Sunday, July 22, 2012

Surviving Non-Vegan Meals with Family and Friends

Almost all vegans know the feeling: you arrive at a dinner at your friend's or relatives' house, walk through the door, and are suddenly smoted with the scent of roast beef. You blink, try to hold your breath, then realize it's no use and try to act normal, smiling and avoiding the kitchen. You eat the salad and some fruit as your stomach grumbles and whines for the hummus you left in your fridge. Still, every few minutes you find yourself glancing at your watch. Is it time to leave yet...?
This is an unneccessary bit of suffering that us vegans go through at first. Sometimes this twisted social scene drags on for years, like a really bad (but cruelly funny) soap opera that you long to stop watching, but just can't. (Not like I know much about soap operas, but still.)
The smart vegan knows that something has to be done about this-- and quick, too, unless you want to turn your friends and family away from you and animal rights. Instead of meekly going along to the barbeques and pizza parties without a say in the matter, here are some things that you could do instead...

woman eating
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Choice 1: Upon recieving an invitation to a fancy dinner with friends and family, contact the host/hostess to suggest vegan options to be served. Tell the chef that if he or she is not willing to cook a seperate entree, you could always arrive beforehand with something to heat up. If it is a potluck, bring your own vegan dishes (the more the better) for everyone to try. Don't hide that you are a vegan. Make sure that the dishes are absolutely delicious. You may be able to make some converts at the party if the food tastes really good, but don't nag. That'll only make it worse.

Choice 2: If it is an unavoidably meaty meal, such as Thanksgiving, and there is no hope of changing the hostess' mind, don't go. Don't let yourself suffer.

Choice 3: Try to convince the chef to make it an all-vegan meal. Go right up to the host's house with some delicous homemade vegan cookies and perhaps some vegan pasta salad to hold the talk. Show him how wonderful vegan food is. Don't set out to convert him permanently-- not just yet, unless he is open-minded to it. Focus all your attention on veganizing that one meal first. If he doesn't care about animal rights, tell him that you just don't feel comfortable surrounded by meat-eating. You may have to make a compromise-- for example, veganize the entree, but still serve cream-stuffed side dishes. Don't worry about this too much. You can't convert the world in a few hours, but you can help them to start to make the shift.

Choice 4: If these are really good friends just casually meeting up, insist that it be a completely vegan meal. They'll most likely do it for you. Come beforehand to help prepare, if neccessary.

Choice 5: If you are ordering take-out or pizza delivery, take everyone to a vegetarian/vegan place. There are vegan pizza places, too, you know!

Choice 6: If it is a barbeque, set up your own barbeque, loudly but good-naturedly proclaiming that cruelty-free alternatives are over here. Oh, and don't forget to bring the vegan burgers and vegan hot dogs, otherwise you might get a few funny looks!

Top 10 DON'TS:
  1. DON'T eat animal products just to fit in. If you are having the temptation to, remind yourself of the abuse and slavery that the animals had to go through to end up on the platter.
  2. DON'T force yourself to sit through something that is highly disturbing you. Every vegan has different levels of tolerance. You be the judge of what you can handle.
  3. For goodness' sake, DON'T agree to bring animal products to a potluck or picnic. If someone asks you to bring the turkey, tell them no. Or, I suppose that you could sneakily bring a vegan turkey and not tell anyone that it is a mock-meat until they are already eating it. (Muahaha.)
  4. Similarly, DON'T agree to carve the turkey. It's just wrong. You may not have harmed the turkey, and you may not be eating the turkey, but to take part in the process of meat-eating is not in accordance with a vegan's beliefs.
  5. DON'T yell, scream, cry, turn over the table, or run out of the room if others are eating animal products. This will only earn you the label of "unstable" or, worse, "one of those crazy vegan fanatics". This will automatically make people less open-minded to you and your beliefs. They might even try to send you to a counsellor.
  6. DON'T incessantly pressure people to go vegan on the spot, especially if they are eating meat as you speak to them. They will shut off to the animal rights philosophy, becuase they don't want to give up their meal part-way through.
  7. If the conversation turns to your veganism, DON'T just call veganism "a personal choice" and be done with it. When people ask you questions about your lifestyle choice, it is becuase they are interested in it, and maybe they even want to try it out themselves. This is an excellent opportunity to (calmly and rationally) explain your beliefs. Before you go to any meal, work out what you are going to say about why you are a vegan. Take along a few leaflets and booklets with you to pull out if anyone is very interested.
  8. That being said, DON'T scatter leaflets everywhere all over the house. Again, you'll be seen as rather unstable and the hostess will clean up all the leaflets anyway.
  9. DON'T allow yourself to get into a heated debate about veganism with someone. Even if the other person started it, you have the power to come out on top by refusing to furiously argue.
  10. DON'T sit through the whole meal without anything to eat. You don't want to give people the impression that you are a half-starved martyr or something. If you really are stuck (and you shouldn't be, given all my suggestions above), find a plain fruit or vegetable to eat, and help with chores (besides the meat-centered chores, of course) so that it is less obvious that you aren't eating much of anything.

To summarize: you can do it! Convert people if you can, but don't give people a bad impression. Don't make yourself suffer. Be courageous, but polite. Eating with others isn't such a drag once you get used to it, and it certainly loses its scary soap-operaness after a while.

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