I vividly remember the PETA brochures my oldest daughter brought PETAhome from high school and slammed down on the dining room table — a table spread with animal by-products.
"I can't do this! Look at these!"
I looked at them, and we discussed the information.
Without wanting to step on any toes of those reading this article, I will abstain from expressing my opinions on the matter, which are very strong. The big question is, how do you negotiate a path to accommodate someone who has made this heartfelt decision?
Having already firmly decided to select my battles with my children thoughtfully, I chose to support her 100% in her impassioned new lifestyle. I did a little research to figure out what a vegan really is. For your information, there are different levels of vegetarianism:
Abstaining from animal flesh;
Cutting back on intake of meat;
Abstaining from meat and fish, but will eat chicken;
Pollo pesto vegetarian
Abstaining from meat but will eat fish and chicken;
Abstaining from meat, fish and poultry, but eats eggs;
Abstaining from meat, fish and poultry, but will eat dairy;
Ovo Lacto vegetarian
Eats dairy and eggs, but no meat, fish or poultry.
Then there is the queen mother of them all:
Vegans object to anything that is animal or animal by-product. She had chosen this path, which means nothing prepared with eggs (noodles), milk (many food items contain whey solids, milk, or some form of cheese), or even ... wait for it ... SUGAR. It seems that sugar in some countries is ground with animal bones.
Now the task I had lovingly taken on involved copious amounts of time at the grocery store. I had to read labels on everything. This was the beginning of a very educational journey that has led me to eat healthier myself. We used the opportunity to learn together as a family. In showing her my support, I received less grief when I served meals with meat in them, but served her meal prepared according to her guidelines.
So, when you are presented with a family member or a friend who has chosen to be a vegan, here is my best advice to you:
Accept their decision graciously.
Show your unconditional love by asking them questions about the specifics of their diet.
Do your best to accommodate them.
Research on your own and share information you've found with them.
Shop and cook more thoughtfully without griping about it.
The bottom line, here, is to love them enough to support the decisions they feel strongly about. This is, after all, what we are doing—raising conscientious adults who think for themselves.
Incidentally, these choices may or may not last. Four months into her healthier diet, she came in and told me about the date she had been on and how wonderfully her steak was prepared at the restaurant.
You could have knocked me over with a soy noodle.
It is now years later and the experience taught me so much about reading the ingredients in the food I purchase. At 55, I am a Flexi-vegetarian myself and my mother is rolling her eyes at me.