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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Vegan World?

I guess we all have fantasies where we pretend that we live in a vegan world. Sometimes it almost seems real -- at a vegan potluck, an EarthSave event, or volunteering at an animal shelter. It's nice to have these environments in which we can retreat. When we get discouraged and feel like we're doing this alone, they are reminders that there are others living a compassionate lifestyle, and more start every day. We get to stop living in our fantasy world and see real results.

But what about in everyday life, where most of us are surrounded by people who either grudgingly accept our lifestyle (though they make no attempt to try to understand why we live the way we do) or outright ridicule us? Does pretending it all away help? At least in one case, I've found that it actually does.

Sometimes I get so disheartened dealing with people who don't agree with my choices that I pretend none of those attitudes even exist. I go through life acting as if I'm the normal one (and hopefully one day being vegan will be the norm). Recently I went out to dinner with someone I had just met. We all know what it's like being at a restaurant with an omni. It seems like we always have to justify what we eat and explain why we are so "picky." So when it came time to order, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on him. When we talked about what we were going to have and he said "steak," I looked at him oddly and said, "Steak? You eat meat?" with the same tone that most people say, "Huh? You're a vegan?" -- not mean or condescending, just curious.

He looked back at me just as strangely and said, "Well, yeah . . . of course I do. Is there something wrong with that?"

I quickly pretended to be flustered and said, "Oh, I guess not, except I don't know many people who do -- it's just odd."

"Really? I thought most people ate meat."

(Big pause on my part.)

"When I think about it, I know you're probably right. Though it seems like an unnatural choice to me, I guess that's how a lot of people are raised -- it's not even a choice they've ever thought about making."

I was trying very carefully not to be offensive and just pretend as though I was someone from a vegetarian world who had never met a meat-eater. I asked him lots of questions about his "lifestyle choice" (though he had never thought of it that way). The comments I got from him were a lot of "I never thought about that" and "I've really never stopped to question it." I was very friendly and polite about it, and he didn't seem to ever feel antagonized.

When the server came back to take our order, I ordered vegetable parmesan (without the cheese) -- really yummy pasta and veggies with tomato sauce. And then he said, "I'll have the same." When the server left I said, "I'm sorry if you thought I was trying to talk you out of ordering the steak -- I was just curious, that's all." And his reply? "Oh no, that's okay. It was an interesting discussion, and at least right now I don't think I could look at a steak the same way I have all my life."

(Big internal grin on my part.)

I may not have changed the world -- I may not have even changed this man's mind. For all I know, he had a cheeseburger the next day. But that conversation gave me hope again.

It's easy to look at non-vegans as unfeeling sometimes, but it's nice to remember that most are very caring people who just have never looked at things from another angle. I'm glad I've had so much practice in "pretending," and I hope I put it to good use that night.

Kate R.

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