I hope you all had/are having a wonderful holiday.
Christmas weekend went relatively well for us, though this was the first time in a while that “the food thing” has been an issue. This part of the family is about as far from vegan as possible, which made things a little tricky. Not really in terms of what we had to eat–we made our own meals–but in terms of having to deal with the questions and comments we’ve all heard a thousand times before. One family member in particular seemed particularly challenged by my mere presence, annoyed that I wanted to make my own curry because she was using dairy-based margarine and milk. She did buy vegetable broth in anticipation of my arrival, though, which was thoughtful, and made preparing my sauce alongside hers easier.
I also found myself challenged with the “But the cow’s need to be milked! It hurts if they’re not!” line as well as the “Plants feel pain” bit. I wonder sometimes if people really believe these things or are just repeating what they’ve heard. I can only be thankful that the honey issue didn’t come up.
In case you’re wondering how I handle these situations, I don’t let them escalate. Holidays with family are not the time to be spreading The Word. So, to the cows-need-to-be-milked comment my reply was, “Well, we won’t get into that right now” and I ignored the plants feel pain comment altogether. If I feel like the person might actually be receptive to the message or is genuinely interested in talking about it, I’ll add, “I’d be happy to talk with you about that later, when we’re not eating,” but in this case, I think it was more of a challenge than any interest in finding out why dairy’s worth avoiding.
After having not eaten or prepared meat for this long, the sights, smells, and discussion of meat are really starting to make me feel uneasy. Early on, it didn’t bother me too much because I wasn’t that far removed from it, but like they say, once you find out what goes into producing the roast on the platter, you can’t unlearn it. I end up thinking about the animals I see each week at the farm and making that very uncomfortable connection with the slab of flesh sitting out on the table.
Thankfully, to most members of the family, my veganism has stopped becoming a topic of conversation at every meal we share. It’s something they’ve gotten used to and doesn’t need to be discussed too much. As a nice byproduct, many of the family members that were most confused about the idea of avoiding meat have begun to understand the reasons behind it and have even made pleasant comments about how they “admire” the act. It’s a step in the right direction.
If you’ve read this far, the least I can do is tell you about the good food my wife and I had. One night, we joined the rest of the family for a curry dish. Our curry sauce was a makeshift concoction I put together based on the non-vegan version in the pan next to mine. We had plenty of veggies and fried tofu in ours and it was absolutely delicious. I had leftovers for lunch just a few minutes ago.
For Christmas night dinner, I made a veggie pot pie recipe from Robin Robertson‘s Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook. We used lightly seasoned and fried seitan in place of the tofu, but otherwise followed the recipes for the pot pie and gravy as-is. The end result was spectacular. I have bad luck with crusts-from-scratch, but this one was very easy to make and came out nice and flaky. Just about everyone at dinner tried some of the pot pie and it went over really well. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend even asked for seconds, which is always nice since it’s hard to tell how seitan will sit with meat eaters.
Navigating the holidays can be a little troublesome, but you’ll always feel better afterwards if you stick to your guns while still playing the polite card. Like Bob and Jenna say in Vegan Freak (and I’m paraphrasing here), you’ll be best off if you find that halfway point between timidity and over-assertiveness.