Coming Out to Your Family

16 Dec

Admitting any truth about yourself to your parents is difficult. They raised you a certain way, and how you turn out could either work with or against their intentions. Did my parents raise a vegan? Hardly. I remember the first time I went vegetarian, in 5th grade. I read in a teen mag about Alicia Silverstone’s love for animals and her commitment to not eating them, and I was inspired. I was obsessed with dogs, because they always seemed to love me when all the kids at school thought I was weird, so I totally related to Alicia’s point of view – animals are friends, not food. I went veggie, and my poor parents tried their best to support me. My mom sautéed slabs of unpressed tofu in light Caesar dressing (which probably had fish in it) and microwaved veggie burgers for me, but we both got tired of the charade. The food was nasty and mom didn’t want to cook me a separate meal. Plus, I was still a picky kid who turned her nose up to most veggies. The intention was there, it just wasn’t my time yet.

My next flirtation with vegetarianism came during Lent of my junior year of high school. I’ll emphasize flirt because I only gave up land animals at the time, and gave them up for the requisite 40 days. This worked, because my mother mostly made chicken, fish, and pasta. If she made chicken, I could have leftovers from the night before, no problem. I got through the weeks feeling pretty good, but Easter was a disaster. I dug into the festive ham and soon became violently ill. My insides were rioting against me!!! Given the much needed break, my body could finally tell me how it felt about meat, and it was nothing good. Since then, I’ve been able to keep land animals out of my diet, without much fuss from my parents. We’re mostly a fish family, anyway, so it worked.

Over a year ago, my father started complaining about lactose-intolerance, and how dairy made him feel. I couldn’t relate, because (TMI!!!) I’ve always had difficulty going to the bathroom, but then a light went off. Even though he was reacting one way, maybe 24 years of dairy had actually constipated me. I found a non-dairy milk I could stand (almondmilk, I love you) and took it from there. I went a month dairy-free and a hundred problems I didn’t even knew I had cleared up almost immediately. When I indulged in cheese once after that, the signs of lactose-intolerance reared its ugly head and that was that. I self-diagnosed myself and again, my parents supported me, especially easy since it was a family problem!

For whatever reason, giving up eggs seemed to go with the dairy-free territory and there was no momentous occasion for that at all. But again, after a few months off of them, eggs made me sick. It made me really start to wonder what kind of crap our bodies put up with every day so that we don’t all become violently ill on a regular basis, even though they’re repulsed by what we feed them.

All of that my parents supported without much of a whimper. I mean, It helps that I no longer live at home and don’t depend on my mother to feed me. But now that I’m back for a few weeks on break, I’ve had a few chances to break the vegan news.

1. At the grocery store, my mom suggested I pick up Vegenaise so we can make tuna fish sandwiches. I respond, “I’m not really into that anymore.” She says, “Oh.” *crickets*

2. My brother (a cute kid with autism, who’s the best ice breaker ever) asks, “Shannon, are you a vegetarian?” I say with great confidence for the first time in my life, “Why yes, yes I am!” My dad overhears and snidely remarks, “Well, sort of.” I say, “No, actually, I’m vegan now. For real.” He says nothing.

AHHH. I can’t tell if they’re cool with it or not!!! I make all my own food now when I’m home, so that’s not an issue, but I think it further limits what we can eat as a family together, and that sucks. I hate that my favorite aunts don’t know what to feed me anymore. But I do enjoy the opportunity to make my family delicious vegan food that’s not weird or out there, just yummy.

Tomorrow is Little Christmas, an annual gathering of my mom’s sisters and family to exchange small gifts, play games, and catch up before the big holiday. I made pumpkin macaroni casserole, a rip from Veganomicon’s pumpkin ziti (can you guess the difference?), and Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles, which can be found here. I’m not even going to tell anyone they’re vegan! I gotta let the food speak for itself – vegan food is normal food.

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