I’ve just turned vegan, but I live in a family that have yet to do the same, and I’m feeling a little left out, what can I do?
A tricky question, but not with an impossible answer. I myself went through this exact dilemma a few years ago, and I thought I was the only person in the world facing a problem caused by my own choice of lifestyle, but fear not. Whether you have just transitioned to vegan / vegetarian or have been for a while, there are ways around it.
Offer to cook more – If like me you were lucky enough to have a mother who went to the trouble of feeding her lazy teenage son a separate meal at dinner, then fabulous, but back then I wasn’t prepared to start asking my parents to change. So the best thing to do is to offer to cook more often. Set a day or two into the week where it’s officially your turn to cook. This is your ultimate opportunity to sneak in those vegan recipes, oh! And bonus points if you never told them it was vegan in the first place.
Do the food shop – If you’re trusted enough to undertake this monumental task, then awesome! This is almost even better than cooking, because if your family take it in turns to cook, then they have no choice but to cook the ingredients you buy for them. Unless your cooking all the time, then even better. This is also a great opportunity to buy the things your vegan brain has trained for – avoiding things like unethical brands, non-organic produce and even junk food, because as vegans, we should all know that vegan junk food most certainly exists – though this is great if your throwing a party where everyone thinks you’re serving them celery and hummus.
Know your Substitutes – I love a good meat substitute. I would be a total vegan liar if I said meat tasted bad. (Cue the pitchforks!) Yes I said it, meat does taste good, and that’s exactly why people eat it. As vegans however, we look beyond the taste and see the cruelty, but for some, and in this case the family, it may be a matter of including some meat and dairy substitutes into the shopping basket. The biggest struggle here really is knowing what to buy and where to buy it, but once you know, you’ve got this. Brands like Quorn, Linda McCartney, Alpro, Pure, Biona, Rude Health and even supermarkets these days have their own ranges to make things easier, such as Tesco’s Free From range. Trust me, there is enough choice out there to have a super yummy banquet any meat eater would drool over.
Treat them to a meal out – If It’s in your price budget, consider taking your family to a vegan / vegetarian restaurant. I guess you could take them to a regular restaurant with veggie options, but the key here is to remove any temptation they may have. You want them to have no choice but the whole menu, as much of an oxymoron as that is. A friend of mine and I visited Brighton recently, and after a glance at the menu of the café / restaurant, Wai Kika Moo Kau, I was astonished at how much variety I could finally have. Sheer bliss! Another good thing to remember here too, is most restaurants are generally pretty good. But what’s even more special about vegan / vegetarian restaurants, is that they have a speciality / niche about them, and in turn, usually leads to a little extra attention to detail. You’ll find in this crazy world we live in, vegans tend to find they have to go the extra mile to impress.
Take them to Vegan events – If you’re lucky enough to live in or around any kind of city, you may find you’re within distance of some sort of vegan market or festival. These are such good fun, and there’s always something to do, see, and of course taste. Some usually have a small entrance fee, and are likely to offer you a free goody bag, but be prepared to get your wallet ready, as it’s pretty hard not to want to buy and eat everything in sight. A good thing to remember when you’re trying to convince your family to change, is that veganism has a lot to do with food, and that’s the main thing you’re trying to change, but they must be reminded, that being vegan still means you can eat LOADS of variety.
Get them to watch a movie – I will cover this more in a separate post as I think it can go into a little more detail, but my point here is mainly to convince your family to understand just exactly why you chose to change your lifestyle in the first place. Getting your family to watch a documentary like Earthlings, or a PETA exposé can be a tricky thing to do. It can come across as preachy, and sometimes even make things worse, so the best thing to do is start them off with something a little tamer. One of my favourite documentaries is Vegucated. It is a great representation of the meat and dairy industry and is seen through the journeys of three meat eaters. If you have Netflix, go and check it out if it’s still on there. Whatever you do, don’t trick them into a good old family movie that ended up featuring the hidden footage of an abattoir.
Take things slow – Don’t expect your family to change overnight, if they do, then awesome. And as vegans, we have to remember not to force absolutely everything on our families. What I mean by that is, everything other than food, because let’s face it, as vegans, it’s never just about food. I for one make every effort to avoid animal ingredients in my clothes, skincare, cleaning, household, electronics, etc…So the best thing really is to start with food. If you jump in with all these other things, you’ll irritate them and most likely cause them to go back to eating meat altogether. This can tie in when you do the food shop. Offer to buy other things too, like washing up liquid, shower gels and so forth.
When in doubt, throw a party – I’m on a crusade from now on to try and make this a common theme. I love hosting parties, especially when I get to cook for several people. This is a great opportunity to get the whole family over, and trick them with all your vegan cooking and hosting skills. Again, bonus points if they aren’t aware until the end that all the food you served was vegan, mwahaha!
Don’t worry too much – At the end of the day, no matter how hard you tried, no matter what you tried, sometimes, some people are just happy living their lives their own way, and you know what, there’s nothing much you can do about that, so don’t worry and just move on. Remember, just because your mother wants turkey for Christmas instead of nut roast, does not make you any less of a vegan. Your family may latch on when they see how positive you are living your vegan life. For me personally, living with one vegetarian and one pescatarian, is better than living with two carnivores.
Hopefully these points have helped you on your way to spreading the positivity of a vegan lifestyle. Remember not to be pushy though. The last thing you want is for your family to think of you as overbearing. The best thing to keep in mind as always is to keep calm, and smile on. Positivity is contagious.