As the son of two midwestern parents, I should have expected there to be some backlash. It would only make sense for my mother to be upset and my father to be confused when I told them… about myself. Every parent dreams of a life that is easy and obstacle-free for their children. Of course, my parents were dumbfounded when I told my them that I was… vegan.
Now, before I go any further I must state, I come from an INCREDIBLE, love-centered family that is accepting of all people and every crazy endeavor I wind up in. But when my mother found out she had no idea how to express her love for me through food, weeks before the holiday season, she became distressed. It may be a mother thing. It may be a southern/midwestern thing. I don’t know. But the women of my family love to communicate their affections through cooking.
So when I dropped the V word and came out of the Big Green Closet my mom exclaimed, “How can I love on you now?!” Through many conversations and reassurances that cooking vegan food is no different than cooking non-vegan food (simply the ingredients are different) mom eventually acclimated herself to the new change. I bought her the first box of egg replacer and margarine and she was good to go!
Grandma on the other hand… let’s just say it is great I love to cook my own food. No worries! She still loves me. She just doesn’t understand what I eat. However, for a woman who has a strong opposition to any and all poultry-based dishes I was thinking she would have been more sympathetic to “special dietary preferences.” Ah well! There is still hope!
But that initial, knee-jerk reaction can be unexpected for family members like mine who use cooking and food to express their love and care for others. I was not upset by their frustrations at all. I found it quite amusing, to be honest. I had no idea how much my mother enjoyed cooking for me and showing her love in this way until I took it away from her (in her eyes.)
The gifts this lifestyle has brought into my journey, as well as my family’s, is well worth the whole “coming-out” ordeal. You see, once I became vegan I became a happier, healthier human. I dropped 15 pounds without changing anything else in my life. My acne began to gradually decrease. I had more energy and my love for food and cooking grew exponentially. My relationship with food changed from abusive to peaceful. Food made me feel good. It made me feel good to eat good food.
My family caught on to this. Because I had educated myself about the importance of what I put into my body and the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, I opened a door for myself and the people I love to become a little more open minded and informed.
My sister took a bet with a friend of hers to go vegan for three months and decided to be vegetarian after the bet had finished. My parents decided to go on one of those meal delivery diets to lose some weight. My friends go out with me to vegan restaurants and try the food.
When people see how the food I eat makes me so happy, they become less afraid and more curious about what being vegan means. Their minds are blown to learn that I do not sit and cry in a corner, eating nothing but lettuce, as I gaze upon the cornucopia of foods I “cannot eat.” (SIDE NOTE: I cannot stand this phrase and the question, “What can you not eat?” I am a grown human capable of eating whatever I want. I CHOOSE to eat only nutritious, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly, plant based food because it makes me feel like a Power Ranger.)
After hours of me gushing about the delicious and varied food I eat in this vegan lifestyle, people become intrigued. For some reason, veganism becomes a much more credible and “doable" lifestyle when people learn we still eat pizza and ice cream. Being vegan is awesome. It is not for everyone though. I abhor the vegans standing on their soap boxes, shouting at people as they show pictures of dead Wilbur. I mean, really? You’re messing it up for the rest of us. All the chill vegans are busy cooking this awesome, nutritious feast with the intention of inviting everyone to come, sit, enjoy their meal, and feel AWESOME afterward, and people don’t even want to walk through the door because you’re screaming at them about Bambi and guilt.
Back to the point at hand…
As you take the perilous step out of the Big Green Closet keep a few things in mind...
1) People will respond in many different ways. Take it in stride with the understanding that this lifestyle is your choice and facing the opinions of others is part of that lifestyle.
2) Your mother/grandmother/father/primary caregiver may be disheartened. Focus on educating them about all the amazing things they already know how to make that are veggie friendly.
3) Get ready to learn how to cook your own food because not everyone will be so accommodating.
4) Get ready to be blown away by those who do take the time and effort to accommodate your awesome lifestyle. It is a sign of love and empathy. How cool that our lifestyle can encourage that transaction and effort in others.
5) ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS focus on the positives. Whether you are telling mom you won’t be having turkey for Thanksgiving or you are out with friends getting a bite to eat, focus on the amazing options you CAN eat. The more you focus on this point, the more others will be educated on all the cool things we choose to eat.
I encourage everyone to take a peak at what lies on the other side of the Big Green Closet door.
Give it a gander.
If you find it is not for you, so be it. Perhaps there will be one or two little nuggets that resonate true in you. Take those things and go on your merry way towards balance, peace, and harmony with your true self.
Pic: “Abandoned Packing Plant” by Lauren Mitchell via Flickr