Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marrying Into Meaty Holidays

I am on vacation this week, but Amy, from the blog VegCooking.com, has kindly provided a guest post for us. Thank you, Amy! I would highly recommend checking out her blog as she has some great recipes.

Waking up to a freezing cold morning, even though I was buried under a mound of blankets, suddenly brought me back to reality. I was in Ohio, not Georgia. And I was in Ohio visiting my new in-laws for Christmas. Marrying meant that I inherited not only my new husband, Justin, but his whole family too. Complete with their favorite football team (The Browns), unusual habits, and holiday traditions.

As we stole away those few extra minutes in bed on Christmas morning, Justin and I started to hear and smell what was brewing downstairs. Kids screaming about wanting to open the presents they already peeked at, carols blasting on the CD player, an equal mix of dark brewed coffee and Bloody Mary's, and then we smelled it. Bacon.

Justin informed me that every holiday with his family started with a plate full of bacon prepared by his Granny. He has long been a vegetarian and can gracefully maneuver around a family tradition that involves a dead animal. I on the other hand was new to this family and feared that turning down an offer from the people that brought my husband to this planet might seem a little offensive. Of course, I wasn't considering eating the bacon. But I needed to find the right way to get out of it.

When we finally made our way downstairs Ms. Thelma offered me a piece of the bacon she cooked. Nervously, I simply said "no thank you, I'd love a piece of that baguette, oh, and a few of those beautiful strawberries too," and guess what? It was no big deal. No one was offended and Justin's parents didn't demand a divorce. This left me wondering why I had been so worried.

It may have had something to do with the last 13 vegetarian holidays I celebrated with my own family. Constant teasing from my little brother and the inevitable yearly question from aunts "you can eat cheese, right?" And my answer that somehow surprised them every time "no, no I don't."

How your vegetarian ways will be perceived during the holidays largely depends on the family you're spending it with, but there are also a few things you can do to make sure it all runs smoothly. Below are a few tried and true tips from my own personal "holiday survival guide" that will help any vegetarian navigate their way through meaty celebrations—even those with your new in-laws. Good luck and happy holidays!

Vegetarian Holiday Survival Guide

  1. Plan Ahead – The single best way you can guarantee a successful holiday meal is by planning ahead. Call the host, or have your partner call, and ask what's on the menu. There's no need to demand that they make you a meat-free meal, but if you realize there will be nothing there for you, it will allow time to plan your own dishes. The host might even surprise you by asking what items you'd like to see on the holiday table.

  2. Offer To Help – Not only will you score bonus points with the fam, but if you offer to help cook the big dinner you can make sure there are no animal products in those seemingly innocent dishes. Many people cook beans and vegetables in chicken stock or they add pieces of ham and bacon for flavor. By helping in the kitchen you'll know what to avoid.

  3. Don't Hesitate To Ask – Not the next Julia Child? Don't even know who that is? If helping in the kitchen is out of the question because you barely even know how to operate a microwave, then don't hesitate to ask the host what's safe for you to eat and what's not. I prefer to politely ask before everyone is seated, so that it doesn't turn into a big deal at the table.

  4. Kindly Reject – Instead of scoffing at the idea of eating a dead animal (even if it is what you're thinking), say you'd rather fill up on all of the delicious side items. Other people aren't going to thinking that being vegetarian is appealing if they only see you talking about everything you don't eat. Instead, show them all of the delicious food you do eat.

  5. Give It Right Back – It's inevitable that there will be at least one sour apple in your new family. They may just be teasing you to get a laugh, but if their "joking" goes from funny to downright mean, give it right back. Tell them exactly why you don't eat the flesh of dead animals and share a few details about the horrific life of the turkey who ended up as the centerpiece of their holiday meal. They may not stop, but they may think twice before eating their next piece of turkey.
Again, good luck and happy holidays!

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