“So what do you eat?”
I am always perplexed by this question. It frequently rolls out of people’s mouths once they understand what vegan is. Here is how the conversation often goes for me:
New friend: “What does vegan mean?”
Me: “It means I don’t eat anything that was or came from an animal.”
New friend: “So what do you eat?”
Me: “Everything else.”
I also get a little sad from this question. Not because I am tired of the question, but because I suddenly think my new friend has a very limited diet and has not been exposed to the amazing world of foods that I know as commonplace. As the holidays get closer and closer, and the prospect of joining a group of non-vegans for a large meal is much more likely to materialize, I thought I would share how I think about such possibilities.
1. These meals can be difficult. That is okay. We have all decided to be vegan for different reasons and the other people at the meal probably have some restriction to their diet. They may not have thought about it as a restriction, but it is. For example, think of people who say they don’t like vegetables. This is a giant restriction. What about someone following a restricted diet for weight loss? Or maybe someone with diabetes is joining the meal. All these make for a difficult meal plan, some potentially difficult conversations as everyone figures out each others stuff, and difficult responses by various people in the room.
2. These meals can tiring. This is okay too. Anything different often gets lots of questions and sometimes weird looks. No one ever said something worth doing would be easy. I try to smile a lot and not be an expert. Each person there feels they are an expert. It’s not my job to tell them otherwise. It is only my job to be me.
3. Questions are never the same. In the past, I have tried to anticipate the questions people will ask about veganism so I can be ready. Sounds like a good idea, right? It does help to have useful information in my brain, but coming off as an expert makes others feel like they are being criticized. Oops. The last thing I want to do is turn anyone away from the love that comes from being vegan.
4. Remember the love. Focus on the love. Let that love for yourself, your community, animals, and the environment shine through all your actions and answers. Everyone comes to veganism from a different place, but we all see how amazing it is for us. Let that shine and others will want to know more.
5. Send them to my blog. And other blogs. Let them see all the information and amazing food available to decide for themselves. Even making small changes brings more love into ones life.
6. Smile a lot. Everyone loves a smile and they are infectious. Imagine this scenario: “I met this vegan the other day and s/he was so happy and positive. I want that! Maybe I should give this a try.”