I'm a 30 year old single guy I've been a vegetarian for five years, and I've gone vegan in the last six months.
My problem is, I'm going to visit my older sister and her husband, who aren't vegetarian, for 10 days.
On previous visits, they went out of their way to accomodate me, but I broke most of my dietary rules, even eating chicken and fish a few times to keep the peace.
Now that I'm vegan, it will be more difficult to blend with them, as I feel strongly about sticking to my vegan diet. Any suggestions? - T. M.
Dear T. M.,
I've learned about this one the hard way, by banging my head against the wall.
Short of compromising your principles, there's no easy, graceful way to visit your sister and her husband, be completely vegan the whole time, and leave with all positive feelings between the three of you. Possibly you can be mostly vegan while you're there.
Talk with your sister before you visit. Explain your change of diet, and your reasons for wanting to stick with it. Be brief, charming and sweet. Express concern about how that will affect them when you visit, and tell her you'd like to do whatever you can to make things easy for them.
Take along your own special foods that she wouldn't normally buy, or can't find, to save her the trouble and expense of shopping just for you. Discuss that list with her. Offer to help with the shopping while you're there, or contribute to the food fund.
Offer to cook for yourself and make enough for them to try if they want. I assume you cook. If not, buy a few cookbooks, and learn to cook - it'll liberate you, and impress your dates.
Promise you won't get in her way if she lets you use her kitchen, will always leave it immaculate, and be prepared to keep that promise.
Ask your sister for her ideas. Be prepared for them not to please you.
After all your offers and promises, if she says something like, "I don't see why you can't just eat the way you did when you visited before - it's only for ten days," back down, and say, "Well O.K., but I'd rather not eat chicken or fish. How about if when you're having meat, chicken or fish, I make myself some tofu?"
If she thinks maybe you should just skip the visit, beg forgiveness and send flowers. DO NOT skip the visit!
Vegetarians and vegans make non-vegetarians defensive just by existing. If you're doing something right, to them it means that you're judging them negatively, and it's often true.
It sounds like your sister and her husband have been tolerant and accommodating to you, and if you visit them regularly, they must be fond of you. They may take it as a criticism of them if you are too strident about your vegan diet.
Think about this: Are your principles more important than your sister's feelings, and your relationship with her and her husband?
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian