Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

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More Family Friction

question.gif - 1.4 K I decided to be a vegetarian about six months ago, and have not touched meat since then. I recently chose not to eat eggs or cheese, yet I still drink milk, making me not a vegan. The members of my family don't understand my reasons for my lifestyle. They think it's stupid of me to not eat meat, eggs, etc. My father always teases me, my mother very seldom remembers that I don't eat fish (according to her, fish isn't meat), and my sisters are always asking if I'd mind eating meat for one day so we can go to a steakhouse. In the summer, my family is going to visit our relatives in a different country. I will be living with them for two months. I will be surrounded by a bunch of people who oppose my choice and will be asked a million questions per day (even more than I get asked now, which is sometimes more than I can handle). Please help me, in any way you can, in dealing with these sorts of situations.

answer.gif - 1.3 K When people decide to engage in behavior or beliefs that are contrary to their family's customs, it is not unusual for there to be resistance and opposition. When that choice is vegetarianism, and there was no previous hint that such a change was on the horizon, parents are taken by surprise. They may feel shocked, confused, frightened, or concerned for a variety of legitimate reasons.

If you never told your family that you were even thinking about becoming a vegetarian, there is no way they could be prepared for such news. Therefore, they may presume that you are just "experimenting" or that your choice is faddish and temporary. Most people know very little about vegetarianism, except for distorted impressions advanced by ill-informed media. Considering the myths that most sources circulate about vegetarianism, your parents cannot be faulted for their mistaken assertion that "fish isn't meat."

Because you are the person who initiated the change, the brunt of educating your family falls on your shoulders. However, before you can enlighten others, you must grasp the issues thoroughly yourself. It will be impossible to discuss your decision rationally unless you are completely aware about what motivates you to be a vegetarian.

You mentioned that you recently stopped eating eggs and cheese but continue to drink cow's milk. Are you in transition to becoming a vegan? If so, your family may not understand the reasoning behind what could appear to them to be a sudden and drastic transformation. If your impetus is an ethic of compassion, be aware that others will probably point out the hypocrisy of not eating cheese but drinking milk. How will you explain this? For many people, the progression to veganism is gradual. Nevertheless, outsiders might expect an overnight metamorphosis, and they are often quick to point out moral inconsistencies. Have you examined your reasons for giving up some but not all animal products? Have you considered the connection between other commodities (such as leather goods and wool) and animal suffering? Are you clear about the path you have chosen, why it is important to you, and how you intend to pursue it?

As long as you fully comprehend what compels you to be vegan or vegetarian, you will be prepared to deal honestly and respectfully with the flurry of questions and comments your relatives toss your way. You will also be better equipped to maintain your commitment in foreign surroundings where vegetarian options may be somewhat limited.

There is no point in getting indignant or defensive about your family's misinformation and insensitivity. It is reasonable to assume that their barbs are unintentional and innocent and stem from their loving concern about your health and well-being. Your parents may also be worried that as a vegetarian you won't be able to fully participate in family functions or other social activities. Your father's teasing may simply be a way for him to gently vent his tension, or it could be a playful attempt through humor to demonstrate his abiding love for you and desire that you remain close. If you can, smile and laugh along with him. Learning to laugh at yourself and take your family's razzing less seriously will go a long way in tempering the strain of your present relationship.

Once your own feelings are sorted out, talk to your family, as a group or individually, whichever feels more comfortable for you. Speak from your heart in a composed, mature fashion without lashing out or becoming emotional. Simply let them know that vegetarianism is your personal choice, that you have given it much consideration and thought, and that you love them and would be grateful for their help and respect. If you approach each family member with the deference you hope to receive, it is likely to be reciprocated. Once they realize that you are informed and sincere about your decision, they'll be better equipped to support you at home and during your travels. In turn, the process of investigating your convictions will effect greater determination and self-confidence -- qualities that will be manifest whether you're expressing your ideals to family, friends, or strangers.




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