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I perused this book and came away with the idea that most vegetarians/vegans endure constant harassment from meat eaters because of their choice of diet. Maybe I'm just lucky, but outside of a few people thinking it's weird, I have not had this experience. The book's existence struck me as very odd.
A lot of the book addressed what to do when someone you care for confuses food with love and considers your rejection of meat a rejection of him or her. Have any of you experienced this kind of thing?
And a lot of people express their love/caring for others through feeding them/cooking for them--I know my family does. So I can definitely see the tension there on that one.
My family is even worse. Oh my goodness, you would think I was rejecting their entire way of life. Recently my mother is a bit more accepting of me not eating meat, but she expressed shock that I would feed this food to my children. Umm, vegetables and whole grains? I shouldn't serve that to children? Okay, whatever....
People get offended when I won't eat something with bits of meat or meat broth in it or just "pick it out". It is getting much better in recent years though. (I live in a beef state so that may be part of the attitude)
My meat-loving friends are quite accepting of my vegetarian ways, and most of my family is as well. However, for a long time--during my first year of vegetarianism--my grandma would try to get me to eat meat things. While she was eating some chicken dish she'd say, "This is really good. Would you like to try it." I don't know if it was because she really had forgotten that I don't eat meat, or if she just thought it was strange that I didn't so she wanted to try to "fix" me. Thankfully, she eventually stopped.
My boyfriend eats meat and it's never been an issue. I'm not judgemental of his choice, and he cleans up after himself when he cooks meat, so we've never had conflict about it.
His parents think it's totally bizarre (they are from a rural area and had never even HEARD of someone being a vegetarian), but I do a lot of the cooking when we visit them and they love the vegetarian pasta, sandwiches, and Mexican food that I make.
My grandpa doesn't understand, and at Thanksgiving used to say "I'll enjoy this turkey for the both of us, OK?" He's old-fashioned but he's accepting of it.
My mom and older brother became vegetarian just a few years after I did, so they are cool with it.
Maybe it is a regional thing. What part of the country are you guys from where everyone makes it so difficult for you?
On the other hand, when I go to small-town Michigan (where I'm from originally) to visit my relatives, the atmosphere is a bit different. Vegetarianism and veganism feel like more of an oddity there, particularly among the older generations. I myself have never been given any hassles, though, and one of my cousins and her husband are vegan.
Maybe I've just been lucky, like weener. I operate by an "eat and let eat" philosophy, and expect those around me to do the same. People who gave me constant, serious grief over personal matters such as dietary choices, wouldn't be my "friends" for long.
But the Portland area is perhaps kind of "paradisical" in that regard. Other parts of the country can be quite different in their outlook.
Here is just a small taste:
One co-worker refused to speak to me for months after she found out I was a vegetarian. She felt threatened since her parents owned a ranch and beef was their livelyhood. (This was just a year ago)
I have a brother that refuses to come to Thanksgiving dinner if I am hosting for the family. He says its not Thanksgiving without a turkey... so he and his wife and kids don't come.
One time at a friend's wedding, the server inquired if my husband and I were to receive the vegetarian entree. We were thrilled that our friend thought of us in this way for her wedding and had arranged a nice dish for us, we were not expecting it at all. One of my friend's drunk relatives overheard the conversation and made a total a** of himself by going on and on about how stupid vegetarians were, laughing in our face, asking how we liked our "sticks and bark" meal, etc., etc.
After years of this sort of behavior, I have learned to just consider the source and go on.
One bright note: After my father had quintuple bypass surgery fifteen years ago, my parents became big supporters of the vegetarian lifestyle. Although they never went all the way and became complete vegetarians, they at least accepted my diet as legit. My parents always came to my Thanksgiving dinners when I hosted.
Of course I got a bit of good-natured teasing from my family, but that's how we all are, and they're so used to it now that they hardly say a word. They even bring special vegan dishes to our family gatherings now.
I won my jokester uncle over with a joke I found on the internet:
Q: How many vegetarians does it take to eat a cow?
A: One--if nobody's looking.
It's not bad after those around you get used to being around a vegetarian, but it is frustrating when you tell someone and they say "And that's VOLUNTARY?!" I chose to not eat meat and people respect that. But what I cannot STAND is when people think it is a fad, that it will pass and I will go back to being "normal".
It's true that being a vegetarian (at least in my area) is becoming more common. But I think that is just because more and more people are becoming more animal-rights aware ;)
Ironically, one of the only incidences I can recall was when I went to a very meat-centric restaurant with some friends in the beginning of high school. I was the only vegetarian at the time and one friend kept waving meat right in front of my face and generally being annoying. He converted to vegetarianism about a year later and has been one for somewhere around seven years now.
When I first became vegetarian I was living in Colorado and at one point all my close friends were vegetarian/vegan and Colorado in general is very conducive to being vegetarian.
However, I moved out to Missouri for college where it's much less common. Thankfully, most of my friends aren't huge meat eaters themselves. I do have one friend who does tease me about it, but it's just friendly teasing. After all, I tease him about his tendency to eat only "a slab of chicken with barbecue sauce."
My parents were mostly accommodating though they sometimes left me to my own devices if a meal didn't have an easy vegetarian fix. There was one incident when they deliberately didn't tell me that a rice dish had chicken broth in it. I was a little annoyed then, but I honestly think they had good intentions. (It was a southern dish we hadn't been able to find in Colorado that I loved from childhood - yellow rice - and I was so excited about finding it that I didn't think to check the ingredients. I think they just didn't want to disappoint me.)
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