That’s what my mom always told me when we fought about my veganism.
I went vegan when I was 17, during my senior year of high school. I had been vegetarian for four years prior, and stopped eating mammals four years before that. My parents were grudgingly accepting—they didn’t eat a ton of meat in the first place (we were a big beans and kale family), and they weren’t worried about my health or anything. But they did complain about the hassle because they insisted on eating dinner together as a family every night, and it was hard to accommodate everyone. I didn’t eat meat and my brother barely ate vegetables.
I always responded to this complaining with, “I can just make myself dinner!” I was perfectly competent in the kitchen, and was making dinner for my family and I to share at least twice a week anyway. I was happy to make some peanut butter and jelly if necessary. But my mom would say, no, we’re a family, and we eat together. And so we did. The grated cheese was put on a separate plate, a meatless portion was taken out, or we just all ate vegan.
I didn’t get it, at the time. (And I realize now how much of a privilege it was that my parents accommodated me even if they complained about it sometimes.) But sharing a meal is pretty intimate. Sometimes, as vegans, we end up sacrificing some of this intimacy. I never question whether it’s worth it—of course I’m not willing to exploit animals in order to share a meal. But I can’t argue that it’s not giving something up.
My best, warmest memories of my childhood involve making and eating food together. Making oatmeal cookies with my mom, eating waffles on the weekends, picking raspberries from my grandmother’s backyard, the special lunches my dad would make when we had days off from school…
As I grew older, my relationship with food grew more complicated. I have a long history of disordered eating and I’m not going to get that into it here but it became harder for me to eat around other people. It absolutely had an effect on my relationships with friends and family.
There are the families we’re born into, and the families we make for ourselves. I have close vegan and nonvegan friends, but it can be easier to be friends with vegans, and I think a big part of that is the ease of sharing food, and making it together.
Recently, I’ve made pizza with two of my close friends (Jeff and Jess) twice for a fun and silly night in. Pizza can be truly communal– everyone can bring a topping. As we’re gossiping and listening to Lady Gaga and drinking wine I’m not really reflecting on the emotional significance of food, but still, that’s the stuff friendship is made of.
I made the crust from Vegan with a Vengeance, and we topped it with eggplant, mushrooms, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, Tofurkey Italian sausage, and Follow Your Heart vegan cheese.