This has turned into a bit of a recipe blog, hasn’t it?
Truth be told I’m hoping to be known for more than just recipes. But of course, recipes are one of the few things I’m really, really good at. Oh, I can dance and climb, but you don’t really care about those things, do you?
(Okay, I’m sure you do, but they don’t help you is what I’m trying to say).
But I am pretty good at giving advice, just general life advice. And a lot of people lately have been coming to me for cooking, nutrition and exercise advice. I preface everything by saying that I’m only one woman with an English degree and am not a licensed nutritionist or personal trainer, but I can always speak from experience and come from a place of compassion.
This year is going to be my first year not spending a huge amount of time at home for the holidays. I was only planning on doing two nights at home last year, but the 2013 ice storm kept me in Durham Region for longer than expected. Anyway, this year it’s gonna be a speedy trip. Go to B-ville Christmas Eve, leave Boxing Day in the morning. I’ll be spending my time off with my partner, cooking and playing games and going tobogganing and just enjoying this time off (I am seriously so happy that I get two weeks off at Christmas)!
Whatever you celebrate, most people end up with their families, their partners’ families, or in large groups at this time of year. And for a lot of vegans, sometimes it feels like you have a giant neon sign above your head reading “VEGAN!” I know that’s the case with my family. My parents have come a long way from full-on detesting my veganism to merely making the occasional remark about it. My sister likes to tease me, though she also is amazing for getting me vegan-friendly gifts and telling me the ingredients in things. So it’s a mixed bag. For the most part, they’re dealing well. But I also knew that they weren’t going to take me by the hand at 25 and do a single thing to accommodate. They’re a real meat-and-potatoes family, and picky eaters. Pretty much the furthest extent they’ll go for me is to keep the cheese on the side of their salad. So I’m on my own.
Never fear for me! I ordered a large holiday bowl from Bunner’s which I’ll be picking up on Christmas Eve (Torontonians, they’re taking orders all the way up to Christmas Eve, so I’d highly recommend grabbing one!) and am going to grab some desserts too. I’ll have with me a brick of tofu, some avocado and some almond milk for a nice Christmas brunch with the fam.
My family is very personally closed off to veganism, so I’ve always had to tiptoe around the issue at the holidays. That’s why I wanted to give some advice to people who will be in similar situations.
- Let your host know before hand and offer to come with food (and enough to share) if possible. You shouldn’t let your veganism be the elephant in the room when the time comes to serve. Offer to show up with food and apps for yourself, and don’t forget the little things, like non-dairy milk for coffee. Try not to impose on the host’s kitchen and bring something already prepared. Yes, it’s a bit of extra work for you, but the good news is, if you bring stuff for sharing, you’ll surely make some friends.
- Don’t feel a need to over-explain. I find you can tell the difference between someone who is asking you a question because they’re genuinely curious about veganism (“So, do you eat butter?”) and someone who is looking to start an argument or challenge you (“Okay, but what about freerange chickens?”). If you don’t feel like talking about it, you don’t have to. You don’t have to be hostile, but here’s what I usually say: “If you’re curious about veganism, I’d be happy to answer questions you might have another time, but you have to realize that I get asked these questions a lot, and they’re really exhausting. I’d rather just eat dinner for now and not discuss my lifestyle.” And change the subject. Simple as that.
- Offer to share, but don’t force. My family is always quick to accuse me of trying to “force” veganism on them because I offer them a vegan cookie or something. Some people feel easily threatened or feel like we’re making them feel guilty, when really we just see it as trying to share. Regardless, just put the offer on the table and let people do what they please with it. You can’t force anyone over to your side. Accept that and just have fun (and hey, if you have stuff to take home after… awesome)!
- Try to laugh it off. To this day, my parents still don’t believe that I will date non-vegans, or they quote the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa becomes a vegetarian and the kids ask her if she’s going to marry a carrot. Remember that there are way worse of things people could make fun of you for. If you are really, truly hurt by it, simply turn around and tell them, “Hey, this is a pretty sensitive topic for me, could we cut down on the jokes?” Try not to be on the defensive or get too angry right away. Believe it or not, most family members don’t realize when they’re hurting your feelings.
- Focus on the aspects of the holiday not involving food. Visits can be stressful when thinking about dinner and dessert and everything. Remember, it’s perhaps an hour or two out of your day. Focus on the gifts, the music, the time spent together, the games, etc.