Thoughts from an Anniversary Breakfast Preparation
As I set to work in the kitchen this morning to prepare an anniversary breakfast, inspired by my husband’s recent first time (successful and delicious) go at making vegan French toast, I thought about some things that have been on my mind lately about vegan parenting- specifically about me being the only vegan parent in our house.
While my husband has (much to my surprise actually) adapted quite a lot to often eating plant based as well as to putting his creativity and skill in the kitchen to veganising dishes, he himself is not a vegan. I love to share how, when I first transitioned to veganism in 2014 and would make dishes and excitedly offer him a plate, he would often taste it and then nod his head in surprise and approval but go cook up a piece of meat to add to it. He stopped doing that at some point last year. He still eats meat and dairy but he also eats 100% plant based dishes a lot now, with no apparent craving or need to go add animal based products to it.
I sometimes play the scenario in my mind of when I am (hypothetically) confronted about a fellow vegan (or even non-vegan) about my seeming hypocrisy though. How can I be such a staunch ethical vegan and advocate for people to make that transition when I have not even convinced my partner to do so and perhaps even more importantly, as a mother, how can I let my son consume any animal based products and dairy?
Besides realizing that I need to be less worried about other people seeing me as a hypocrite and just focused more on where I am at, I will admit that there’s no really great justification for how I handle my greater family choice, other than perhaps giving in to two things- patience and compromise.
My husband and I recently had a tense exchange about our son drinking cow’s milk. My husband understands I don’t want him having it now but says that one day he will have the choice. Of course, that is true and something I ultimately have no control over. I grew up drinking milk but stopped on my own in my youth because I really didn’t like the taste. My son is almost three now and becoming a mother completely altered my view of milk. My son nursed on my body’s milk regularly up until he was about 2 and a half and of course started eating food earlier than that (mainly fortified baby oatmeal – still one of his favorite meals). I will admit a certain sense of personal horror at drinking animal milk, perhaps with breastfeeding so fresh on my mind as such an intimate and vital experience with my child.
However, when our son started sampling food from our plates, I definitely had to grapple with the reality that as long as his father wasn’t vegan, he was going to have direct access to trying meat and dairy products. I have always believed that it would not be fair to give my husband an ultimatum about being vegan or not. Like me, he does not respond to pressure and I care about my marriage as much as I do my ethics of consumption. I myself didn’t go vegan until I was 37 years old and as I look back it’s clear I spent many of those years actively avoiding any information that would tell me there was something drastically wrong with our way of using and consuming animals. When I was ready to absorb the information that would lead to my transition, I had a little help from a good friend but ultimately had to be ready on my own to make those steps.
I have known at least a dozen women who shared with or confided in me that while they are really interested in veganism and transitioning to a fully plant based diet, they hesitated or struggled to make the shift because of lack of support from a partner or outright criticism from other family members (especially criticism when younger children are involved that it would be harmful for them). I think that for the average militant ethical vegan (which, despite my family’s status, I do consider myself for my own habits), who is very independent and doesn’t give a flip about other’s opinions, family and friend’s negative opinions have no effect other than acting as noise. For others who may be more concerned about getting along, these opinions may be a potential irritant or jump off point for debate and discussion (hopefully constructive). But for many people who are new to veganism, the shift can seem overwhelming with many obstacles in place when there is a lack of family support.
Part of my motivation in doing my Interview Series with Vegan Parents is to explore various vegan parents stories. Many, if not most, of the parents I have interviewed thus far have vegan families. I know there are many people out there who are like me- the lone vegan parent in their household (hopefully with a partner who is also supportive). But to be able, at the beginning of this project, have so much dialogue with fully vegan families is tremendous to me. Their partners and children also at some point made the shift and it is profoundly inspiring to hear bits about their life and how they handle various situations and operate. I love meeting with and publishing the stories of these families in efforts to contribute to the normalizing of vegan parenting.
As I work in my own home to bring my family around to more and more plant based eating, it is incredibly important for me to share with others (often fellow mothers who are interested in eating more plant based or going vegan) that you can be the lone vegan in a house and make it work- even thrive. You will have the opportunity to turn your family members onto delicious vegan cooking. It’s understandable that they may not want to watch undercover footage at factory farms or sit through Earthlings with you, but they might just be eager to try a delicious vegan cookie dough or spread a delicious eggless mayo on their sandwiches which could in turn open the door to discussing the appalling facts of tens of thousands of male chicks being killed (horrifically) often the very same day they hatch- so that we may eat eggs. The list of things go on. If you’re vegan or familiar with the issues, you know how long this list is. If not, be warned, it’s like opening a Pandora’s box of unthinkable horrors as you begin to read up on industry standards behind the products we consume. But your only regret after you opened it is simply that you did not do so sooner.
I thrill at the idea of turning people onto vegan food. I am always excited about the prospect of meeting more and more vegan families wherever we are and wherever we go as well as to meet with individuals who are curious (maybe even willing but nervous) about making the jump or at least incorporating more plant based eating into their lives.
Do I want my entire family to be vegan? Of course I do. Are animals lives more important than my loved ones (or anyone’s) choices to eat animals and dairy? Of course I believe they are, but I am not going to divorce myself from everyone I love because they adhere to what is inarguably currently the norm in terms of consumption. Do I agree with the norm? Of course I don’t. But I don’t see how I can try to help change it without recognizing exactly what it is and the influence it has over the consumption of the majority today.
I will not prohibit my son from eating with his father, but at the same time I am completely committed to sharing with and exposing him to vegan life and plant based eating. I will be the mom providing vegan snacks at parties my son attends. I will be the mom requesting vegan options at school. I will have him in the kitchen with me as often as his heart desires to help me with cooking, discovering new dishes and whipping up old favorites. I will tell him stories of how happy I was to hear, when he was about 2 years old, the landmark decision that Sea World, a park I frequented in my youth in San Diego and later realized I would absolutely have to boycott, would stop capturing and breeding orcas. I will raise him to understand why we never took rides in horse drawn carriages around Central Park when we visited NYC and why we don’t buy and wear animal skins.
The discussions will become more complicated. I am a vegan and don’t foresee that ever changing. I am 100% against today’s animal agriculture system and I am disinterested in meat period, whether factory farmed, “humanely raised” or hunted. I don’t want to eat animals but I haven’t come to the conclusion that all humans shouldn’t. This is philosophical terrain that I really, really value getting into but will refrain from in this post.
Back to the kitchen and my thoughts as I cooked up our anniversary breakfast. I thought back to the day we married. Our celebration dinner after our quick and simple civil ceremony was chicken wings and pitchers of beer – just the two of us- at a local bar. I have fond memories of this evening but of course if I had a redo the wings would be out of the picture (unless they were seitan wings!). I’m not going to beat myself up for my years consuming animals and dairy. I am not going to beat up and harass my loved ones (or anyone else) for their consumption. I am here to inspire and help educate people about veganism and am not in the business of shutting down all my relationships with people who have not made the changes that I have.
And about that celebratory post ceremony dinner in a local bar-we don’t regret the simplicity one bit. At the time, organizing a party with our friends and family all around the globe just wasn’t on our agenda, as wonderful as it did sound. Mike and I talk often (especially around this time of year) about how excited we are to have that blowout anniversary party with friends and family one day, somewhere on Earth. I’m already dreaming and scheming about the menu.
And… this breakfast was pretty delicious but I’ll happily admit that my husband definitely makes better vegan french toast than I do.
Preparation for this dish led to the thoughts that led to this blog post. But they’ve been simmering for awhile.
Crispy, creamy toast (soaked in Califia Farms creamer), pan fried and served with Aquafaba whipped cream, maple syrup and Upton Naturals Bacon Seitan.
See here for more!
I sent this post to my husband to get his feedback on whether it was too long (or even defensive in tone) and his practical and helpful response was:
“You might want to add a section on how you slowly introduced vegan cooking and tips for family members to approach the conversation.”
I love this idea and am surprised I haven’t dedicated a blog post to just some basics yet. So coming soon, some vegan cooking and tips for beginning the conversation! In our house, we are still having many of these conversations so this is pretty fresh material for me. My husband may not be interested in sitting down to discuss a lot of the ethical aspects surrounding animal rights issues and veganism but he has very quickly adapted to using a lot of plant based ingredients in the kitchen so I will use observations from our house as well.