Right off, and at the risk of causing you to hastily reach for the mouse in effort to find the back button, I will share this: I am not vegan. I'm not even vegetarian. I am, however, friends with a number of vegans & vegetarians and believe we're all better for it. Variety is the spice of life, right?
At this point, I'm predicting you are in one of three camps:
Camp 1: Those who are now reading something else.
Camp 2: Those who are going to read on despite a feeling reminiscent of being stuck in a dragon-breathed conversation with your crass, off-color, just-doesn't-get-it great aunt Rita (whom you tolerate politely while wishing you could sprint for the hills or nearest raw-food restaurant.)
Camp 3: Those who are going to read on out of genuine interest and/or wonder - making it work is sometimes hard!
I do hope you read on.
I understand there is nothing many vegans would love more than the conversion of all meat-eating friends and relatives to the vegan lifestyle. On top of making group meals easier, it would lay to rest some of the dissonance that comes with hanging out with and loving people who are daily consuming food you believe to be nutritiously and/or morally abhorrent. This can be tricky to gracefully navigate. In an effort to lovingly help you out from the other side, here are 5 tips on being friends with omnivores.
1. Talk about how good you feel, but not too much. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are intriguing and can lead to some serious consideration of cutting animal-based food. However, all it takes is for the cynical omnivore with a stellar immune system is to hear about your second summer cold, and the argument is done rendered mute.
2. Share what you love! If you can make vegan food that doesn't taste like a shoelace, share it! As several of my friends converted to being vegetarians and vegans, one thing that was difficult for all of us was we began to eat together less frequently. What helped tremendously was those friends who offered to bring a dish to dinner parties. It takes off so much pressure (and helps to assure you won't be left out because the host is too vexed and nervous about what food will be acceptable). As an added benefit, I can personally attest that nothing works faster to covert a person to eating fewer animal products than a plethora of phenomenal food without them. To quote Brian Andreas "...it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other's cooking and say it was good."
3. Judge not. Make choices for yourself and your family without judging those of us who aren't there yet. Harsh criticism (whether outward or part of one's inner dialogue) builds walls that are counterproductive. We are all on a path toward betterment, and change is not easy. (Sometimes, it really sucks.) Making people feel judged does not make them more likely to leave the dark side. It merely makes them resentful of you and your viewpoints, and is a surefire way to assure they won't ask you questions should they come up.
4. Don't insist that vegan cheese is good (unless it is an Isa Chandra recipe). Think twice before even saying "It isn't that bad." We'll never believe you. To the omnivore, this will seem totally disingenuous. Some of us have tried it and will totally call the bluff. In addition, to a hard-core cheese lover, it will lead to questions of your understanding of the definition of "good" (rendering #2 much more difficult).
5. Remember compassion and don't be discouraged. Being passionate about any subject can lead to intense conversation and high emotions. I know how difficult it is to simmer the pull that makes one want to scream "You just don't get it!". However, if one of the major tenants of veganism is compassion and kindness toward all sentient beings, do what you can to extend the same to the human beings in your life. (Right. I realize you don't and have never eaten humans.) We're on the same, imperfect team here. The world is tough and none of us need more conflict, anxiety or hard feelings. By eliminating animal products, you are doing a service to your body and to our world. While I'm not there with you yet, I am grateful for what you are doing.
Here's to hoping we can move forward together. Cheers.