Posted on January 29 2020
Advice on how to best start changing the way you enjoy a family meal.
The panic sets in around 7:07. You have arrived (begrudgingly) at the family dinner to have already been asked ‘why you did not answer Mum’s four calls that week’ and ‘whether you heard how Henry did at his grade two percussion recital.’ You settle down at the table as the prepared meal comes travelling in from behind you. Your family can all see it before you, their eyes lit up by its moist glaze, yet one-by-one their faces turn to the glumness of a medieval painting, slowly staring at you in a horror-film like pity. Welcome to Sunday Night’s Pot-Roast Pity. You pick at the vegetables that have not touched the meat and reiterate, “this will be plenty, I had a large lunch!”. You reach for the salt and pepper, only to return to your plate and see your grandmother placing a large slither of beef and gravy onto your plate. “I’m just looking out for your health, sweetheart.”
She is likely caught up in the conservative nutritional-myth of ‘meat-and-three-veg’. She might have worked for decades to provide that kind of sustenance for her family, or perhaps that’s what she credits her strong bones and long life too. She’s passing down the knowledge of her generation, trying to instil that healthy lifestyle Sam Neil and that dancing ape advertised; red meat, 3-4 times a week.
Much like anything unfamiliar, a vegan diet comes with a lot of unlearning. She’s worried about your protein intake, how much iron you are absorbing, having a full belly and being fit enough to survive the harsh possibilities of the world. The environmental causes may be further from her mind than yours, she may not be around for the biggest years of climate change and thus it is a less urgent priority for her. She needs be slowly and consistently reassured that you are capable of looking after yourself, you are not the only one, and that you are doing this for a cause much bigger than yourself.
How to deal with your well-meaning grandma who puts the meat pot roast on your Sunday dinner plate
The more varied your meal is from the pot-roast, the more you stand out. You may need to eat a couple of weeks or months worth of roast dinners before convincing her otherwise. This is where the ingenious invention of meat analogues (meat alternatives or faux meats) becomes vital. While your family serve up a slow-cooked .. Starting with the store-bought fake meats that mimic the very texture and aesthetic of its alive counterpart is a great way to advocate for the protein, iron and nutrients you are still managing to get in your meal. There are an array of recipes that use TVP (textured vegetable protein made out of soy flour), Seitan (a glutenous substitute), mushrooms or tofu combined with vegetables to make a perfect roast replica. As a vegan, this may not be your most preferred meal, the meat substitutes are more of a transitional food or food for meat-lovers hoping to consume less of it, as vegans tend to get used to a life without meaty textures and thus it can be a little confronting to work with that chewy consistency again. Put it in the middle of the table and invite everyone to try it. Hold it in your hand and show its substance, over-exaggerate how full you are, how delicious it was, how much nutrients you were able to pack into each bite. Cut a slither and put it on your grandma’s plate. “I’m just looking out for your health, Nana.”
The meal should always be shareable. If the meat is cooked separately, you can help with the vegetables, make sure the potatoes are cooked in oil not butter and spice up the carrots, broccoli or whatever else is on the table that evening with some extra spices and care; everyone will be talking about the vegetables above anything else.
After everyone has become used to this change, the world becomes your (vegan) oyster; (I have never come across a faux oyster, probably because that very texture is my worst vegan nightmare). While it is a big jump from beef to Seitan (not to be confused or made synonymous by meat-eaters with ‘Satan’), it is easier to prove the nutritional worth of mushrooms, tofu and beans once they trust your knowledge more, and have been made part of the experience.
If her way of loving is through her food, the next thing to do is host Sunday night dinner at your house. Make it a vegan extravaganza but let the focus rest on your humble offering of wanting to bring your family together the same way she has done for so many years.
Also, it never hurts to show off muscles at any opportune time.
SUBSTITUTE OF THE WEEK: ‘Gravy made with butter and leftover fat’ out for ‘equally delicious mushroom based vegan gravy for everyone to enjoy’.
ITEM OF THE WEEK: Cher Tote (Mini) Signet.
When you only need the mini size tote because you no longer need to stuff your bag with protein bars when the family meal has no vegan options. Show this to your grandma to demonstrate how beautiful and well-made accessories can be without leather, either!