Alexa is working toward a vegetarian diet, and is loaded with questions. Jennifer’s got answers. We talk about anything as long as it is vegan. Are tattoos vegan? How do I politely not eat Thanksgiving dinner? How do I order without pissing off the waitress? We know you are dying to ask!
I was hesitant to write this post since I can’t say that my family has been incredibly supportive. So I won’t be pointing out anyone in particular and I will be taking examples from both sides of family, my side, and my husbands side. With that said there is only one person I will single out- my husband.
I was a pretty flexible vegan when we first started to date. I pretty much got rid of all animal products from my diet, but I had a hard time being vegan when eating out. I couldn’t accept the idea that I would be forced to eat a salad, and I was pretty bad at asking questions. I am sure there were plenty of times I ate beef broth or ate hidden dairy. So when I announced to my husband that I really wanted to go back to being a strict vegan, he was completely an board. He only asked one question- “So your NEVER going to eat a hotdog ever again?” The question was pretty funny to me, since I don’t even like hot dogs much. I actually like fake dogs better, even when I was omnivorous.
I love how my husband talks about veganism and his cutting back on meat as a positive thing. He talks enthusiastically about where he gets his protein from outside of meat and cheese. He will also boast how happy and healthy he is. One thing I can say is that if your spouse is complaining about how your “veganism” is bringing them down, then you might want to reevaluate that relationship.
As for other family members, their initial reaction was pretty non-existant, which is because my “announcement” was pretty non-existant. Most of the time I came to family functions with my own food. We plate our own food, so most people didn’t question what I ate. No one questioned why, so I never explained (I’m a horrible person, I know).
But I found that when I uttered the word “vegan” a lot of family members start asking “the questions.” Calcium, iron, protein, omega-3, and possibly vitamin B12 get tossed around in the conversation. You REALLY want to be ready for answers. I found that if you don’t have a complete answer people will try to talk you out of veganism.
That said some days it seems that family members are totally stumped and find me as a food road block. I am sure some people think I am going through a phase, or just trying to be different or a pain. Most of my family really love cheese and dairy, which is the biggest no for me. So when family try to think of sides, they think veggies with cheese, bread with cheese, casserole with heavy cream, cheese and crackers, cream cheese based dips, etc. And it seems that they plan one vegan dish, or I am the one bringing the only vegan dish. But, occasionally I found, people prefer the vegan dish. My Nanna asked for my curry pumpkin dish that I made for their 60th wedding anniversary.
On the flip side, I’ve had people bend over backwards for me. I’ve had people make two versions of a dish, one vegan and one omnivorous. This year I am going to a Thanksgiving where the host specifically is making mostly vegan side dishes. Which is a great relief, since this will be the first Thanksgiving that I won’t have to give two craps about what I eat.
That said, I am not the best poster child of educating family members about veganism. Some people I just don’t bother to explain it to, and I never expect people to buy anything specific for a dish (ie fake butter, soy milk, etc) If my Grandma made Jello just for me, I’d probably just eat since I don’t expect her to think about gelatin as a no no. But if other members of the family did that, I would explain it to them.
But overall, as a vegan you might feel ignored. Some family members seem to ignore my eating habits in favor for what they want to do, and I don’t think I am alone. My friend who is vegan is always telling me how she has to fight her family not to go to certain restaurants since their vegan option involves a lot of questions and a salad. I find myself making food that my husband and I only eat. You will get pressured to eat the dessert because you know, it’s a TREAT! People will think it is a phase. People will consider your diet as recommendations. And people will make honest mistakes while catering to your diet, and you can’t get mad about that.
This really isn’t a happy post. Most people have a hard time dealing with family and veganism over friends and veganism. I think it is because these people are so close to you that sometimes they don’t care if they come off rude. It is part of how things go. You can fight and talk about it. Or you don’t. This is something you need to figure out how to handle as an adult.