I know it might be difficult for some non-vegans to believe, but although I am a vegan I do enjoy doing things “normal” people enjoy from time to time including hosting parties and get-togethers at my home. Even just having a couple of friends over for a casual dinner is something I enjoy. Normally, when people are invited to other people’s homes it is considered extremely rude to tell the host what to cook or to complain about the food served. However, because I am vegan and because the food served at my home is vegan, this courtesy is often denied to me. It seems as though showing good manners has become a privilege exclusively reserved for non-vegans.
Perhaps the most memorable disagreement I have ever gotten into about what kind of food would be served at my home happened last year during the holiday season when my fiancé and I were planning a holiday party at our new house for our co-workers. At first, everyone was excited. We brainstormed ideas for party themes and finally agreed that we would have an ugly holiday sweater party where everyone would wear the tackiest, cheesiest holiday sweater they could find. Toward the end of the party everyone would vote on who had the ugliest holiday sweater and that person would win a prize.
Everything was going great until someone suggested that we should serve buffalo wings. I kindly pointed out that in my home I only serve vegan food and that vegan buffalo wings sounded like a great idea. The reaction I got was something I could never have prepared for.
There was an instant uproar. People were flabbergasted that I would deny them their right to consume whatever food they chose. Once one person started complaining, the rest followed suit, eager to make sure the others knew their allegiance was with the group, not the lone vegan and her “self-righteous” and “unnatural” eating habits.
In an effort to calm the raging emotions of my co-workers I reminded them that if they didn’t want to eat what I would be serving in my home, they didn’t have to; they could eat before or after their arrival and no one would force them to eat anything they didn’t want to eat once they arrived. They quickly pointed out that they cooked both non-vegan food as well as vegan food when I had visited them in their homes and that it was rude to not compromise for them as well. Although I could see their point, veganism isn’t about compromise, it’s about having your actions match your beliefs. It isn’t about convenience, it’s about doing what’s right. The difference is clear: I don’t prefer to not eat animal products — I object to it on moral grounds from the deepest depths of my core. To me, this isn’t about whether I prefer white or wheat bread, red or white wine, or any other arbitrary preference. If it was a simple preference then of course I could compromise. This is why it was so easy for them to compromise and serve vegan food along with non-vegan food in their homes. Furthermore, I never told them not to serve animal products food at their homes when I had visited them in the past (as much as I would have liked to).
A non-vegan is perfectly capable of eating vegan food because vegan food is simply the same food non-vegans eat minus animal products. Vegan food doesn’t come wrapped in enigmatic packaging with a lock and label that says “Vegans Only, Non-Vegans Not Allowed”. Last I checked, foods such as chips and guacamole, fire-roasted artichoke, various pasta dishes, portabella burgers, and dairy free ice cream could be enjoyed by anyone — vegan and non-vegan alike.
What really amazed me was that these people couldn’t seem to allow themselves to go even one meal in their sheltered lives without a single animal product. It was like they had a vegan-phobia. They weren’t open to the idea of anything with the word “vegan” in front of it. They’ll gladly open wide and shove almost 200 lbs. per year of hacked up, rotting chunks of dead bodies down their throat, but mention something made from plants and that’s when they get grossed out. It’s so nonsensical, if it wasn’t such a serious issue it would be absolutely hilarious.
“Ruthless man: you begin by slaying the animal and then you devour it, as if to slay it twice. It is not enough. You turn against the dead flesh, it revolts you, it must be transformed by fire, boiled and roasted, seasoned and disguised with drugs; you must have butchers, cooks, turnspits, men who will rid the murder of its horrors, who will dress the dead bodies so that the taste deceived by these disguises will not reject what is strange to it, and will feast on corpses, the very sight of which would sicken you.” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I tried explaining all of this to them, including the fact that I wasn’t trying to “convert” anyone to my “strange vegan religion”, that one vegan meal wouldn’t hurt them, and that trying new things was a good thing, but they weren’t hearing any of it. My words of reason were drowned out by their shouts of fairness, freedom of choice, the natural order, cavemen, the sentience of plants, how much more protein their bodies needed than mine did, religion, and other commonly used arguments against the validity of the principles of veganism. It turned into an all-out debate between myself versus twenty other people.
The whole thing had spun out of control and what started out as me just trying to plan a nice friendly holiday party for my co-workers (catered and paid for by me) turned into a complete disaster with people calling me “the vegan Grinch”, “veganazi” and other cruel things. They were like children in a playground taunting and bullying the odd-one-out. After seeing my co-workers true colors I declared that the holiday party at my home was off and that they were no longer invited. I didn’t want to talk to those people anymore — let alone cook for, entertain and clean after them at a party.
It was interesting and saddening to see the people who had previously appeared more understanding of my views recede into the shadows and not try to stick up for me for fear of being ostracized as well. Most people are followers. They allow other people to do their thinking for them. They don’t realize that change has only occurred when people disregard this fear of ostracization and overcome it. The status quo will remain the status quo until someone has the courage to change it.
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Thankfully, I don’t work with those bullies any more, but I did learn a valuable lesson that day: screw catering to fussy non-vegans. There is no pleasing them — I won’t even try. They can take it or leave it, but I’m not going to try to woo them over with reason because they just won’t allow themselves to hear it.
Don’t want to attend a vegan party? — Don’t come to my house. It’s that simple. If you don’t like what I’m cooking, you don’t have to eat it. Don’t b*tch and moan because there are no animal products — there are animal products everywhere. You’ll be back in your sheltered cocoon of willfully ignorant bliss when it’s over. If you don’t think you can make it through one night without a single animal product, I highly recommend you make an appointment to see a therapist to work on your phobia, a doctor to check your cholesterol, and a rehab clinic to help you with your addiction.
And to think that I actually believed you would care more about seeing me than about what kind of food I would be serving. Ingrates.