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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Wedding Woes

question.gif - 1.4 K I am a vegan who just got engaged to a vegan. We are planning our wedding now and my first inclination was to have a vegan wedding. My future mother-in-law said that for a lot of people, a vegan meal might not be enjoyable and do I really want to impose my beliefs on other people who may not share those beliefs. My response was that I am not trying to force my beliefs on other people, but that I am vegan because I don't want to contribute to the killing of animals now that I know that I can live healthfully without doing so. If I give an option on the invitation for fish or vegetarian, I feel that I am authorizing the killing of fish. I also realize that this wedding is for the families as well my fiancee and myself and that they and many others would be happier with an alternative to the vegetarian meal.

answer.gif - 1.3 K Congratulations on your engagement! It is wise that you and your fiancee have immediately begun to think about the food issue because not only do food choices generally require a lot of advance planning, for vegans it can be the most contentious aspect of the wedding. It was also considerate and smart to discuss the matter openly with your partner's family, as difficult as that must have been.

Weddings are usually viewed as much more than the union of two people or even two families. For many parents and couples weddings are a major social event and an opportunity to publicly "pull out all the stops" to celebrate with their friends and relatives. Nevertheless, it is not necessary for you and your fiancee to compromise your values at your wedding; however, everyone may need to concede in some other ways.

The first step to resolving the matter is to remain as open and honest as you have been. Keep the channels of communication clear so that a continued dialogue can be maintained. Try to keep your emotions at bay whenever discussing the issue, even when the conversation is just between you and your partner, in order not to fan the flames of anger. Know that a solution is within reach and that the situation is not hopeless.

One of the reasons nonvegan parents often balk at the idea of a vegan wedding is the fear of embarrassment or humiliation. They may believe that vegan food is bland, unappetizing, or unsatisfying. They may be concerned about looking like tightwads in front of friends and family, since animal-based foods are still cultural symbols of affluence. They may feel they'll have to apologize to their guests for not serving meat. They may also be troubled that people will talk behind their backs after the wedding.

It is crucial that you explore some of these issues, tactfully but forthrightly, with your future mother-in-law, so that you can better understand her position. Agree to not interrupt her, and then let her talk until all of her concerns have been fully aired. Ask her if there is anything else and, if so, let her continue. After you have allowed her to thoroughly express her point of view, ask for the opportunity to present your explanations for wanting your wedding to be vegan, also without interruption. The purpose of doing this is not to embrace each other's perspective. However, taking a nonjudgmental approach and engaging in a frank, unemotional discussion, will allow each of you to appreciate where the other is coming from. This way it will be easier to devise a reasonable solution everyone can live with.

As you know, to vegans and vegetarians, fish is no more acceptable than chicken or beef. For some odd reason, though, the media has proliferated the misconception that fish is a vegetarian food, and unfortunately it has become a prevalent but false public belief. Your fiancee's mother may not understand this and she may think that you are just being stubborn. It may be necessary for you to illuminate briefly, calmly, and rationally, precisely what veganism entails.

For the vast majority of people in industrialized countries, eating meat is a personal choice, not an ethical one, and certainly not a physical necessity. Therefore, abstaining from eating animal products for a few hours will not present a moral conflict or cause physical suffering for any of your guests. On the other hand, there is no ethical controversy posed by vegan foods. In other words, while you and some of your guests may be morally outraged at the inclusion of animal products at your reception, no one would be offended by vegan fare and everyone can partake.

It is true that this is your wedding, and you should, at least in theory, be able to have it your way. And you probably could, at the expense of your future mother-in-law's happiness, which, in the long run, will cause you and your fiancee even more grief. If she is paying for the wedding and reception, your fiancee's mother may feel that she has the right to make the final decision about what food is served. In this case, you and your fiancee could offer to pay for the reception or at least for the food at the reception. Instead of having a large wedding (if you were planning a large wedding), you could scale things down and invite only your closest friends and relatives, who would more readily be aware of your vegan lifestyle and know to expect a vegan reception. Afterwards, if either family wanted to, they could plan a party on another day for their friends who were not invited to the wedding, and you could do the same. Another idea is to have a vegan hors d'oeuvres reception with no meal following. Many popular and elegant hors d'oeuvres are naturally vegan (such as stuffed mushrooms), and there are many other imaginative possibilities. No apologies for the food would be necessary since it would not appear that anything would be lacking.

If your future mother-in-law is mostly concerned that vegan food won't look appealing or taste good, and those are the only issues holding her back from consenting to a vegan meal, you could consult with local caterers (bring recipes, if necessary), to see what they might be able to whip up. Many creative chefs relish the chance to do something out of the ordinary, and some areas even have caterers who specialize solely in vegan cuisine. They may be able to provide a tasting of a few alternatives, which would let everyone evaluate their presentation skills as well as taste the food. Providing menu suggestions and food samplings may allay any fears about vegan food not being delicious or satisfying. This in itself could be enough to transform a skeptic's point of view.

These, of course, are not your only options. Together, you, your fiancee, and her mother may be able to brainstorm even more possibilities that would allow everyone to feel comfortable. When you work together, taking into account the interests and feelings of the others involved, you will be doing more than just resolving your current dilemma. You will be establishing a caring approach and compassionate standard for future communications that will make your relationship more respectful, loving, and genuine -- bringing to life the true spirit of veganism.

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