Reposted January 17, 2023
Bob and I were invited to the wedding of his close friends’ son. On the response card, we checked off the “Vegan Dinner” option, impressed by the thoughtfulness of our hosts.
At the reception, we were served exceptionally beautifully plates of Vegan food. Some of the other guests at our table asked us what we did to get these amazing meals.
But the obnoxious man sitting on my left kept sticking forkfuls of lamb under my nose, saying, “Just taste it, it’s so delicious!” Of course, I refused.
When it was time for dessert, Bob and I received fruit platters, again exquisitely presented. I wish I had photos to share with you; however, this event took place before I had a smartphone, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. The rest of our tablemates were served individual dessert plates, each filled with an assortment of mini pastries. The women at our table all expressed sympathy for us, because we were missing out on these decadent treats. Now we had four people urging us to try something from their plates. We declined, but they were persistent. Finally, I blurted out “Veganism is my religion.” After that, everyone left us alone.
I have to say that in my 11+ years of being vegan, this wedding reception was the only time I experienced a whole group of people who were so blatantly disrespectful of my way of life. But I think their behavior points to a misconception about what Veganism is. Some omnivores believe it’s merely a diet, i.e., an alternative like a low-fat or ketogenic diet. And many people use special occasions as an excuse to break their diets. If my tablemates had understood that being Vegan is, for for many of us—at least in part—an ethical decision, I don’t think they would have tried to push their food on me.
Although my interactions with my non-Vegan friends and relatives have been overwhelmingly supportive, the wedding incident got me to thinking about other times that my Veganism—or more specifically my plant-based diet—has been misunderstood.
Momentarily disregarding the ahimsa component of Veganism, the term Veganism is easy to define as “avoiding all animal products,” as opposed to vegetarianism, which in practice is defined far more loosely (even by those who call themselves vegetarians). However, there are still people who use these two terms interchangeably.
For example, it occurred to me that the women at the wedding who were so generously offering to share their desserts may not have even realized that they weren’t Vegan. After all, it’s not like they were pushing us to eat chunks of meat (as the man to my left had done earlier).
Once, at a holiday gathering, the host said to me, “We have lots of Vegan options for you.” I thanked her and then scanned the buffet table. Clearly my host meant well, but what I observed was that everything being served that didn’t have meat or seafood contained cheese. The only dish I ate was the one I brought (I’m not sure if anyone even noticed).
Another time, while traveling, we were informed that our hotel kitchen was packing boxed lunches for everyone in my group to bring on the next day’s excursion. That evening I informed the chef, “I’m Vegan, so I don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.” When the lunches were distributed the next morning, there was one for me marked “VEGAN.” I felt so grateful! However, when I opened my box at lunchtime, I found two tuna sandwiches. I take complete responsibility for that inappropriate lunch since I hadn’t spelled out “no seafood.”
Happily, being misunderstood by well-meaning people seems to be happening to me less and less. S-l-o-w-l-y, veganism is moving towards becoming part of our collective consciousness. S-l-o-w-l-y, more and more people are joining our ranks. I think many omnivores still think of Veganism as simply a diet, but at least there’s a decent chance they comprehend what that diet is.
Renée Kornbluth is a retired IT consultant and motorcycle safety instructor, residing in West New York, New Jersey. She graduated from the Main Street Vegan Academy in August 2017.