In an ideal world, all of our friends, family members and people we associate with would be vegan. If this happens to be the case for you, my hat is tipped. Send me your number, we’ll talk, and I will obtain all your secrets.
For everyone else, read on for a quick guide to navigating the sometimes hazardous waters of social outings of the omnivorous variety.
Don’t surprise your host
It may seem obvious, but whenever you are invited to dine at someone’s home, you should tell them that you’re vegan. Don’t surprise them with the news that you are vegan; Most likely, they won’t have anything for you to eat and this can make them feel uncomfortable, and end up with you going hungry. Eliminate the awkwardness of this situation by being upfront.
I like to tell my hosts in advance and if they’re not familiar with vegan food, I offer to bring something or suggest some simple ideas if they’re open to cooking vegan. Most people assume that vegan food is elusive and hard to prepare. You can help debunk this myth by recommending a simple yet scrumptious vegan meal. If you’re going somewhere on short notice bring a little something along. Again, just mention to your host that you’re vegan and that you’ll be bringing a dish so they don’t have to worry about preparing anything.
Suggest a place
When it comes to dining out, speak up! If you are eating out with a group of friends or colleagues suggest some places you know have vegan options – or better yet, if they are open minded, ask if they’d be interested in trying your favorite vegan place. Indian, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, and Ethiopian restaurants almost always have vegan options. Dazzle them with some fine vegan cuisine, demonstrating that we do in fact eat more than tofu and leaves.
“Would you mind if I ordered steak?”
In any circumstance, it is good to know your comfort level and communicate it when it comes to eating with omnivores. Again, it’s all about honesty and openness here.
If you’re out with someone and they ask if it would bother you if they ordered the steak, if the answer is yes, say so! Better to have told the truth than have to pretend to be enjoying your meal as your dining companion gnaws on a bloody cow carcass. Sure, your upfront-ness may put some people off, but it’s always empowering to stay true to yourself.
Are you comfortable at BBQ’s where there’s meat being grilled? It’s extremely important to be true to yourself on these issues and make your choices from there. I know some vegans who would choose to avoid these situations. Ultimately, it is only up to you whether you want to go to a party or event where there’s meat involved.
Should you decide to brave the omnivorous party, make sure you’re mentally prepared: omnivores in their natural habitat are inclined to question and tease those whose eating habits are different or threatening to them. This is most true when it comes to family. Indeed I’ve had to keep my calm when my meat-loving grandmother stated for the umpteenth time that it says in the bible that God put animals on this planet for man’s consumption.
I’ve since discovered that on page one of the Bible, God tells his human creation to consume herbs, seeds and fruits (“I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat”). No mention of animal consumption what-so-ever. Time for some bible studies with grandma – compassionately, of course!
When being teased, keep in mind Gandhi’s insightful words around conflict: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” Though sometimes irritating, this mocking indicates a process of acceptance, so you’re almost halfway there(!) Don’t take the teasing personally, instead take it as an opportunity to share and impart some of the awesome wisdom you’ve gained as a result of going vegan.
Through being informed and having the ability to convey what we know to be true in a calm yet commanding manner, we lead by example and people will be more inclined to take in our message.
Remember to enjoy yourself!
When all is said and done, socializing is meant to be a pleasant experience. With proper preparation and precautions, mingling outside of our vegan circle can be just that.
Have compassion for those who have not yet opened their own hearts to the idea of veganism and don’t be too hard on people who disagree with you. We don’t want to be the ones starting arguments all the time.
Through veganism we are truly (to quote Gandhi again because he’s the man) being the change we want to see in the world. If we pave the way with unwavering compassion towards humans and non-human animals alike, others are bound to follow. Until then, having a few witty comebacks to silly stuff people say and humorous retorts can always lighten things up a bit.