Some vegans suck. I get it. I’ve met some of them. Meat eaters suck as well. In fact, I’ve met far more of those and that makes sense proportionally. But becoming a vegan I have found myself under attack more frequently simply for the fact that I omit foods or products that others consume. I am not a vegan to make a statement. I just find that my meals taste better with a lack of suffering. But this post isn’t about the folks who are being dicks about it or why I’ve become a vegan. Instead I want to focus on what I do to not be an asshole vegan.
I remember telling my mother that I had become a vegan and she compared me to this crazy lady carrying around crystals. I immediately yelled out something like “THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT. CRYSTALS ARE STUPID. I AM NOT STUPID.” Yeah sure, that’ll convince people you’re not crazy. I backpedaled immediately, took a deep breath or two and gave a much calmer explanation detailing the reasons that caused me to change my diet. The conversation was pleasant and informative for both of us. It was my first lesson in basic vegan etiquette.
When I go out for dinner, I always check the menu ahead of time. I don’t want to question the waiting staff or scrutinize someone’s menu. I know what I can eat and I stick to it. It’s as easy as that. When someone eats meat or dairy, I never comment on it. I wouldn’t dare to give a lecture to someone who didn’t ask for it (when someone does, I am glad for the chance to talk about how much I love this lifestyle). I made my decision, others make theirs. If someone blurts out uninformed statements about my nutrition and health, I have no problem speaking up for myself, but that rarely happens. And I am glad for that (thanks, awesome family, friends and colleagues). If I do get questions about my food, I answer them. I am not annoyed by them, ever. At the same time, I try not to go on for hours like some crazy gender-neutral cat person (doesn’t always have to be a lady now, does it?). I found that sometimes, people go along with stuff and order similar menu items and that’s really cool!
If someone tells me abut this vegan they once knew who didn’t eat meat, but wore leather boots, there’s not much I can do. Those who try and don’t go a hundred percent are routinely called hypocrites and the story usually ends with these hypothetical vegans going back to their good old omnivoring ways. Happy ending, right? These sorts of situations can be confrontational and sometimes I want them to be, but I stick to my compassionate approach every time. I nod, smile and add a thoughtful comment or, if necessary, change the subject. I am trying to be a kind vegan and letting people derail the topic is not worth my time. I can ignore it, because those same people may foster dogs that wouldn’t have had a chance at life otherwise. Or something like that.
And I want to stress this point especially: When someone tells me that they’ve started adopting a meatless meal day, I always encourage it. It doesn’t do anything for me or them to voice criticism for not doing enough. Every little bit counts! When I am asked to make suggestions for vegan meats or alternative milks, I never pretend that any of those taste like the stuff we grew up with. We learned to like certain food items and we can learn to like others. But not everything tastes great right away (unsweetened almond milk was rough at first, I love it now!).
Lastly, I’ve learned to cook good vegan food and make sure to share as much as I can. It’s not a dull diet void of comfort foods. It’s rich in taste and nutrients and it’s always far more convincing to show rather than to claim.