It is rarely enjoyable to be the ‘odd one out’ in anything. When it comes to diet and lifestyle, it can be a very lonely journey.
The Dreaded Invitation
I was invited to a dinner party a few weeks ago by an old friend. I had recently reconnected with this friend after 20 years. Back then she knew me as a person who ate animals. Since my diet is 100% plant-based, I asked myself:
“Should I call her and tell her about my food preferences beforehand?”
I decided against it. Since I had not seen her for a long time, it is best I go there without making any demands, I asked myself again:
“Surely there would be at least one thing I could eat or drink, right?”
With such uncertainty on the horizon, I had to pull out my bag of tricks.
Whenever I am invited to eat some place where I am not certain of the menu, I have to eat before hand. I take this precautionary measure just in case there is nothing there for me to eat or drink. That way I don’t have to talk at length on why I became a vegan on an empty stomach, and – whilst witnessing devouring teeth and jaws crackling animal flesh and bones with pure joy and delight!
I must confess though, that I did once eat animals in this same way, for the first 32 years of my life. That was 14 years ago. Seems like a life time ago now. But I digress. Must be those butterflies…
Today I almost exclusively eat at home. I prepare all my meals. I follow a vegan diet, so no one else can really prepare my food except me? I enjoy vegan food. What is not so enjoyable is having dinner where there is so much food, but I can not eat any of it. I know at such occasions I have the option to just – not eat. However I think most would agree with me, that it is straight up rude when you are invited to a friend or family dinner party, and then you do not eat or drink at all.
Before I left for dinner, I ate a light meal – fresh home made hummus with some ancient grains bread. The goal was not to eat to be full, but rather, to leave a little room to eat, and not be the straight up rude dude at the dinner party!
Then in the bathroom mirror, I spent a few quick moments in thought, imagining conversation at the dinner party that had yet to take place…
Some concerned person, upon finding out that I am vegan, will start to question me about being a vegan, and this and that, and me responding like I have a 1,000 times before. It’s like getting ready for a school exam. Nerve-racking. Hope I pass my test tonight.
I then took a shower, dressed and left to arrive at the dinner party just in time.
You can not be late for a dinner party.
Wait for it…
It was a cozy, relaxed dinner party with about 5 adult guests including myself. We all had a drink and were having great conversations. Not too long afterward, our beautiful hostess, in extremely high red heels with a matching red leather short skirt, announced “dinner is served everyone!”
As we entered the dining area, to my surprise, there was a real feast laid out in front of my eyes. I thought: What a spread? I scanned the dishes displayed, eagerly searching for a dish that I could eat. I saw every type of the common animal food you could have imagined. What looked like dishes of beef, and fish, and eggs, and chicken, and prawns, and others I could not easily make out.
It was wise of me to have eaten before the dinner party. But I had to put something on my plate. No way in the world was I going to let any of the guests know that I was vegan or vegetarian. This would draw too much attention to me. I would have to explain myself and I just did not want to be bothered about all that.
I finally came across one dish that appeared to be vegan. It was rice and beans. It looked like something else was in it though. I asked myself:
What is that reddish thing in rice and beans? Bacon???
My host who hovered near me at that moment said, “That’s rice and beans with chopped sun dried tomatoes”.
“Yes!!! But I never had it with sun dried tomatoes before..oh well at least it is a plant food.”
I put a good amount of the rice and beans on my plate. I noticed there was a salad with a lot of broken up feta cheese splashed over it. I delicately picked out the vegetables while avoiding the cheese.
“Now my plate looks full and no one can say I did not eat. No straight up rude dude tonight!!!”
Another looking in the mirror moment
Once everyone was seated, one of the invited guests got up and said a prayer over the food:
We thank you for the food dear Father.
Bless this food and the hands that prepared it,
may it nourish our bodies, Amen
Everyone, including me, then dug into our plates of food. No one had seen my plate. I ate just like everyone else. That night, for once, I became invisible. No questions about my food choices. No secret judgements. Not having to hear things like, “You don’t know what you are missing.”
I was one of them. Just people gathered around the table enjoying a meal together. It felt good to me. I was enjoying my rice and beans with chopped sun dried tomatoes with my feta-less greek salad! It was really dope.
As we all sat there at the table eating our meal, I looked at the others as they ate their food. They were too busy eating to notice me observing them. Then I had another one of my bathroom mirror thinking moments…
I grew up enjoying eating certain animals. I learned this habit in my mother’s womb. It is what it was.
- Eating is vital and social.
- It is the thing that brings our friends and families together.
- It is the thing that comforts us.
- It is the thing that we can enjoy no matter how stressful life is.
- We enjoy ourselves when other people eat and enjoy eating.
Food that tastes good and makes us feel satisfied is personal.
When you challenge someone’s food choices, they take it personal.
We are what we eat.