Meat the Parents
Alright everyone, I'm in a situation. I'm in a relatively new but fantastic relationship and I'm going to go stay with his parents and sister for a weekend. They are meat eaters and even more, cheese-eaters. His mom told him that he's in charge of my food because she doesn't know how to cook vegan, which I really understand because she may not know what it entails, and to be honest I'm more comfortable preparing my own stuff anyway. He's supportive, although he doesn't quite understand how I can not eat cheese " because it's awesome". But he is sweetly concerned about what to feed me. So, this is a two-parter.
1. Anyone have any experiences with fielding questions and comments, from the inquisitive to the "funny" (rude), and want to share how you handled it? I feel like I never really do a good job and just fumble around with my words. I don't want to get into debates, and possibly it won't even come up, but I'd like to come up with some concise, understandable responses to common topics just so we can all get past veganism and have fun. I don't really want to spend a weekend defending the food I eat.
2. How do you pack/prepare food for yourself when you're at someone elses house. Any tips you have are welcome!
Also, if you know of other threads related to this I'd be happy to look at them, I tried searching and didn't come up with anything but I'm sure I'm not the first person to encounter these problems. :)
1. I just answer openly, and honestly. If they ask what you don't eat/use, tell them. If they ask why, tell them your reasons. It doesn't at all have to become a 'discussion.' If they are interested in getting into more in depth conversations, then it's up to you what you'd like to disclose about your choices, but you have no reason to be defensive. If someone is being rude, then they are probably just unsure, or maybe trying to be funny. You can just ignore that, and move on. (if it's a consistent/malicious thing, then that's a different story..) They already know you are vegan, so if the conversation arises, I'd just start by explaining what that means. Something like, "I choose not to eat or use any animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, honey, etc.), because ________." People usually say something like, "WOW, I could never do that. that's hardcore. whoa. I love cheese. I could never live without cheese. You don't eat cheese? How do you do that?" yada. I usually just chuckle charmingly, answer questions, and explain a bit.
It might come up that they ask you about specific things throughout the time you are with them, and you can just explain why you don't eat/use that product. I hope they wouldn't barrage you beyond that. In terms of debates, all you need to know are your reasons for being vegan.
2. Do you think they will be purchasing groceries while you are there? I would just go with them, and pick out things you want to prepare. Say that you are comfortable making your own food, and they are welcome to try some. Pick out things for meals. If not, maybe you can go on your own? Pasta with lots of veggies, fresh basil, maybe a sauce is something easy and tasty. I might just pack some snacks. If something has already been prepared, and is offered, I would just ask if it has ____ in it. If it's something you don't eat, just explain that.
Never apologize for your choices, but explain that they don't have to go out of their way to do anything special for you, and not to worry about it.
When I don't wanna get drawn into it -- and meeting the beau's fam for the first time certainly would count in that category for me! -- I frame it heavily in terms of my personal taste ('I don't like bacon'' vs 'I don't eat animals')... Omnis feel judged SO easily (guilty conscience much?!), it just seems to give 'em less desire to come out swinging, this way... I've also said 'Dairy doesn't agree with me, so I avoid it'; I don't feel a need to go into WHY I don't like bacon or WHY dairy doesn't agree with me (nor I with it!), in situations like this. If I present it as being about what makes me happy, what I'm hungry for, what I like to eat, my personal tastes -- there's less problems with awkward arguments I don't want to have, with people potentially emotionally important to me, who I just met. There will be time later for the whys & wherefores; there's other business on the table now, and I agree with you that diet does NOT need a starring role in the current venue!
Say 'no need to worry about what to cook for me... don't cook! I love fresh fruits & veggies-- I can make a meal out of anything from the produce aisle, no cooking required!' I try to sell SAD relatives on the notion of having salad greens and fruit and sliced tomatoes/ cucumbers/ zuchini/ red onion/ etc (I'll buy & slice 'em, even!) & such things on the table 'as sides' or toppings or appetizers or whatever... then I just eat 'em as my meal, either as salad/ sandwich/ wrap/ on rice, whatever; even most omni kitchens have some kind of 'vinegar & oil' ingredients, and this way no one's messed up about 'weird food' requirements. Maybe make some yummy hummus or salsa or other veggie dip or spread, for sharing as dip/ for you to include in vegan dinner w/ aforementioned veggies. Def'ly bring snacks (nuts/ seeds/ bars/ dried fruit/ GORP/ bagels & peanut butter/ tofu or seitan jerky/ etc) to round it out... I usually just eat supplemental snacks sort of surreptitiously/ not around whoever I'm staying with, to avoid awkward feelings on their part (oh, dear, we're not feeding her very well/ she doesn't like our food/ we're not being good hosts, etc).
Lots of people are veg curious, especially if you're the first of our kind that they closely encounter... I'd share the good stuff, if asked: I love how I eat, I eat a more varied diet than I ever did before, I have so much energy, I'm not supporting businesses I don't like, I love the eco-friendly aspect of veggie eating, I love the health benefits re: stroke/ cancer/ heart disease/ diabetes, my skin problems went away, I sleep better, etc.... And I'd answer any nutrition questions (even the stupid ones about protein!) in a friendly way, as much as anyone wanted to know... but I wouldn't get drawn into the negatives (yet!), or discussions about whether god wants humans to eat meat, or what the life of a dairy cow is actually like, or any of that... nothing good would be likely to come from it at this point, imo. I'd deflect, if convo veered into these waters: 'I would love to talk with you more about this, but I really don't want my food habits to be a big deal this weekend... Believe me, once I get going about it, it's hard to stop, haha! It makes me happy to eat like I do, for lots of reasons... but I'd rather talk about it later. For the time being... anyone up for some cards?'
I agree with AC's and hcm's points. Normally around new people I just say "no thank you" to loads of stuff. When asked directly I'll give a brief explanation as to why I'm veg. If someone keeps persisting (and it get awkward and other are around) I'll mention that I prefer not to talk about while people are eating. Seems to stop the convo right there. But that is only reserved for people being jerks. It's a good sign that his Mom wants to make sure you're properly fed while there though! Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
To add to that, if someone makes a sauce or something that smells good, I'll discuss the recipe. Two things are accomplished: 1) I get ideas on how to veganize something that smells good and 2) it puts omnis at ease about me. When I meet instantly defensive people, I know they've had a whole build-up session of, "This VEGAN isn't going to come into MY house and try to tell ME what to eat!" Discussing their recipes in a positive way helps.
I usually brush off any deep discussion of vegan issues, mostly because it's all the same argument and gets boring. If they get pushy about it, I'd refer them to something like Earthlings, but avoid letting them bore you.