There's something that's been bothering me lately, but I haven't been sure how to articulate it properly. Last summer, I met a friend's husband for the first time, and upon some discussion, he learned that I mainly follow a vegan diet. His first reaction was to question whether or not I felt that I was morally superior to the other people in the room, and although his outspokenness startled me, I explained very truthfully that I do not. I am not strictly vegan; I haven't eaten meat or seafood for many years, but on occasion I will have a dish containing small amounts of dairy. I eat honey. If I'm eating a cake a friend baked, I do not ask if it contains egg. My children and husband eat meat, we have meat in the house, and I prepare meat for them.
In other words, I am not a vegan, although I mainly follow that diet.
Fast forward a few months: Angela from Oh She Glows, a blog that I much admire and that initially inspired me to start food blogging, announced that her baby daughter is not going to be brought up vegan. Her husband, like my own, eats meat, and although Angela was going to remain committed to her own vegan cooking style, she was not going to place any restrictions or labels on her new baby. I read the post with interest and admiration, and then thought no more of it.
A few days later it popped up on my Facebook feed, and I noted that there were hundreds of comments. It is here that I should recommend that no sane person should read the comments, but read them I did.
There were many, many more similar comments, attacking her and her family, and although we all know that internet trolls are everywhere, it's hard to shake off that kind of vitriol. I can imagine how she felt, this lovely woman who has elevated vegan cooking beyond anyone's expectations, who has provided recipes and photos of pure beauty, who was now accused of being a sham and a con artist.
This, from a community that supposedly celebrates compassion and kindness.
For myself, I've always advocated eating in a way that fits your own needs. I don't know what your needs are, and for me - or anyone - to assume that everyone has the same choices that I do reeks of privilege. It reeks of an attitude of moral superiority that I dislike greatly. It's so easy to espouse our own viewpoints but without walking a mile in someone else's shoes, we cannot and should not judge. Diets should not be treated as a religion; we should not assume fire and brimstone for those who do not share our favourite dishes. Maybe, instead of immediately assuming that the harried-looking mother grabbing the cheapest eggs in the grocery store doesn't care about possibly wretched conditions at chicken farms, we should keep our thoughts kind. Maybe that woman hasn't received her child support payment and she is just trying to get nutritious food on the table in the most economical way that she knows how. Maybe that woman lost her job and is searching for an inexpensive protein source. We don't know her story, but she has one.
Maybe we should turn inwards, and focus on what we are doing ourselves, rather than judging others.
I continue to find joy in creating vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian recipes. If one of those recipes brings happiness to you, I am thrilled. If it causes you to try something you never tried before, I am ecstatic. I will never judge you for what you have in your cupboards or grocery cart.
If you're interested in eating more meatless meals, but are wary of a total lifestyle change, why not try a gradual approach? I discussed being "flexitarian" on the news a little while ago, but here is a breakdown of what the labels mean:
Eats meat, but tries to limit consumption to a few days per week.
Eats fish and seafood, but no meat or poultry.
Eats honey, eggs and dairy, but no meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
Eats mainly plants - including grains and nuts - with occasional and minimal inclusion of eggs and dairy. This diet focuses on whole foods rather than processed.
Eats no animal byproducts, including honey, eggs, and dairy.
Want more? Read this if someone in your family wants to go vegetarian - but no one else does. Someone invited a vegetarian over for dinner? Don't panic! Overwhelmed by activities? Here's how to avoid the 5 o'clock scramble.