Hello Savvy Vegetarian! Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to become vegetarian. I have been infatuated with the concept of vegetarian lifestyle my whole life and truly felt like it was meant for me.
On the other hand, my family was raised eating nothing but meat (I may be exaggerating a little) and dairy products. I can remember not wanting to eat my steak, so they had to persuade me by saying that meat makes me grow into a beautiful girl with long hair.
As I grew older, I tried secretly to become vegetarian, but my parents would always "know what I was up to" and criticize me for wanting to loose weight or some other "phase" I was going through. In fact, when I was in college I was finally able to drop meat, but every time I ordered vegetarian meals, my mother would roll her eyes and excuse my behavior to the server by saying I was going through a phase.
Well, I am married now and have moved to the opposite end of the country. I am able to eat whatever I want without feeling ashamed of myself. I have done everything I could to veganize my house and am very active when it comes to supporting the rights of animals. I love it!
This is where I am having a problem. My parents have decided to visit me for the first time in over a year, and they will be staying at my house. I have no idea what to do for food considering they are eating meat and dairy on a daily basis.
They have criticized my vegetarian lifestyle as an embarrassment to the family, and I don't want them to feel like we have to eat at a restaurant three times a day. I know there are easy delicious recipes available and I pride myself on my cooking abilities; but my family is not very good at trying new things, let alone dishes that don't come with some dairy or flesh.
I want to see my family, but I dread their nasty comments and sniveling facial expressions; as well as feeling like my vegetarian lifestyle is inconvenient to their eating habits. Help me!
Thank you for ANY advice you may have. Sincerely, Vegan Girl
Dear Vegan Girl,
I remember hearing that 'going through a phase' line as a child! I get the impression that you're dragging a lot of childhood emotional baggage into this. Now that you're an adult, you can deal with this as an adult. I may be wrong (hope not!) but I doubt your parents are as mean and scary as all that. Probably they love you, and you them. Keep that in mind.
I advise you to be straight with them as you've been with me. Let them know politely & kindly, and unemotionally, how things are with you at your house, which they will be visiting as guests - same as you would do with any other adult visitors.
Make sure they understand that your vegan lifestyle isn't up for discussion, and ignore all attempts at belittling & emotional blackmail. Those are tactics to make you get with the family program, which will only work if you participate. Try to put things on a hostess/guest basis.
Give your folks a few options for meals, as soon as you figure out what those are. You'd make life easier for you and them if you could feed them some dairy and flesh, which could be bought already cooked. They shouldn't expect you to cook meat for them, or to let them cook meat in your kitchen. Plan on offering them what you would normally eat - just don't don't expect them to eat tofu! Be sure to have things that will be familiar and palatable to them, too.
Going out to eat some of the time is another option, and that will diffuse tension by allowing them to choose freely what they want to eat, and relieving you of the challenge of feeding them. Maybe have the main meal out every day - that's not unreasonable, and it'll tie in nicely with sightseeing and visiting in your area. Have lots of outings - they'll behave better in public. Have a list of veg-friendly restaurants prepared ahead of time.
Make your boundaries clear, in a very loving, kind, mature way. I know how strong the tendency is to revert to childhood in the presence of our parents, but this is a chance for you to show them how well you've grown up.
Look, Mom & Dad, I'm a respectable, married vegan - not a child beater, serial killer, druggie, alcoholic, or thief (just to put your crimes against the family name in perspective). That, by the way, is their stress - nobody suffers social disgrace by having a vegetarian or vegan in the family. It's much too common these days.
The fun part will be when you visit your parents on their turf! So take best possible care of them when they visit you, and show them your love, in hopes they'll reciprocate.
Let me know how it works out - I'd really like to know, actually. This is a common problem for vegetarians and vegans.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian
P.S. Find out what happens with The Carnivore Parents Visit. Read the inspiring sequel!