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Conflicts of Consistency: Holiday Dinner Dilemmas

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Conflicts of Consistency: Holiday Dinner Dilemmas by Rick Thompson

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This is an occasional series exploring questions of consistency and other moral dilemmas facing vegans and animal rights advocates.

With the major food-centered holidays and family feasts, parties, and gatherings right around the corner, this might be a good time to explore our ethical eating options. How do we, as vegans, deal with our nonvegan family and friends?

For dinners, parties, and gatherings that we are hosting, do we provide only vegan choices? Many of us would find it offensive to buy, handle, prepare, and serve nonvegan food in our homes—especially in an all-vegan home. The downside to this is that it might appear as if we are being selfish by imposing our ethics on others. The upside is that we can showcase some of our favorite and (surprisingly to nonvegans) incredibly delicious vegan foods-both homemade and purchased. For example, for the holiday feast, there are now tasty alternatives to turkey (like Tofurky) and roast (like the Celebration Roast). Many grocers, including Whole Foods, sell vegan pies (pumpkin, apple, cranberry, etc.), and seasonal soy and rice nog that can replace the traditional egg nog is appearing on more and more store shelves.

Do we need to inform our guests ahead of time? If so, instead of taking the negative route (“no meat, no eggs, no dairy,” etc.), try a positive stance (“all the food will be cruelty-free”).

For gatherings that we are invited to, what do we do? Informing or reminding the host ahead of time seems like a reasonable approach. Do we offer to bring something vegan to make sure that we have at least something to eat (but without upstaging the host)?

Then there’s the thorny issue of the confrontational tit-for-tat that some guests might engage in. For example, if a nonvegan host had provided us with a vegan option at his or her event, then do we have to reciprocate and provide him or her with a nonvegan option at our event? Or if we brought something vegan to the host’s event, does he or she have the same right to bring something nonvegan to our event?

If we’re dealing with people we like and respect, they should respect our food choices as well. If not, can we use the vegan angle as the perfect excuse to decline the invitation, noting that we only participate in food events that are cruelty-free?

While all these issues can be stressful for everyone, they can also be a great opportunity to raise awareness and educate others on both what we eat and why. How do you handle these situations?

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6 Comments

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    Marsha Kappelman Kravetz says...

    November 12th, 2010, 4:30 pm

    Excellent article, raising some pointed questions. that I have had to face at family functions.

    angelofthewest says...

    November 13th, 2010, 3:59 am

    Lots of people find it really interesting when I tell them I’m vegetarian. You get some that look at you like you come from another planet, too, but most people want to know how you become veggie. I think a lot more people would if they knew how – so a party is a great way to show them!

    Ellie says...

    November 14th, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Forget the “tit for tat”. Meat or dairy dishes willnever be served at my house. Anyone who eats here will just have to understand that I willnot serve it and they cannot bring it.

    cath says...

    November 18th, 2010, 8:28 am

    In answer to “The downside to this is that it might appear as if we are being selfish by imposing our ethics on others” …are meat eaters also imposting their ‘ethics’ on us when they serve meat. After all, veggie/vegans are not on the side of killing – are we really the ones that need to prove ourselves or make excuses or cater to meat eaters…????

    Cynthia says...

    November 19th, 2010, 3:17 pm

    After many years of my mother-in-law hosting Thanksgiving, I offered to host it this year. I already knew my meat-eating in-lawshad tried and don’t care much for Tofurkey. They want actual turkey. Cooking meat is not a personal problem for me, as I cook meat for my husband almost daily. At my request, he ordered the turkey from a supplier who sells humanely-raised turkey.

    I cook and serve meat in my own home because I accept the fact that my husband eats meat. I realize my family won’t stop eating meat just as they realize I won’t start eating meat. I don’t refuse to reciprocate the graciousness of someone else hosting Thanksgiving year after year.

    Meagan says...

    November 20th, 2010, 4:19 am

    Since I live in a country outside of America,I am,luckily,able to have my own version of Thanksgiving. I invite as many friends as I can comfortably fit into my home,and serve them an incredible,homemade,cruelty-free meal. They love it,and don’t even notice that something is “missing”.
    When I first moved here,to be with the man of my dreams and soon after,husband,I told him that I will cook,because I love to cook,but I will not prepare meat. I said,if he wanted it,he should,either prepare it himself,or just eat it outside of the house. For a while,he only ate it at work and,maybe,at a restaurant. About 6 months after I moved to be with him,he decided to cut meat (though not fish,dairy or egg,yet) from his diet and has been this way since. I never forced it,just showed him the delicious veg way and made it easier for him to begin to make the switch.
    I’m also lucky,my in-laws will make vegan meals when we come over,or allow me to bring my own for Christmas. At least we know that my husband’s parents are trying and are also including some healthier meals into their regular weeks(since discovering veg cookbooks,they cook veg a few times a week even when we’re not around) since I moved into their lives. I love seeing how my lifestyle can positively influence,when they’re open to it.

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