Tomorrow, my father begins his two-day trek on the road to Alabama where his parents, seven siblings, and 22 nieces and nephews congregate for Christmas each year. Unfortunately, this year my father has guilt-tripped my mother and I into accompanying him to bayou country, ignoring our petty excuses (that had convinced him so well for the past three years!) to spend Christmas at home in Madison while he visits his relatives. Don’t get me wrong here—I adore my southern family, especially my dear old Gran from whom I garner my prized baking genes. However, my Midwestern-girl liberal philosphies have always clashed with those of typical Alabamans, and I expect that the animosity will only intensify as I make my first voyage to the deep south as a vegan.
Anxious for the questions from my curious relatives, I expect to answer many forms of “Where do you get your protein?” “Aren’t you a little too skinny?” “Isn’t vegan food expensive?” and of course “So what CAN you eat?”
Instead of getting offended that my family even fathom doubting my veganism, inspiring animated rants about the inhumane treatment of animals, disease-causing components of the standard American diet, and misconceptions about vegan sources of protein, calcium, iron, etc., I plan to approach their inquiries with compassion —for isn’t that the backbone of a vegan diet? Besides, a vegan activist can alter far more opinions with a willingness to educate and proof of their lifestyle’s success (can you say vegan baked goods, anyone?), than with forceful lectures disapproving and criticizing all other diets.
That said, how do I suppose to respond to these questions with love and kindness? Perhaps the holidays do not serve as the best time to mention slaughterhouses or the rapid obesity epidemic. For now, I can content myself with planting the seeds of veganism’s benefits in the hearts and minds of my southern family.
“Where do you get your protein?” From the bounty of vegetables, legumes, and nuts I eat everyday! Protein from vegetables is not inferior to that of animals and is indeed plentiful on a wholesome, balanced vegan diet.
“Aren’t you a little too skinny?” My weight is within the healthy range for my height. More importantly, however, I feel energetic and happy an vast majority of the time—sure signs that my diet can effectively sustain my body and active lifestyle.
“Isn’t vegan food expensive?” Considering that the staples of my diet—vegetables, beans, and grains—rank among the cheapest items at the grocery store (not to mention at the farmers market—how’s $3 for a ginormous bunch of kale?), I’d argue that veganism inspires some of the lowest-cost eating habits. Besides, I’d rather pay more for nourishing food now than for future diabetes medication or chemotherapy harbored from an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
“So what CAN you eat?” Everything except animal products! After going vegan, my diet became infinitely more varied as I explored the wide array of plant foods out there, discovering new whole grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet), vegetables (kabocha squash, lacinato kale, purple potatoes), and meat substitutes (tofu, tempeh). I honestly never eat the same thing two days in a row.