I went to the beach with my cousins and their parents this past July. I wasn’t supposed to go with them because one of my aunts thought that I was still employed when in fact I had already quit my shitty job the week prior. After my mother agreed for me to come along, my ticket was booked the night before our departure. Being a twenty-something woman, they were not worried about me misbehaving during the trip and whatnot. Also, I got along well with my cousins so I certainly was not going to be a burden. But then the ultimate question popped up:
“What are you going to eat there?”
Ever since I became a vegan, I’ve had trouble with social settings. Food is such a big deal here–it’s practically the string that keeps relationships intact and connected–and when you cut meat and dairy from your life, you’re giving up around sixty to seventy percent of the dietary choices present, including the social implications they carry. I can no longer eat out just anywhere with my friends; what we do is find a vegan-friendly place, or I bring my own food, or I skip eating altogether. I refuse to eat pizza and donuts brought home by my parents for us. I don’t go to social events that involve food knowing that meat will most likely be the pièce de résistance.
To be honest, that’s the most difficult part about this way of eating. It’s not the cravings; believe it or not, I don’t ever get them because when I see a burger or a piece of steak, I see nothing but the carcass of an animal that was slaughtered just to satisfy someone’s “dietary needs,” and that makes me angry, not hungry. It’s not the limited types of food I can eat; one will discover that the diet is still abundant with variety and that there are plenty of plant-based foods available around. The hardest part of veganism is the social aspect of it, the fact that when you change your food, your ways of bonding with other people change as well. I certainly struggled in the beginning–I didn’t even attend my own graduation dinner because there was nothing for me to eat. I was irritated because although I was telling everyone how wonderful and beneficial being a vegan was, none of them even tried to follow my footsteps. Growing up as an omnivore all her life and not encountering the alternatives, it took a while for my own mother to understand my lifestyle. She has always encouraged me to eat more vegetables but to skip meat and animal products altogether? The idea seemed too radical for her.
Now, months into being a vegan and going strong, things have fallen into their proper place. My mother buys fruits for me to eat and our housekeeper makes sure that there is a plant-based dish in every meal, including special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Whenever I go out with my family, we go to places that serve vegan-friendly dishes. My friends, too, have made efforts to look for restaurants where I don’t have to bring my own food to. The people closest to me have accepted my lifestyle and have adapted so that I can continue to spend time with them with minimum fuss. Knowing that pulls at my heartstrings and has caused me to stop stressing over the matter. I realized that food may be a great part of building relationships but it’s not the most important one. If your family and friends truly care for you, they will accept you and do everything to keep you in their circle even if it means going through the hassle of checking out menus in advance or helping you look for fruits to eat at the public market during a vacation. It all boils down to compromise, compromise, and more compromise. Everyone’s efforts will be worth it in the end, believe me.
To all the vegans out there, I salute you. I know that some of you may have found it difficult to make the drastic change but you know well that this isn’t just for you, right? Choosing this lifestyle has far bigger implications than just our health. We choose to preserve the richness of our environment. We choose to spare the lives of animals that are beautiful, intelligent, and that deserve to live undisturbed like we are. We choose to create a future that does not have to involve unnecessary violence. We choose to survive in a way that other creatures, too, will be able to do the same.
VIVA VEGANISM! VIVA VEGANS!