Meatless Monday: Dealing with Holidays & Parties 101
I don't know about you, but it feels like the Holiday season has started early this year. For most of my September, I've been around friends and family at various get-togethers, dinners, and football watch parties. Stores are already putting out their Halloween candy and pumpkin spice lattes, and despite my best efforts to insist it's still summer, I have to admit, fall it prettyyy much here, y'all.
Rather than wait until the holidays are upon us in full force, I thought I'd share a few of my tips now, on something I know is a potential roadblock for many of us: dealing with family and specifically, holidays, as a vegan.
It's one thing to eat plant-based when you're in your own kitchen, and calling all the shots in your dietary choices. When you add family, social situations, and holidays to the mix, it can be a little harder to stick to your preferred way of eating.
I'm not from a family of vegans--so I've spent the last 3 seasons of holidays with family and friends who don't all share my eating style, and the 23 years before that, when I was a vegetarian, still having to explain myself at every Thanksgiving dinner table.
And here's the thing, if your why is strong enough, if your commitment to this lifestyle is unshakable, dealing with family and social pressure can be a pain, for sure, but it's totally manageable.
Here are a few tips and recipes that will hopefully make the process a lot less painful for everyone involved, so you can speed through the awkward side-eye scenarios and "can't you still eat chicken though?" comments from that one cousins, and get back to the important part--eating.
1. Keep it Brief
2. Don't Argue
I promise you this: the last thing that's ever helped the vegan cause is a preachy, judgy, argumentative vegan. (Hence the name of this website.) Studies have shown that the more you try to force a viewpoint down someone's throat or lecture them on what to do or not to do (studies have looked at large-scale ad campaigns such as anti-smoking ads or anti-drunk driving), the more people typically do the opposite. It's human nature. Tell a kid in high school not to drink...what do they want to do? Similarly, tell someone how their Big Mac is causing death and destruction and climate change, and how selfish their food choices are, 9 out of 10 times, you're going to piss them off so much they're going to drive straight to the nearest McDonalds the first chance they get. This isn't a matter of opinion, it's actually backed by science (look up "reactance theory" if you want a more in-depth breakdown of the psychology behind this.) My suggestion is to gloss over any argumentative comments you get, and take the high road. Biting your tongue can be the hardest thing in the world, but if you want to paint veganism in a positive light, arguing around the dinner table isn't productive, and will only fuel pre-existing notions of all vegans being crazy.
Also, if you don't mind loads of profanity and hilarity, anything by "The Vegan Bros" on Youtube, like the clip I shared below, is solid gold and also very helpful in navigating these waters.
3. Bring Your Own Food
I think this is just good manners in general, but if you're going to someone else's house for a holiday get-together, cover your bases by bringing some options you know you'll be able to enjoy, but bring plenty for everyone! If you're heading to someone's house for a big dinner, such as on Thanksgiving, I always bring some key vegan ingredients like dairy-free butter and milk and offer to help make the mashed potatoes, or at least 1/2 of them, vegan-friendly. If you're deep into football season tailgates and watch parties like I am, arm yourself now with a couple go-to crowd pleasing recipes to have in your arsenal. I've yet to go wrong with this potato salad, these vegan wings, or 7 layer dip for any tailgate, cookout, or potluck. You can't go wrong with these, and no one will even realize they're eating a vegan dish.
4. Show How Fun It Is
The main premise of a popular theory of behavior change is that in order to spread a message or movement, show people how fun it is! #Duh. While this should be a no-brainer, sometimes we get so caught up in arguing and defending our stance, that we forget this. I've found that truly, if you want to show people how easy and valid veganism is as a lifestyle, remind them that vodka and Oreos are vegan :) Or in this case of a holiday cookout or tailgate, bring something like the always-impressive Beyond Meat burgers--because people already know you can eat kale. Show them the fun and ever-growing list of awesome treats we get to enjoy, and you'll have done far more to spread the vegan message than any argument about animal rights probably ever could (at least in my opinion.)
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