Your Thoughts Thursday: The Social Vegan

September 16, 2010 by Keri

Humans tend to be social creatures and our social activities almost alway include food.  We plan entire gatherings around food, create new holidays dedicated to edibles, and turn our existing holidays into food-and-treat-centered events. No matter the problem, there’s a food cure for it: chicken soup for a cold, cookies for homesickness, a gallon of ice cream for a love affair gone wrong.  Then there are dishes that mean a lot to people: Grandma’s coveted pie, Mom’s famous casserole, Dad’s award-winning burgers.  And when you turn those down, feelings get hurt.  Maybe even more importantly, we discuss over food.  We talk about our beliefs and our plans, our goals and our projects.  When you’re the only one sitting there without a burger and cheesy macaroni on your plate, it becomes obvious your food choices and beliefs are different, and for one reason or another, that tends to make people uncomfortable.  So my question is, has being vegan affected your social life?

  • Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”?
  • It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?
  • Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?
  • When people at the office or in your class order food or make plans, do they leave you out because they assume you “can’t eat that” anyway?
  • Have anyone’s feelings been hurt by you choosing your beliefs over their special recipe?
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I Eat Trees is a blog featuring my adventures in all things vegan. My favorite recipes, snack food finds, and restaurant trials are all on the menu so enjoy!

Comments

  1. cleaninggirl says:

    •Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”?

    I haven’t yet had this problem but that is mainly due to the fact that I work evenings and weekends when most people have gatherings so I haven’t been to any other than one with work where where we went to eat were very accomadating to my dietary needs but I wasn’t non-meat eater there.

    •It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?

    So far no, but most of my friends are very excepting of my veganism.

    •Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?

    No, but that’s mainly due to the fact I’m only ever home for dinner on a sunday night so I tend to be cooking my dinner whilst they are eating or they prepare a vegan meal for me on occassion. Lunch time I spend with my parents and my mum eats vegan foods with me and my Dad has vegan marg with cheese on bread so it’s not so bad plus I often bake things like peach crumble, cookies, cakes ect for my family to eat with me I even share them with my friends and when I see others eating non-vegan foods it doesn’t really bother me.

    •When people at the office or in your class order food or make plans, do they leave you out because they assume you “can’t eat that” anyway?

    I don’t really have that situation I tend to work on my own and when we have work dinners I don’t have a problem getting a vegan meal.

    •Have anyone’s feelings been hurt by you choosing your beliefs over their special recipe?

    No not really my mum passed down her recipes to me and now I have made them my own the same as she did with her mum’s recipes.

    I can’t really say I have much of an issue with my vegan eating mostly because my family and friends have been supportive and I don’t tend to eat with most people and I cook 99% of my own meals so I don’t have issues of my food choices being a topic of conversation.

  2. Great discussion, as always!

    * Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”?

    Yes, but not in a bad way. My close friends know I eat vegan and the first thing I say is that I’ll bring an entree plus a dessert and/or side. Many of them are foodies, though, so they say they are up for the challenge. Some of my omni friends have made the most amazing vegan meals for me 🙂

    * It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?

    Not silly. At the beginning, yes, with one friend. She began by being a bit defense (which is her “stuff”, not mine!) and then inquisitive and now we’re fine. I tease her that my pronouncement of going vegan immediately became “what about her?” LOL

    * Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?

    Nope, and I wouldn’t allow it. We all have to come to this on our own. I hope I quietly (and healthily!) lead be example.

    * When people at the office or in your class order food or make plans, do they leave you out because they assume you “can’t eat that” anyway?

    I’m not left out but rarely do I get something “good” We have a monthly staff meeting — they always order pizza — and the first staff meeting after going vegan, I got a salad. With, um, lettuce and dressing. From that point forward I told them I’ll bring my own lunch to the meeting (they are sooooo jealous when they see what I’m eating!)

    * Have anyone’s feelings been hurt by you choosing your beliefs over their special recipe?

    Nope, not all.

  3. I neglected to mention that my husband is an omni. We live in perfect harmony. He cooks his own meals (we cook together and eat together but I don’t eat animal products so I certainly won’t cook them!)

  4. Happy Aly says:

    Great questions, Keri!
    1 – I *know* people fret over what they’ll feed me because they always make something they wouldn’t otherwise when I come to their homes. My mother in law breaks out a special cookbook, my mother hunts online, and friends generally make sure there’s a large veggie tray.
    2 – I had quite a few friends make a big fuss out of it when I first went vegan to a point where I didn’t even want to be around them. That’s gone away to a large degree, but sometimes it just gets out of hand.
    3 – ha! Many people do still apologize if they order something that I don’t eat. I’ve had to explain it doesn’t really bother me so long as you know, they aren’t rapturing in the half dead animal rolling around in their mouths.
    4 – I live in Alaska. Food also revolves around hunting, moose roasts, pig roasts, fishing, you get the idea. I can’t count the number of times I haven’t been invited to gatherings (also because I don’t want to go) because the entire weekend centers around a big or moose buried in the ground. I also grew up in a commericial fishing family; fishing was and still is a way of life for many of my family members. It has been really frustrating explaining my choices to people who do have strong roots there and sometimes they get incredibly offended.
    I’ve just started inviting people over for dinner and having some vegan, some non-vegan foods and letting them feel them out. After dinner is over, I tell them what actually was vegan and what wasn’t. It’s been a good way to show a lot of people that it’s not a means of self-deprivation or a means of excluding myself, but a choice I’ve made fo rmany reasons and a good-tasting one, too!

  5. Regina says:

    * Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”?
    Some of my friends/family do, others just assume I’ll bring my own (which I usually do anyway). I do like it when I get asked what I’d like or what I can bring along for everyone though.

    * It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?
    Totally. I don’t want to go into much detail, but some have ended due to my being vegan.

    * Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?
    My family does not, they do however find it weird that I don’t want to be in the room when they’re carving up a dead animal…and they get uncomfortable when I refer to dinner as a dead animal. Co-works apologize but, like I tell everyone, if I had trouble with I wouldn’t put myself in that situation. If I find it uncomfortable I will remove myself from it.

    * When people at the office or in your class order food or make plans, do they leave you out because they assume you “can’t eat that” anyway?
    Yes, I don’t get invited to most work functions because I’m the only vegan.

    * Have anyone’s feelings been hurt by you choosing your beliefs over their special recipe?
    Not yet, mostly they don’t believe that I’ve veganized something…it tastes the same as they remember and they refuse to believe it’s vegan. I sort of think that’s a win though!

  6. I love this post! You have great insight, as always.

    * Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”?

    Not really, actually. I guess I’m lucky that most of my friends & family have been very open to vegan cooking & eating. If anything, most people ask me for ideas on something to make or serve. It’s really nice having open-minded people in my life!!

    * It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?

    Hmmm. This is interesting. I think for the most part, any effect that veganism has had on my friendships has actually been due to MY feelings. What I mean is, throughout my transformation from meat-eater to vegetarian, and then to vegan, I have struggled a little bit with judgment of the people in my life who still eat animals. I still love all my friends as much as I ever have, and of course I realize that meat-eaters can still be “good people” – but I guess it’s sometimes hard for me to understand how the amazing, caring, “animal-loving” people in my life can still continue to eat animals (especially in restaurants where they’re very likely coming from factory farms, which almost EVERYONE is “against”). It’s hard for me to relate to this behavior because once I really learned about the use & abuse of animals raised for human consumption, I knew I didn’t want to contribute to that anymore, and I started transitioning to veganism… I don’t think I’m “better” than anyone, and I really try not to be judgmental of others, but I just have a hard time relating to & understanding people whose actions don’t match their values…

    * Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?

    Sometimes, and I actually find this behavior somewhat obnoxious. Recently, one of my best friends (who not too long ago told me she wanted to go vegan!) showed me a new purse she bought, and then said “I’m sorry, it’s leather. Don’t hate me!” Of course I wouldn’t hate her for something like that & I’m not someone who outwardly expresses judgment or even disagreement over things like this, so she had no “reason” to think she needed to apologize for a purchase she had already justified to herself. Second, why is she apologizing to ME? I feel like apologizing for eating meat (or buying leather, or doing something “not vegan”) is just a way for that person to try to relieve their own guilt… I don’t know. It doesn’t really make sense to me! Like, why are you apologizing to me? I’m not the one your actions are hurting.

    * When people at the office or in your class order food or make plans, do they leave you out because they assume you “can’t eat that” anyway?

    Yes, I experienced this a lot at my old job. It always made me kind of sad because we had a really small, kind of tight-knit office, but no one ever made sure that there would be vegan food available for birthday celebrations, holiday parties, business dinners, etc.

    * Have anyone’s feelings been hurt by you choosing your beliefs over their special recipe?

    No, thankfully. I think vegans should be sensitive when declining food offered to them because people always offer it as a way to show they care. Like you said, food is a social thing, and it’s a “medium” that a lot of people use to show affection. Even though I don’t want to eat animals or their secretions, I would never say “Ew, no!!! Get that away from me!” if a friend or family member offered me a cookie or something. 😉 (But if someone waved a steak in my face in an effort to be obnoxious, that’s another story… :)) I think it’s important to be humble & say thank you, even when declining. The point is to not eat something you don’t want to eat; not to shame the person offering it.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions! You should weigh in, too!

  7. Being vegan hasn’t affected my social or family life one bit. Sure i get teased a bit about it, but its all in good fun. When my family goes out to eat and if i cannot eat anything, i just grab a salad without the cheese, dressing, or croutons and eat a better meal if i’m up to it later.

    A lot of people forget i am vegan and offer me non-vegan foods and some have asked the ever so popular “whats a vegan?” or “where do you get your protein?”. Plants! That’s where!

    My veganism actually tends to benefit others as well. Since i became vegan, my family orders pizza less and eats whole foods more. Also, i bring vegan chocolate chip cookies to work weekly to experiment with recipes for the business i hope to open up before christmas, and they all love them! Some times i run out and people want more!

    The only akwardness i get from veganism is when people at work ask what “MY” favorite food is on the menu. I cannot really eat much at the bagel shop i work at, but i just suggest the garden bagel (bunch of veggies with tomenade and hummus) on a 9-grain bagel. Closest thing we have.

  8. James says:

    I got super lucky, because my one family member who is the coolest with veganism is also the one family member who hosts all our gatherings. She and I will select a few recipes before a thing, and no one else has to be involved with the “extra work.”

    As for friends and colleagues, they can’t complain because since going vegan I have started making them cupcakes.

  9. Heh, the main issue with my diet is what is best called ‘Backseat veganism’. I’ll be eating out with friends, or have people at my house for a meal and they’ll point to something and say ‘That has fish in it’ (*rolls eyes*. No darlin’ I’ve checked. You’re thinking or worcester sauce. Again.).
    But then I’ve always gone out of my way to make sure people aren’t uncomfortable eating meat around me. And luckily my folks & my inlaws all really enjoy meat free foods, so there will be lots of veggie stuff that everyone eats, and a few plates of ‘meaty things’.
    The only negative incident I’ve ever had was when I had a meat eating friend stay with me. She bought meaty take-outs & used my plates & cutlery, without even asking if I minded! Brrr!

  10. Noelle says:

    Has being vegan affected your social life?

    I do not think it has, but I feel like we are not invited to homes for dinner as much as before because it seems people do not know what to make. I think people are feeling more comfortable asking what I can eat. Which answers the next question.

    •Do you feel like when people invite you to a gathering, they worry over “what to feed you”? See Above.

    •It may seem silly, but have any of your friendships ever been affected by your veganism?

    I do not think so. I think it has been positive actually. People ask me questions and even feel obligated to choose healthier items if we go out for a meal. 🙂

    •Do your friends and family feel guilty or apologize for eating non-vegan food in front of you?

    I actually have never apologize, but probably because I am not an ethical vegan. It is all for health reasons.

    Thanks for the great questions!

  11. James says:

    This will truly be put to the test tomorrow, when I eat lunch with some friends: we are going to the Paula Deen Buffet at the Horseshoe Casino. I imagine it’ll be salad for me, and a hearty attempt at absorbing as little transfat from the air as possible.