You may ask yourself, with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, how does a vegan survive a holiday based around the devouring of an animal? Well ok I know the holidays are NOT based around that, but you get what I mean. After being vegan for almost a decade I have the keys to get through the holidays whether you are dealing with un-understanding family members who insist you eat meat or a table with no vegan options at all!
- Healthy Responses to Unnerving Questions: Being vegan for several years you begin to be annoyed with questions like “What do you eat?” and “Why not just eat one piece?” or even statements like “But its historical to eat meat!” The best way to deal with questions like this is to gracefully respond. You may feel like saying “I eat whatever I want” or “I don’t believe in eating corpses.” However, you should really answer questions like this with remarks such as “Actually I eat anything I want and have a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and beans. You would be surprised how many vegan products exist now and how easy it really is!” Or you might say “Sorry I choose not to eat meat for political/environmental/religious/personal reasons” If they want more feel free to elaborate, as they have opened the door! Try your best to refrain from sounding too condescending or superior, as it will only irritate them and could lead to bad feelings.
- Educate, Educate, Educate!: The truth is, many of the annoying questions people ask us, is because they are curious and not trying to offend us. Take these opportunities to really educate your family, because most of them probably don’t know much about veganism and animal rights. So when a question like “How do you get protein?” may irritate you, as you have heard it a thousand times, it’s best to explain how exactly we get protein. I have found that people are genuinely curious as to why we live a vegan lifestyle and if I am asked why I do not eat meat, I will fully explain. I will even offer facts about the meat and dairy industry as well as historical references. If you want to come prepared, bring a book on veganism or some info packets. Although, from my own experience, do not bring those Why Vegans? to the dinner table. These packets may be effective away from food, however, your family will not be sympathetic to pictures of dead animals as they are eating.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Ask: Don’t be afraid to ask your hosts to set aside some of the dishes before they add the meat or dairy products. For instance, I always ask my family to set aside some mashed potatoes before they add milk or butter and stuffing before they add gravy to it! Then I bring along soy milk and mushroom gravy and add it to the items they have set aside. Also, you may want to inquire ahead of time as to what dishes will be already vegan and if your hosts need suggestions on how to make certain items vegan. Sometimes it’s just a simple ingredient that can be substituted for the vegan version. So ask away, that way you are prepared!
- Bring A Vegan Dish: If you are a dinner party guest, try bringing at least one traditional dish made vegan and surprise your family! This works particularly well if you wait until after they have eaten the dish to inform them it is vegan. I have made several dishes that have “fooled” my family, especially desserts. Now my mother asks me to make some of my classic thanksgiving dishes! For ideas on recipes check out our postings for Candied Yams, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, Cheesecake, and Spinach Dip. I have always found that the best way to convince family members that you eat well is to show them how we vegans do it! Once they have tasted your delicious vegan dish, they will be more understanding of your lifestyle and choices. You might be surprised how many of the rude statements and questions disappear after someone has eaten some impressive vegan goods.
- Plan an ALL Vegan Dinner: For years I have had two dinners, one with family and one HUGE vegan potluck with friends and family. My family members who come are always shocked by the display we have created and are willing and excited to try all the vegan versions of their favorite holiday meals, including the Tofurkey! Even if you can’t convince your family to see eye to eye with your eating and political views, inviting them to an entirely vegan meal will stop some of the questions we previously mentioned above. Also, this will benefit you, as you can relax and enjoy a meatless and dairy-less meal in peace! There are hundreds of great recipes (some are linked above) and a TON of options for the main meal that are meatless including Tofurkey and Field Roasts (great baked ham replacement). You can also make your own out of tofu or seitan! Trust us making an all vegan dinner for either holiday will benefit both you and your curious family members.
One last piece of advice is to try not to sound preachy, these being the holidays everyone wants to relax and enjoy themselves. They will likely shut you out if you do this! So indulge and appreciate your family, even if they drive you nuts! Happy Vegan Holidays from AP!