I had been thinking about a trip to Arizona for over a year, as my grandmother is getting close to 90 and refuses to travel, and I have other relatives in the area who I really wanted to visit.
After finally booking a flight, I realized that I haven’t been in that particular situation with people outside my parents and sister, where I would be staying in someone’s home, but having special diet requirements. Do you say, “please don’t worry about accommodating my vegan lifestyle”– therefore implying that they possibly should be worried? Believe me, it is not enjoyable to feel like you are creating any type of difficulty for anyone.
My aunt said it would be no problem, and she was going to try out new recipes. I later found out she even tried being vegetarian for one week.
We arrived and found she had purchased Costco-sized vegan treats like hummus, pita chips, sweet potato fries, chocolate covered dried mango, dried nuts and fruit, and rice ramen. She also made me my own kale/white bean soup to take to my grandma’s the next day. So much for not being any extra work! She went out of her way to make sure I had delicious vegetable pastas and grilled vegetables to eat at every meal, and it was much appreciated.
I tried finding a vegan restaurant in the area for one meal we ate out, but there really weren’t many options in the retirement suburbs outside of Phoenix. There were veg-friendly options like Chipotle or ethnic restaurants, just not the plethora we have in Portland.
My grandmother lives in a retirement home and is quite content to eat just two meals a day at the restaurant in her building. Her refrigerator is stocked with some light beer, and her freezer with ice cream, and that is about it. She says she hates all vegetables, and doesn’t understand or want to know what veganism is about.
Besides grandma, I felt like there were some good open discussions with others. I left with a better understanding of what challenges people face who are considering making a change. Listening more than talking is really important. Finding common ground, and figuring out practical concerns are key. Most people who did have an interest in talking about it, actually are open to the idea.
They understand that there are environmental concerns and animals treated inhumanely. It just seems very difficult to switch up everything they know about cooking and planning meals. For example, that cooked vegetables are harder to freeze or keep as leftovers than meat. People struggle with trying to make food that their families will eat that is not too difficult, expensive and tastes good. It has to be a lot easier.
I’m pretty convinced we could reach a better place in the world if the vegans would really listen to what the omnivores are saying, and vice versa. Although it can be hard to go against the flow, we can’t make changes and have conversations unless we do stand for a big change.
Beyond the great learning experience for me, and hopefully planting positive seeds, I still don’t know what advice to offer in this type of situation. Have an awesome aunt who will cater to you? I’m just lucky in that area. What are your ideas on how to make that work? How to make sure people aren’t stressed in advance? Comment with ideas for your best meals to make in this situation.