With the holiday season at our front door, I believe everyone can benefit from this post, originally published in 2009. Both publicly and privately, readers responded in favor of the vegan. (Of course you did.) Some of you thought I was too hard on myself and that the host should have been more willing to make their guests happy. I didn’t write this though to blame anyone (including myself).
When I reread this, what comes up for me is that we all need to communicate better. I know I don’t intentionally try to piss people off, and I believe that goes for others as well. Take time this holiday season to communicate with your family. Relationships are so important to our happiness, and yet it doesn’t mean turning your back on your values either.
Last year around this time I read the following article, Vegetarians and the Challenge of Thanksgiving. 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’ve had my own difficult moments at family holidays. Who hasn’t? The first Christmas I was vegan I spent 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 was, but it wasn’t perceived that way.
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. I didn’t want to scare anyone. Yet no one touched it except my mom. (I love you, mom.)
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago (almost four years later) that I understand the real issue. My sister mentioned my brother was offended when I brought my 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 as too difficult and I didn’t speak up and ask — ironic that I write a blog claiming being vegan is easy), I hurt their feelings. Never assume anything. I should have called and asked if I could bring something to help out. I’m certain they would have preferred that.
Needless to say, this isn’t my favorite Christmas memory. The day was tension-filled from the minute I walked in the door. 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 if there are challenges before you, they will at least be unrelated to food. Happy holidays!