Last year around this time I read the following article, Vegetarians and the Challenge of Thanksgiving, on Newsweek.com. It was one of the site’s top reads that week. The article was irritating and the comments infuriating. The first comment begins and I quote directly (typos included):
Factory farming….you find one or two cases of abuse and point your fingers and say that is how it is everywhere, Its all like that…
…Most animals are farm raised, at least around here. raised in pastures, coops and large pens. You can go there and talk to them and see how there feeling today. Since you feel they can talk or you can tell by looking at them how they “feel”.
Much misunderstanding and misinformation about vegetarianism. Mix this with family and the fun begins. Ha.
I have had my own difficult moments at family holidays. Who hasn’t? The first Christmas I was vegan, I spent it at my brother’s house. Because I didn’t want to put anyone out, I whipped up a pasta dish and vegan dip to contribute. I thought I was being thoughtful and in my heart I know I was. But that was not how it was perceived.
Upon arrival, I entered the kitchen with my vegan food and said to my brother, “I brought a pasta dish to share. And some dip too.”
“Why? Isn’t my food good enough for you?,” he asked.
Why the attitude? I was miffed. What did I do wrong, I asked myself. I did what every vegan book and article suggested. Bring a tasty vegan dish to share. I didn’t even include tofu. Didn’t want to scare anyone. Yet no one touched it except my mom.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago (almost four years later) that I understand the real issue. One of my sisters mentioned my brother was offended that year when I brought my own food. “Why,” I asked. He was offended not because I was vegan, but they (my sister-in-law and him) had worked so hard on preparing a big meal for everyone. They took pride in this effort. Yet I was so wrapped up in “being vegan” and holding on to assumptions (because my brother is a hunter and avid meat eater) that it was a day destined for disaster.
I am almost certain he would have preferred I had called to let them know I had special dietary requirements. My sister-in-law always and so generously prepared special food for me when I was a vegetarian. By assuming they wouldn’t want to accommodate my vegan needs (which I interpreted to be too difficult and I didn’t speak up and ask — ironic that I now write a blog claiming being vegan is easy!), I hurt their feelings. I should have never assumed anything. I should have called and asked if I could bring something to help out. Now I am certain they would have been happy to accommodate my needs.
Needless to say, this isn’t my favorite Christmas memory. The day was tension-filled from the get-go. Looking back, I know I could have prevented it.
Being vegan does have its challenges. It’s a balancing act — getting along peacefully with others and at the same time standing grounded in our beliefs. Communication is the key. At the very least, it can prevent incorrect assumptions.
I write this in hopes that everyone enjoys the holidays this year and that if there are challenges to be had, they will at least be unrelated to food. Happy holidays!