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Although wintertime witnesses the biggest surge of omnivore holiday parties, let’s not forget about the other holidays popping up throughout the year. With Easter, Passover, graduations, and Mother’s Day coming up, you’re bound to find yourself at an omnivorous dinner table sometime soon. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, as a vegan you know the drill for holiday dinners with the family: bring your own food or subsist off the veggie tray. Raw veggies make even the most upbeat herbivore sad and resentful, which is not a good combination when paired with relatives playing dietician and haphazardly analyzing your eating habits. Making your own dinner to bring to someone else’s house just to be able to eat may not be fair, but life isn’t fair and unfortunately you’re the one with the unconventional lifestyle. Even so, there are a few ways to make your time less stressful and more delicious.
Make a dish to share.
If it’s a potluck dinner, this works even better! Nothing says weirdo like bringing your single-serving special dinner. Wow your family with lasagna or a tray of enchiladas instead of being Angsty McVegan sitting in the corner with your bowl of steamed tofu and glass of haterade.
All about the beans and greens.
When you plan to share food with omnivores, make something familiar, but not so familiar (meaty and cheesy) that you need to rely on an array of analogue products. While having a nice holiday dinner isn’t about proving that vegans eat a certain way, the noochy popcorn crusted seitan may not be fully appreciated at a family dinner (bring it to me).
Veganize it, baby.
Perhaps your grandma makes a special dish for X holiday every year. If it’s all in good fun, don’t be afraid to make your own version of that dish to serve alongside the original. There’s no shame in hankering for a special dish you grew up on. Don’t let taunting relatives make you shy away from making what you want. You’re the one who needs something to eat, vegan!
If the hosts ask if they can make you something, jump on the opportunity to veganize some of the menu items! If they’re taking your diet into consideration, chances are they’ll be more than happy to replace the butter and milk in the mashed potatoes with Earth Balance and soy milk, cook the veggies in olive oil instead of butter, or replace chicken stock in a soup with vegetable broth. These are easy fixes that guarantee everyone will be fed, and it makes your day of cooking simpler too! If the hosts are unfamiliar with vegan cooking, these kinds of suggestions may be a huge relief for them too.
Keep it simple.
When you’re cooking your meal, you don’t need to go all out (unless you want to)! Transporting a dish with several components that need to be served at three different temperatures will be a hassle for you. It’s stressful and tiresome if it feels like every move you make needs to disprove a myriad of vegan stereotypes when you just want to eat your dinner like a regular hungry person, not a walking PSA. Someday our every move at the dinner table won’t need to be analyzed and used for cheap jokes!
“It’s not about the food. It’s about being with your family.”
That’s crazy talk! The omnivores gush over all their traditional meals and desserts, and you should be able to do that as a vegan. It’s about celebrating both food and family, and steamed vegetables and bread are hardly celebratory. Make some good food and enjoy being with your family, even if you have to explain what veg-un means to your dear great aunt five times over the course of the evening.
But sometimes it’s not about either.
Depending on your situation, if attending these parties will be an unpleasant experience beyond the vegan issue, check if anyone is forcing you to go and reevaluate the plans! Perhaps the stars aligned for a nice relaxing evening at home with takeout and some movies, throwing your own dinner, or having a potluck with like-minded friends.
Since vegans tend to be foodies, this family dinner struggle is all too familiar for cruelty-free eaters! Figuring out the food situation, dealing with snide comments, and keeping your head can be quite the balancing act! By practicing patience, standing your ground, explaining your lifestyle benevolently, and knowing when to call it quits, your omnivore dining experiences will hopefully improve over time.