It’s December, which is of course dominated by Christmas around here. I’m torn by Christmas. It still holds a lot of childhood magic for me, but I’m also acutely aware of its “other” aspects- mainly the consumerism and the cultural dominance. Cultural traditions are a double-edged sword; they create a feeling of togetherness, but they can also be exclusionary to anyone who doesn’t follow them, and Christmas has so many traditions.
I’ve already mentioned how the vegan/carnivore split caused a (minor) problem in our family when it came to the Christmas day feast. We solved it easily and we will be having options for every kind of eater on the big day. But, there are people who don’t get to solve it quite so easily. So, for all the young vegans who will be negotiating their first Christmas at their mega-carnivore in-laws’ house, this column is for you!
First line of defense: Bring a vegan main dish alternative. Often, Christmas feasts have been the same every year for many years. Everyone may be expecting all the same dishes, and carnivores may not even know how to make a vegan dish (some think that you only eat cold “rabbit food”). Even if they are willing to find out how to do it, making a new kind of dish for one person- a newcomer to the family- can be inconvenient on an already stressful day. It will not endear you to the family. On the other hand, bringing a delicious favourite of your own, with enough for everyone else to try some, will show that you are generous and can fit in to the family, and it might also open up a few minds to some more adventurous eating.
If your significant other’s family are very set in their ways they may not be swayed by your addition (and may even feel insulted that you didn’t change your ways and eat their turkey after all), but at least you will have something you can eat. If that is the case, you may have to brace yourself for all the worst stereotypical questions and jokes about vegans (Where do you get your protein? Vegetables are living things too. If animals don’t want to be eaten, why are they made of meat?, etc). While you are walking that fine line between establishing a presence for yourself, and making a good impression with the family, remember that a sense of humour is your best defence. Smile like it’s the first time you’ve heard their jokes, and keep a few of these vegetarian/vegan jokes in mind instead:
I’m not vegetarian because I love animals, I’m vegetarian because I don’t like vegetables.
A guy has celery sticking out of one ear, lettuce out of the other, and a zucchini up his nose.
He goes to the doctor and asks him what’s wrong.
The doctor tells him, “Well, for one thing, you’re not eating right.”
How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
I don’t know, but where do you get your protein!?
Meat-eater: Did you hear about the new study saying vegans are more likely to go blind? I guess it’s because you don’t get the proper nutrition.
Vegan: Nah, it’s just from reading all of those tiny ingredients lists.
Finally, if worst comes to worst, just be happy that you are not part of this family: