We’re a family, and we eat together.

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.

Photo by Jess

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.


5 responses to “We’re a family, and we eat together.

  1. surprisingly(?)/dreadfully/shamefully(?), this is one of the reasons i went back to being vegetarian after being vegan for a while in ’06. and it’s one of the reasons i went back to being vegan when i came to portland.

    sharing food with friends is MONUMENTAL to me. i hate that i can’t share it with my family anymore (they aren’t into me cooking food for them, but my dad does get pretty excited over vegan restaurants, to his credit).
    but anyway, i don’t think i’ve ever seen that feeling put as such, so i appreciate you giving voice to something that was definitely an issue for me that i hadn’t really had the chance to process.

    thanks. and that pizza looks awesome.

  2. it is communal and it is awkward when you’re eating an entirely different meal from everyone else. that’s why i like spending holiday meals with my vegan or veg friends. i wanted to make dinner the other night but my parents are so unwilling to try new things, even if that consists of a meal of rice, beans, and greens with a sauce. my dad ate kale the other night, but the whole time he ate it he talked on and on about it being rabbit food. my mom actually has been eating mostly veg, but she’s suspicious of anything i make for her. she’ll get veggie stir-fries at restaurants, but no tofu. it’s very frustrating.

    i would love to come to Pizza Friends Club (or whatever it’s called) sometime if you’ll let me!

  3. Of course we’ll let you! You’re just always so busy and off jetsetting!

  4. I’ll bring the application!

  5. I just wandered upon your blog somehow…and enjoyed your post. This is definitely an issue; there is definitely something we have given up. It bothers my husband a lot. It was the reason he was reluctant to become a vegetarian, at first. He gets blue about it sometimes, that it’s such an issue for his family. And we feel like friends don’t ask us to go out with them in the same way they would otherwise. (We have NO vegan friends! Sad, huh?) I became a vegetarian when I was 6 or so, and I always say how grateful I am that my family accomodated me. Anyway, just wanted to say I hear everything you’re saying.

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