A Little Vegan Story

Last fall I promised myself and my readers that I would write more, and include some honest pieces about what it’s like to be a vegan in a mostly meat-eating culture.  I have been mulling this one over for a week or so and am ready to write about this experience…

My friend Charlene invited my husband and me to a low-key post-holiday party.   She and her husband have a fun, eclectic group of friends, many with whom we are acquainted, some of whom are our friends as well.  I asked what I could bring to contribute to the party and was happy to make our collective latest favorite—an olive tapenade layered with hummus and fragrant pine nuts cooked in olive oil.  We dressed up a little and went, excited to spend time with our friends.  Charlene promised a couple of vegan items on her menu.  She made a delicious white bean cassoulet and amazing whole grain bread.  She even made my chocolate chip cookie recipe, complete with the Uncle Sam cereal and ground flax seed egg substitute.

We arrived, put out our tapenade, and started making the rounds of greetings and introductions.  Charlene’s husband Eric is skilled at making guests feel at home and comfortable.  He made sure we had drinks, and helped us make connections with anyone we didn’t already know.  We were happily chatting away and munching when I noticed a yummy casserole on the table.  It looked like it maybe had grated cheese sprinkled on top, so I asked the man spooning some of it onto his plate if he would mind tasting the topping and letting me know what it was.


“Oh.  I don’t eat cheese.”

“Why not?  Lactose intolerant?”

“No.  I’m vegan.”

I noticed Eric then, hovering nearby.

“You know”, the guy said, “Eating plants is killing, too.  Plants have feelings, so it’s (stupid? ridiculous? I can’t remember the exact wording) to eat plants as much as it is to eat meat.”

His dark eyes flashed, challenging me.

Eric jumped right in.

“Elizabeth, it’s breadcrumbs on top.  That’s the bean cassoulet.  It’s vegan.  You can have it.”

He smiled at me, encouraging me to put some on my plate.

I could feel myself shaking; the sense of being bullied overwhelmed me.  I focused on Eric.

“Thanks!  I didn’t recognize it right away.  Thanks for making something I can eat.  I really appreciate it!”

I stood for a moment beside the man who was clearly trying to antagonize me.  I made a decision.  I smiled at Eric, turned, and walked away.

When we left the party, Eric apologized profusely.  He was sorry the guy was such a jerk.  He overheard what he said to me and could not believe how rude the guy was.  He hugged me, his eyes conveying how much it bothered him to have a person in his house who would treat another person like that.  I assured him I was fine—and that it was in no way his fault.  I reminded him that no one has control over anyone else, and that people often say thoughtless things, that people get defensive over issues that come up without thinking about the other person’s feelings, views or choices.

I thought about this on the way home, and later, too.  There were many ways I could have chosen to respond to what happened.  I am happy I had not been drinking alcohol, because if that were the case, I know I would have launched into the dreaded vegan tirade that includes animal rights, killing, death, blood, cruelty, starving children all over the world, veal, hormones, sickness, cholesterol, capitalism…you know, that one.  The other choice, had I been drinking, would have been to finally put to use my mad boxing skills and surprise the guy with my amazing one-two punch, watching him crash to the floor, or perhaps face-first into the platter of sliced turkey.  Great show for non-violence and vegan life!  I could have asked him why he felt the need to attack and bully the tall, slender middle-aged woman standing beside him at a party when all she asked was whether there was cheese on top of a casserole.

But I walked away.  Walking away did not, and still does not feel cowardly.  It felt, and still feels very grown up.  After all, it was a low-key post-holiday party.  No need for a fight or a brawl over taking it personally.  His response was not about me.  It was about him and his stuff.  Period.

Thinking about this has given me a chance to look at the way I respond when either asked about being vegan or attacked about being vegan.  I have been working on good responses for when this happens again, as I am certain it will.  I can focus on not taking it personally when someone goes ballistic on veganism.  I can explain how I feel without making someone else feel guilty or wrong.  I can be kind.

I have as much right to my choices as anyone else does.  There has to be a way to be me in the world and have that be okay.  Coexistence, that’s what I dream of.  Acceptance.  Open minds.  These are the keys to being in the world.  I have a couple of them dangling from my keyring right now.  I can save my one-two for the 600 lb. tae bo bag in the gym.

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7 Comments on “A Little Vegan Story”

  1. michelle Says:

    I think you handled that situation perfectly! I totally get it Elizabeth! Happens to me all the time. Whether it be a family party or a gathering w/ friends or a company party. I, like you would walk away from the conflict. Its just not worth it. I like you I am sure ,know you have helped so many people just by example. I have more people asking for recipes and just wanting to learn a better way to live. One small step at a time I have found really makes a big difference with people.

  2. Craig Says:

    Michelle is right. Think of all the people who have asked you for recipes and insight, compared to the very small number of people who have held veganism against you. You are way ahead in the positive-energy side of things.

    PS. If this ever happens again, I will gladly get on my hands and knees behind the jerk and you can gently tip them over backwards with a spear of asparagus.

  3. Krissie Says:

    That’s a great story and thank you for sharing! It’s great because all of us will have to face someone like that or already have. But I’m sorry you had to experience it. However, you remind us that the best thing to do with belligerent people is to pass them by as if they didn’t speak the nonsense that just spewed out of their mouth. It’s hard to do when “in the moment” because as you said many thoughts and ideas of action go through our head. And, sometimes when we’re upset our IQ levels can drop and we can regret saying things later. I don’t know that I wouldn’t have wanted to defend myself and vegans. But later I know I would have regretted it because that wasn’t a person that was looking for reciprocal conversation. Good for you for walking away and for realizing that person wasn’t worth your time! They say the worst thing you can do to someone is make them invisible~ what great payback actually. So maybe that is the comeback that bullies like this deserve, walk on by as if they didn’t even speak or exist 🙂

    • Thanks, Krissie! I love being surrounded by people like you–kind, honest, and FUN! Thanks for reading, for hanging out today, and for sharing these thoughts and words!

  4. Charlene Says:

    So sorry!

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