicate your food restrictions
Clearly state with your host if you have any dietary restrictions.
Do not expect a change in the menu based on your needs. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled. Instead, you can ask if there may be some Buddhist-friendly options for you, such as vegan or vegetarian food.
Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to adjust the menu to your needs.
Politely refuse food that you do not eat
If the host serves a type of food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”.
Provide additional details only if someone asks you. Be brief and avoid annoying others with your dietary restrictions.
Do not force your diet on the other guests
Do not expect others to adjust their menu or diet to your dietary restrictions. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.
Buddhist food etiquette mistakes
The worst etiquette mistakes for a host are:
- Not accommodating your guests’ needs that are due to Buddhist dietary principles.
- Using the same kitchenware with different foods.
- Asking personal dietary questions.
The worst etiquette mistakes for guests who follow Buddhist dietary principles are:
- Not communicating your dietary restrictions to the host.
- Forcing your diet on others.
- Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.