We are so excited to introduce a new series here at World of Vegan—it’s called “Dear Toube!” Like the age-old advice column Dear Abby, this provides an opportunity for you to ask vegan questions and receive advice about any difficult situations you encounter. Check out the first one below!
I am raising proud, compassionate vegan children. My young daughter was recently invited to a sleepover party where they would be serving “pizza and ice cream.” In an effort to be “easy” guests, I had my daughter bring her own vegan pizza and ice cream. When I picked her up the next morning, the vegan food was still packed up, ready to come back to our house. Because she’s young, my daughter didn’t quite have the words to explain to her friend’s mom why she would prefer her own food, so she simply didn’t eat. When I asked the party’s hostess about it she replied, “I am sorry, but we had plenty of food for everyone and we didn’t need extra.” Our daughters are very good friends and I don’t want to make the relationship uncomfortable. What can I say to educate this other parent?
Frustrated and Hungry
Dear Frustrated and Hungry,
Oh my goodness! Could you imagine if your daughter was a child with a dairy allergy and her food requests were ignored? This is one of the things that I truly wish to educate people about. Veganism isn’t a diet or a fad, and it isn’t an allergy. I mean, how many times have we mentioned to restaurant servers that we are vegan only to be told all about the paleo, organic and gluten-free options? Consuming animal products isn’t something that may necessarily hurt us physically (speaking in terms of one meal, because of course we know that doing so long-term is absolutely detrimental to our health), but it hurts our souls. Just like I hope a child with a food allergy wouldn’t be subjected to having their bodies hurt by ignoring a special food request (or going hungry!), I certainly hope a child’s compassionate soul wouldn’t be hurt, either.
I’m not sure if the hostess’ actions were intentionally dismissive or simply those of someone who was overwhelmed and she overlooked your request by accident. Hey, if I had a houseful of kids I doubt I’d notice if Lenny Kravitz was sitting at my kitchen table. Okay, yes… I would totally notice him but you get my point. To be honest, either way it doesn’t affect my response in terms of my approach. So in the spirit of compassion (what we are all here for, right?), let’s assume she was overwhelmed and not being indifferent. If nothing else, assuming so will soften how you come across and in turn, soften your audience.
One thing that I have found to be very effective in disarming people, whether it’s to discuss these kinds of differences or to schmooze/fundraise for my local shelter, is bringing them fantastic vegan food. Food advocacy is a great way to bring people together and find common ground. I’m pretty sure Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate chip banana cake could help foster peace all over the world. Make a date with the party’s hostess to swing by with an irresistible treat like that to thank her for being brave and taking on a sleepover to begin with, and to let her know you truly appreciate her daughter’s friendship in your child’s life. To not put her on the defensive, perhaps open with “I’m sorry if there was confusion by my daughter showing up with her own pizza and ice cream. I’d like to explain why it’s important to us.” No need to break out your phone loaded with graphic undercover investigation footage… simply explain that your family believes that animals are here with us and not for us and that they deserve to enjoy life like we do. Explain to her that what your family chooses to eat matters because you don’t want to hurt anyone and I bet later over more of that chocolate chip banana cake your new friend will wonder, “But wait… why do we?”
Thank you for raising compassionate children and sharing your experience here! If you are so inclined, please follow up and let me know how the conversation goes. I’d love to hear if she is receptive to the information you share and maybe even curious to learn more. We can hope, right?
Do you have vegan-related questions for Toube? Submit your “Dear Toube” questions here or below. Please note in your message whether you would like us to use your name or if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.