Surviving the Holidays
By Gabrielle Allen.
Perhaps you love the holiday season as much as I do. You delight in those decadent aromas of cookies baking in the oven; you take detours so you won’t miss the colorful garlands lighting up every street, tree and window in your neighborhood. You watch every holiday special and, yep, even hearing Jingle Bells for the ninety-ninth time at your local grocery store doesn’t irritate you, but instead ignites a warm, tingling sensation of joy, gratitude and sweet anticipation.
Nonetheless, as a vegan–perhaps the only one in your family, ofﬁce, or group of friends–those invitations to holiday parties, cocktail hours, and gatherings around the family table can produce a dilemma. Not only for you, but also for your hosts who are often clueless about the definition of vegan. So your cousin Jamie might become a bit irritated when you turn down her vegetable lasagna because even though the mozzarella comes from the expensive Italian deli around the corner, you will not even have a tiny taste. You skip the world-famous Brandy Alexander your boss serves up at his annual employee appreciation party, and you’re not even a designated driver. His wife looks none too pleased when you leave the fancy box of imported rum balls she has carefully selected as a gift for guests sitting on the table because gelatin is listed as an ingredient.
With a little bit of planning and an open dialogue between you and your hosts, these scenarios can be prevented! Here are a few tried and true tips that may help avoid the awkward silence at your in-laws’ dinner table when you push that honey-glazed ham far away from you and snub the bowl of steaming butter drenched mashed potatoes Aunt Helga is holding up.
First, you could beat everyone to the punch and host your own parties. Your house, your kitchen, your vegan menu! But perhaps that’s a bit unrealistic, because that may translate into a whole lot of entertaining. So instead, offer to come over and help with the cooking. Select a few scrumptious recipes, buy the ingredients and get to work! If that is not an option, offer to bring a dish to share. Just imagine how many taste buds you’ll tickle with a large pot of red wine chili! Everyone will wonder if you didn’t cheat a bit because the sauteed tempeh tastes a lot like meat. You can also ask your gracious hosts to set aside some of the mushrooms, greens, or beans before dousing them in the Gorgonzola sauce so that you can add your own ﬂavoring with olive oil and spices. Be sure to prepare a portion large enough to share.
A vegan lifestyle is as much about your health and compassion for all living creatures as it is a sort of mission to have others see the “light.” However, the dinner table may not be the right place to start a discussion about slaughter practices, factory farming and the havoc meat, dairy and ﬁsh consumption wreaks on our Eco system. Some guests will, of course, be curious about your conviction. Just tell them that after the table is cleared you’ll be happy to discuss the vegan lifestyle and answer any questions they may have. Be polite and patient. Remember your own transition from omnivore to vegan. For most of us that did not happen overnight.
Lastly, while you should not compromise your values, don’t go overboard! In the midst of celebration, there is no need to consult Barnivore on your iPhone to make certain that the wine served meets all vegan guidelines. Just enjoy your evening in the company of those you hold dear and consider yourself a life coach. Finally, make a vegan cookbook your gift of choice this holiday season–for the hostess or anyone on your list. There are plenty to choose from!
Gabrielle Allen is working on a novel and currently devotes her time to writing and animal welfare activism.