To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think about the social aspects of being vegan when I made the switch. I was so horrified by all the cruelty I had witnessed and by all the new information I had regarding the damage animal products can do on your health that I didn’t really think about anything else. This state of ignorance ended the day I got invited to my first dinner party, and continued throughout all of my social firsts: going to a wedding, eating out at non vegan restaurants with friends, and the biggest one of all, deciding I was ready to tell everyone I was now vegan.
The first thing I want you to know if you’re a new veggie or thinking about making the change, is that you don’t have to sacrifice ANYTHING regarding spending time with your friends and family. Being social is about sharing time with loved ones, and even if it is around a meal, you will certainly be able to join in. You’ll be able to take part in business meetings, social lunches, holiday gatherings, late night parties, barbecues, office parties, dinner parties. You’ll be able to have your friends over for some delicious meals, and you’ll be able to go to non vegan restaurants, picnics, and eat out while travelling. The only way you might miss out on social connections is if you isolate yourself because of your personal choices. This might seem silly but this is actually quite typical for new veggies, especially after the first reactions you might get when you decide to come out of the vegan closet. Suffice it to say, people can get a little weird…
My husband was of course the first person I told I was going to give veganism a try and he was totally ok with it and even wanted to make some changes himself (you should see him now!). Considering I had no idea what I was going to eat or how to go about it, I decided I was going to try it for one month before telling anyone since I wanted to see if I could actually pull it off. Two weeks in I caved and decided to tell my sister in law since she was the one who planted the first vegan seeds (not even being vegan herself yet!). Three weeks in I was so happy I told my friend Elena about the amazing side effects I was feeling. The three people I had told so far had been so incredibly sweet about the whole thing that I was not prepared for what was about to happen. One week later, I had done it, I had been vegan for a month, and I knew it wasn’t temporary. I decided to tell everyone. The next few weeks, as people slowly found out, were a bit of a roller coaster ride. Some friends thought I was crazy (in my circle, I was the first vegan, and most friends had never even heard this word existed), some friends thought I would last two days and completely laughed it out and swept it under the rug, some got hands down aggressive. In fact, one of my closest and dearest friends responded by asking me if I had “forced my husband to join my vegan cult” (still love him though!). Some joked saying I was being a bad influence on their children by eating different foods than everybody else. Some people actually yelled when they asked me questions about protein and got extremely defensive. Had I made a mistake without realizing it and told them they had to go vegan? Strange.
Here’s what I also got. My sister in law called me a week after I had told her, to ask me where she could read up on how to make this change. A week after that she told me she was now vegan, and surprised me with the fact that her dad was joining our little vegan party as well. My friend Elena started asking me question after question about how I was eating and why, and invited me to my first all vegan dinner party she made herself. My Godmother, the biggest foodie and cook in my family who hadn’t seen me in 4 years came to visit and couldn’t believe the physical changes I had gone through and is now making the change. Another one of my closest friends who as of a year ago didn’t know how to cook a single thing had a big dinner party and made vegetarian goodies just for me even though I insisted in bringing something. Friends I hadn’t seen in a long time were popping up and asking me questions about it because they had always been curious about going vegetarian but didn’t know how. Other friends were simply respectful and sweet which is more than I could ever ask for. My husband, my biggest supporter of all, would look for restaurants that we could try, started making changes himself and eventually told me we could stop buying animal products at home, and with every passing day he surprises me.
Here’s the thing, for some strange reason I still can’t wrap my head around, when you are ‘the vegan in the room’, without saying a word other than I’m vegan or I’m vegetarian, you seem to make others connect personally with your choices. Even if you never preach a single word about veganism, neutral reactions from people are actually few and far between. People ask questions, get excited, immediately excuse themselves for not doing it, get anxious, make fun, get angry, get curious, even get furious! The good reactions are lovely, and the bad reactions take their toll in the beginning especially as you’re building your confidence and learning more about this yourself. I would be lying if I said some of the more aggressive reactions I got in the beginning didn’t affect me. Of course they shook me up, but I didn’t know then what I know now, that all the jokes at my expense, the aggression and sarcasm, the anger and distance was going to pass, and that that moment was just around the corner. All it needed to show up was for me to take the reins of this change I was so happy about, to talk about it with the joy I was feeling, to feel confident in my choices and to make sure to tell and show people that nothing in our relationship was going to change, that this was my personal choice and that the only thing that was different was that I was now a happier person.
As the weeks went by and people saw that I was sticking to it, that I hadn’t died of protein deficiency, that I was thriving, running, getting healthier and being a better version of the same old Kimmie they had always known, people let me do my thing. In the following posts we’ll be discussing tips for eating in the different social situations you might encounter. Today I want to finish this post with a special dinner someone made for me when I had just become vegan. I’m talking about my friend Elena, who two weeks after learning what veganism was all about and not being vegan herself invited us over to a 100% vegan dinner. Enjoy the photos and stories from that day and I’ll see you this weekend with some tips for eating vegan and being the wonderful social creature that you are and will continue to be.
A very special vegan dinner party
Imagine my shock when Elena and Pablo, two non vegan friends invite us over for dinner and have an entire vegan feast prepared. Elena had made an amazing Salmorejo, a Spanish cold soup similar to gazpacho but thicker, with the most incredible croutons I have ever tasted. We made fun of her beautiful table and excessive amount of work by saying she had gone at the last minute to buy candles that matched the color of the soup. She hadn’t but she would have! That’s just the kind of friend she is, always making sure everything is special.
The second course was amazing as well, She had made this incredible dish with wild mushrooms, spinach, wild green onions and tofu that we couldn’t stop eating.
Meet Claudio, Pablo and Elena’s baby boy, who of course stole my seat while I was in the kitchen taking pictures of all the food. He had no intention of getting off the chair so I literally had to lift him and place him somewhere else! Sorry Claudio!
The biggest hit were Elena’s asparagus. They couldn’t have been more simple yet were absolutely incredible! She’s so sweet she’s agreed to share the recipe here with us soon!
Dessert was fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market we had gone to together that morning, and some soy whipped cream.
She had left a little surprise for the end of the meal, a typical drink from her hometown of Castellon, Spain. This is called ‘Agua de Valencia’ or Valencia water, and if I can remember correctly it’s made out of Champagne or Cava and fresh orange juice.
By the end of the night we were stuffed, happy, slightly hammered and playing Trivial Pursuit while Claudio played strange cat games under a chair. It was a perfectly delicious evening with non vegan friends, around vegan food.
Several months later and to my surprise, Elena decided to go vegan and her husband Pablo is now vegan at home. They are now our vegan sidekicks here in Spain and come over to test my recipes for the blog from time to time. Here’s the thing though, this would still be going on if we ate in different ways. Being social is about sharing time together, no matter what you order from the menu.
I’ll see you guys again in a few days with more tips, but for now dear veggies, remember this. Live your life the way you’ve chosen to live it, remember that some reactions have to do with the other person and are usually not about you. Show people bliss and comfort and that’s what they’ll see, show apprehension, isolation and take offense and that is what you’ll continue to experience. My friends have been my family for most of my life, and I could have never made this change if it would have meant being away from them in any way. With a life change that is so joyful, live your truth and enjoy your friends and family, if they haven’t already, I promise they will come around, even if they don’t decide to join you.