In the past week, my post “10 Things Never to Say to a Vegan” has been re-posted and shared quite a bit, generating an unprecedented amount of traffic. And while I think it is fun to giggle about the crazy questions and comments that are directed toward vegetarians and vegans, I’ve been feeling a little sheepish about it. You see, I happen to be surrounded by incredible meat-eaters who are never anything but respectful and accommodating when it comes to my family’s dietary choices. If you would like to learn from their example, here are 10 ways to make a vegan feel loved:
10. Employers, provide vegetarian options at work functions. My husband’s workplace has come such a long way since he started working there many years ago. At the last family picnic, they BBQ’d both Gardenburgers and Boca Burgers. When they order in lunch for their employees, they always have a veggie option. They even keep soy milk in their refrigerators now, which he enjoys in his coffee every morning.
9. Bring a vegan dish to a potluck when you know a vegan will be attending. One of the moms at my son’s preschool did this. I was blown away. What a sweet, sweet thing to do! She said she wanted to make sure I had something substantial to eat.
8. Ooh and ahh over the food that a vegan brings to an event. Nothing delights me more than having my vegan desserts appreciated. I had so much fun watching my aunt enjoy my chocolate cream pie (secret ingredient: silken tofu). I had even more fun watching the reactions of family gobbling up an avocado-based, raw chocolate pie. In my family, it’s never, “ewwww…vegan.” It’s “cool, this is vegan!”
7. Sometimes, cook a vegan meal for the whole group! My brother made a fantastic vegan chili one year when the whole family was staying at a cabin on the beach. He even bought some Tofutti Better than Sour Cream alongside the dairy sour cream. Everyone can enjoy a hearty bean chili, and nobody has to feel like they are eating “vegan food” when it is so delicious and familiar. In fact, it was so good I think everybody ate until they were stuffed that night!
6. Provide lots of food for your vegan house guests. When we traveled across the country last fall to visit my sister and her family, she went out of her way to stock up on vegan staples as well as fixing a vegan option for every single meal. When she made a chicken curry for dinner, she made a butternut squash and veggie curry along with it. She lives in a rural community where people raise their own chickens and she drives to a nearby farm to get her milk in glass bottles, returning them on her next trip. So she had to drive out of her way to find Earth Balance, but she did it just for us. She has a huge backyard vegetable garden and bakes all of her own bread, so we got to enjoy a lot of fresh veggies and delicious, warm bread. On our first night there, she served a homemade mango macadamia nut-based ice cream along with her homemade dairy ice cream. It was better than any non-dairy ice cream I’ve ever bought at the store!
5. Same as above…even if you live in Texas! When I think of Texas, I think of meat. But when we visited my husband’s side of the family in Texas, my sister-in-law made a vegan jambalaya (it was the first time I’d ever tried okra and I loved it!) and a spectacular vegan pasta dish for us. Her mom even whipped up a vegan birthday cake for my husband!
4. Look out for your vegetarian guests during the holidays. Holiday celebrations often center around food, and no vegetarian or vegan wants to feel deprived on those occasions. Sometimes vegan-izing a dish is so easy, nobody at your table will notice – except for the happy vegan who gets to partake! My mom makes her classic stuffing recipe using Earth Balance or olive oil instead of butter, and vegetable bouillon instead of turkey stock. It tastes just like I remember it from my childhood, and I’m always so grateful that she makes a veggie version just for us. And of course, she always welcomes my contributions to the meal. But there’s something about eating someone’s food that you didn’t make yourself, it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. Need recipes? I’ve posted my mom’s vegan-ized stuffing recipe as well as a classic vegan pumpkin pie recipe on this blog.
3. Restaurants, put several vegetarian options on your menu! I feel like we can eat out just about anywhere now and have some good choices of what to eat. No longer do we have only a single option at most restaurants, but we have choices. My favorite Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Guaymas, has an entire page of veggie options, including burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, fajitas, black bean soup, and many more.
2. Offer vegetarian food to your guests, even if you’re allergic to vegetables! I kid you not. We have a friend who is allergic to almost all fruit and vegetables. It’s something to do with a severe pollen allergy. Sometimes she can eat a fruit if it’s been cooked slightly, but even most cooked vegetables and beans are off her menu or she’ll have a severe reaction. But that doesn’t stop them from having us over for dinner. These friends make this fantastic green bean and potato dish that we devour and she can’t even enjoy. Now if that’s not going above and beyond, I don’t know what is.
1. Stock your kitchen with vegan items. I was raised in a meat-eating family and my mom and dad are still meat-eaters. Yet, you’ll find things in their kitchen such as soy milk (it’s all my dad drinks now), Tofurky slices, Vegenaise, Earth Balance, Ener-G Egg Replacer powder, vegetarian burger crumbles, and soy ice creams and fruit sorbets. Why? Because we spend a lot of time at their house and they want to be sure that we always have something to eat. My mom cooks up such yummy vegetarian meals when we’re over that sometimes I forget that they even eat meat!
The truth is, I’ve never expected meat-eaters to do any of the above things for us. But they did it anyway. Not only have friends and family accommodated us, but they continually exceed all of our expectations.
I’ve been thinking about how vegetarians and vegans cringe when they hear about some self-righteous vegan, screaming at strangers who are eating meat or wearing fur. How we want to say, “we’re not all like that! Most of us aren’t like that. Most of us are nice people!” I think it’s the same way with meat-eaters. Every now and then you encounter a meat-eater who thinks it’s a fun game to try to find the flaw in the vegetarian’s logic, to argue with us over our morals and dietary choices. But most meat-eaters are not like that. Most want to accommodate when they can, and most of them respect our choices even if they don’t agree with them. I have the good fortune of being surrounded by these kind of meat-eaters, and I’m very grateful for it!
What have the meat-eaters in your life done to accommodate you? How have they surprised you?