By Dana Gornall

So you invited one of those crazy vegans to dinner for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah, and now you aren’t sure what to do.

What do vegans eat, anyway? Maybe you tell them you are going to have a salad and bread. Maybe you promised you will have fish as one of the main courses (fish aren’t vegetables by the way). Maybe you asked them if they at least eat turkey on Thanksgiving, because after all it is a holiday, right?

Maybe you wish you hadn’t invited them.

Last night I stopped in the grocery store to pick up a few last minute items with a few hundred other last minute people and I kid you not, I overheard two men standing near the “organic” (read: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, special diet) section. One was on his cell phone saying something along the lines of this:

“They have it right here, Tofurkey. It comes with stuffing and everything. I think we should get it. I don’t know what the hell they eat and this is the safest bet.”

I do applaud them for trying and yes, Tofurkey is a safe bet when you aren’t sure what vegans eat on Thanksgiving. On the other hand, people can always just ask us what we eat. We usually don’t mind as long as we don’t get a lecture on protein levels or comments like, “Good God woman, eat some meat before you pass out.”

So, I would like to offer all of the omnivores a simple guideline as to what the heck to do with these crazy hippie vegans you have coming over your house for the holidays.

Ask them what they eat

As a culture—maybe as a human race—we tend to like to group and label things and people. There are the sports fans. They watch football or soccer and yell at the television, they walk around in team jerseys and their eyes glaze over into a zombie-like state on Sundays and sometimes Saturdays. There are the political people. They like to debate the latest issues, they always have an opinion and want you to hear it. There are the foodies. They snub their noses at boxed foods like Rice-A-Roni and refuse to buy a microwave because real cooks do not need microwaves. You get the idea.

Here is a thought…not all people are the same. Some people who don’t eat meat, do eat dairy foods and eggs. Some are gluten-free. Some only eat organic foods. Some people eat fish but not animals with legs (called Pescetarians by the way).  Some are vegan and eat no animal byproducts while others are mostly vegan and make exceptions to things like honey. The best way to know is simply ask. Really, we would rather you ask than put a piece of fish on our plates.

After you ask, try to have one or two dishes they can eat

For some reason I can hear my brother’s voice in my head right now and he is complaining that he doesn’t want to prepare anything special just because I am coming to dinner. Okay, the truth is that he has never invited me to dinner anyway. So that, of course is always an option—don’t invite the vegan. But, if you want to invite the vegan, it would be nice if the vegan could actually, you know, eat.

While many people may think you must go to a special “vegan store” to find “vegan food,” in reality there are many things that can be prepared (most things) and many things that can be purchased from any grocery store.

Wait, hold up. You mean, regular grocery stores sell…vegan food?

Vegan simply means it doesn’t have animal products in or made by them. You know, like, vegetables. And plants. And beans. And flour. While some things are made with animals products and these things can be tricky (sometimes beans are soaked in an animal broth, white cane sugar is processed through animal bone char and FYI, gelatin is made from connective tissue) there are many foods available at any store.

There are so many websites available with simple, vegan recipes that it is astounding. It has become so easy to cook food that is vegan today. For example, Happy Herbivore has a ton of free recipes available online, Post Punk Kitchen, has many delicious options available (try the pillow pancake recipe), Thug Kitchen is hilarious and Dreena Burton’s Vive Le Vegan has amazing options as well. These are only a few. Try googling vegan recipes and you will come up with an unlimited amount.

Please don’t trick us. Please don’t try to argue whether or not this lifestyle is good for us.

This actually sometimes happens. Oh, he won’t know if I make this with real gravy. Oh, she won’t know if there really is dairy in this. We won’t say anything. Or we will tell him after the fact.

This is cruel. People go vegan for many reasons and for some people, it is quite personal. While yes, some become vegan just because it is a trend or they are trying to lose weight, others do it for health reasons or because they are against animal cruelty. The person you invited over may have not ingested meat or dairy in a long time and it is possible he/she will get sick after eating something the body isn’t accustomed to any longer.

Maybe you know someone who went vegetarian for awhile and became sickly and had to return to eating meat. Maybe you think living without meat is unholy or just not right. The fact is, everyone’s bodies are different. What may be good for me, may not be good for you and vice versa. When done properly, eating a vegan or vegetarian diet can be extremely healthy. I tell people that I eat much healthier now than I have my entire life. Sure, there are days when I eat more junk than whole foods, but most of us have those days. The truth is that my diet is more balanced now than ever, I feel better and all of my blood work has come back with beautiful results. My doctor has praised me and said he wished more people ate like this. And yes, he is a real MD.

Feel free to ask us about our lifestyles, but please don’t try to change us or trick us into being different. And we will try not to lecture you about hot dogs.

meme about protein

We are still people, not aliens and probably not hippies either

While there is nothing wrong with being a hippie (or an alien for that matter), we are just ordinary people that choose not to eat meat. We like to talk about other things than food and diet, we don’t spend all of our time at sit-ins in fur factories, we don’t all do yoga and meditate (although some of us do) and we are human.

We make mistakes. We sometimes say the wrong things. We sometimes—wait for it—ingest an animal product accidentally. (GASP!)  Just because we have chosen to eat and live this way doesn’t mean we have tails or things growing out of our heads. If you get know us, you might like us, or you may not but that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that we are vegan.

If you invite a vegan to dinner, you may have to think a little outside the box, outside of your comfort zone, but it may be worth it. And hey, we don’t bite.


Photo: somerollingstone/tumblr

Feature image: (source)

Editor: Ty H. Phillips



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