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Handling a Vegan Houseguest
My daughter is currently completing an internship out of state. She will be returning home soon and will be bringing a friend with her whom she met during her placement. We have been told that her friend follows a vegan lifestyle. We want to be gracious hosts and not offend her or cause undue hardships for her while she is staying with us. Could you give us any practical advice? We would like to make her feel at home.
It is extremely thoughtful and caring of you to want to ensure the comfort of your daughter’s vegan acquaintance during her stay at your home. One of the easiest ways to make a vegan feel welcome is to make certain the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are well stocked with a variety of wholesome, tasty, plant-based foods. Many supermarkets now have natural food aisles or carry vegan entrées, dinners, burritos, enchiladas, and pizzas in their frozen food section, so this would be a good place to start. If there is a natural food store or co-op in your town, you might want to check that out, too, and see if there are easy-to-prepare items that your whole family could enjoy along with your houseguest. Some natural food stores have a delicatessen area where you can find many prepared vegan items including pasta and bean salads, hot and cold vegetable dishes, and spreads, such as hummus and baba ghanoush. Choices such as these can make mealtime more convenient and stress-free because no one has to cook. Furthermore, with lots of options there is less pressure on everyone, as there is bound to be at least one item each person will enjoy.
Investigate local restaurants to determine if any specialize in vegan cuisine, or inquire to find out if some of your favorite eateries could cheerfully accommodate a vegan customer. Locating a high-quality restaurant that will suit everyone’s needs is a great way to keep both your guest and your family satisfied.
Most vegans are open-minded, flexible, and accepting of meat-eaters and hope for a similar level of tolerance in return. However, some vegans are uncomfortable sharing meals or eating in restaurants where meat is served, so you will need to determine if this will be an issue for your guest. Accordingly, you and the other members of your family should decide if forgoing a few meat-centered meals would be tolerable to you, as doing so might be the most straightforward way to demonstrate respect for your guest’s veganism.
Try to find out some of your visitor’s preferred foods or dishes. If she has a favorite cookbook you could purchase or borrow from the library (or directly from her), you could prepare a few meals from it during her stay. Alternatively, you could inquire if she has any special recipes she’d like to send to you before she arrives so you can shop for the ingredients in advance.
The most challenging aspect of veganism for nonvegans tends to be dealing with matters related to food. Nevertheless, it’s important to know that vegan philosophy and practice extends beyond the boundaries of diet. For instance, vegans do not use personal care or household products that contain animal ingredients or were tested on animals, and vegans also do not wear leather, wool, silk, pearls, bone, or other animal-derived items. Thus, if you have a leather sofa in your home or leather upholstery in your car, it might be a bit awkward or uncomfortable for your guest. Of course, it’s entirely possible that she is very tolerant of other people’s nonvegan belongings, and this may turn out not to be a non-issue. Still, it is something about which you should be aware. In planning activities, know that vegans do not support zoos, circuses, aquatic parks, horse or dog racing, hunting, fishing, or other similar events or institutions that exploit animals.
In the most significant ways, vegans are the same as any other group of people: we want to be respected, appreciated, and valued. Just as importantly, we are individuals with our own unique quirks, penchants, and special attributes. Your guest may have pursuits that are important to her--for instance, an interest in art, music, theater, hiking, photography, or bird watching. Planning a few outings that center on her particular leanings would be another tangible way to make her feel welcome. Just knowing that you care enough to explore veganism before your houseguest arrives is a sure sign that she will have a wonderful time visiting with you, your daughter, and your loving family.
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