Originally published on Ecorazzi.com
A concerned woman recently wrote to family psychologist, John Rosemond, for advice on the upcoming holidays: of the thirteen people attending the festive dinner that the letter-writer will prepare, three are vegan and will not be consuming gluten. Like all considerate guests, our correspondent’s vegan daughter offered to bring her own food. But the host was outraged:
“Am I right in thinking that there’s something very self-centered about telling someone they must cooperate in your dietary choices or you will bring your own food? If so, what is your advice?”
Rosemond, validating the complaints of his correspondent, bewails the lack of manners of the younger generations and remarks on the “distinct whiff of narcissism” to the daughter’s request that her mother “cater to arbitrary food ‘issues’”; not surprising to the psychologist, since the 30-something daughter belongs to “Generation Entitlement”. But, Rosemond cautions, if his correspondent tells her daughter that she is being inconsiderate, “the strong likelihood is that you will be told in one way or another that you are unreasonable, rigid, uncompromising, and worse.”
In case the host reads Ecorazzi, here’s an alternative perspective on this issue for her:
Dear Concerned Host,
Let me congratulate you on two points: first, for raising a daughter with enough empathy to recognise that if we care about animals then we cannot eat them, wear them, or otherwise use them, and, second, for helping to mould her into someone so considerate that she offers to bring her own food along to avoid inconveniencing you in any way.
While you refer to veganism as a dietary choice, I can assure you that it’s much more than that: it’s an ethical system that rejects the use of other sentient beings as a means to an end. Vegans recognise that to use animals means to harm them, and to do so without any good justification. I’m willing bet you recognise that inflicting unnecessary harm on others is wrong, don’t you? Well, so does your daughter; that’s why she’s vegan. And that is the very opposite of entitled: your daughter doesn’t feel entitled to the bodies, labour, or lives of other beings; she doesn’t feel entitled to hurt others for no good reason; she doesn’t feel entitled to take the rights of other beings away.
As to why your daughter and her children are gluten-free, only they can answer that. I imagine they’re not doing it without good reason, so it might be an idea to ask them. Perhaps consuming gluten makes one or more of them feel unwell, and I am fairly sure that if that’s the case you wouldn’t want to feed it to them.
Now, you have two practical difficulties, as you see them: you mention that you’re only used to cooking for omnivores, and that you now have to prepare two meals. The solutions to both of these perceived difficulties are actually much easier than you’d think. First, you have undoubtedly cooked many things throughout the years that didn’t contain animal products: grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc. Cooking for vegans is merely just expanding this repertoire a little; it doesn’t need to involve any strange ingredients or bizarre rituals. In fact, I’m sure you could make some simple substitutions to serve up something that’s not too far removed from what you were planning to cook anyway: mash your potatoes with a little olive oil and cooking water instead of milk and butter; serve the Brussels sprouts with toasted flaked almonds or sesame seeds instead of pig parts; use maple syrup in your cranberry sauce instead of sugar that may have been filtered through bone char. Second, you don’t need to cook two separate meals: everyone in attendance can be served a vegan meal that’s delicious, nourishing, and comforting. If you need ideas, then ask your daughter: I’m sure she can suggest plenty of wonderful recipes that will please all of your guests. In fact, it might be a nice idea to ask your daughter to arrive early and help you prepare the feast; that would not only be a great bonding opportunity for you both, but you’ll also become legendary in vegan circles as the mom that every vegan wants to have! And you might even learn a little more about veganism while you cook together.