To Tell or Not To Tell

One of the impetuses for my starting the OneGreenSmoothie movement was an experience a friend shared with me. On separate occasions, she had met two women who both happened to hail from the island where she was from. She was excited to welcome them to her town so she threw a big dinner for them, serving all the traditional foods from said island. She prepared and cooked for days, planned themed decorations, cleaned house–the whole shebang.

The night of the dinner, all of the families had a grand time, except for the glaringly awkward fact that the platters of skewered chicken were still full. When my friend asked her guests about it, they sheepishly admitted that they were vegetarian.

Oh man was my friend frustrated, dare I say, even angry?! Had she known, she would have never bought and labored over all that meat. She would have happily made other veggie dishes and/or asked them to bring their favorites.

To Tell or Not to Tell…that is a common question vegetarians ask themselves, and vegans even more so. Vegetarians are generally more accepted in our society, and it’s usually pretty easy to make a meal from side dishes.

However, vegans, and I’d imagine those with gluten issues, are faced with the dilemma of speaking up about their diets and potentially causing the host anxiety and extra work. No one wants to put anyone else out, and likewise, most people are super thoughtful and want to prepare something their guests will enjoy! So all this politeness can inadvertently create awkward situations.

Our Evolution–We have been on both sides of this dilemma. When Niklas and I were first married and living in Stockholm, I was vegetarian. Already feeling like an outsider being American, I usually asked Niklas to please not mention my vegetarianism to hosts we didn’t feel comfortable “imposing” upon – like his work colleagues or perhaps new friends. But sometimes it was difficult trying to hide around the side dishes, especially on occasions when there were no sides without some ham or bacon mixed in. I remember Niklas’ sweet great-grandmother, whom I adored, chastising me for being rude. “You eat what someone puts in front of you,” she admonished. “That’s just good manners.” Ugh, how can one argue with that?!?

On the flip side, a few years ago, we had some friends in town who were dairy and gluten free. I had wanted to prepare something nice for them and anguished over it for weeks before they arrived. Granted, I am not a natural cook and would have probably stressed about it anyway, but, mainly, I was just used to “cooking” with flour and dairy–bread and cheese anyone?

Looking back on it now, I am thrilled our friends trusted us enough to share their dietary restrictions, and I was happy to accommodate them; we love these people after all, and their next visit will be a cinch to prepare for now that we have much more experience being dairy-free ourselves.

Where We Stand Today–Before starting OneGreenSmoothie, we opted not to tell people. It was one thing to say we’re trying to be the stigmatized V-word when all five of us are at ever so slightly different commitment levels, and then add the challenge that one of our children is allergic to the traditional vegan stables. It just seemed too complicated.

But with our OneGreenSmoothie project trying to highlight all the positive benefits of eating more plants, we are out in the open about our food choices. We do this with all our imperfections and the risks that entails. Perhaps, that’s why we aren’t invited over for dinner with friends as much as we were before. Maybe people fear we are judgmental of them for eating meat, which is not the case. But that’s OK, I get it.

Looping Back–Hearing about my friend’s frustrating experience, I thought we needed a forum where we all could feel comfortable discussing our life choices without the fear of being judged for them, one way or the other. That’s one of the reasons we started our OneGreenSmoothie project.

Our strategy now is to always offer to bring something plant-based to contribute to the meal or eat before we go so we can spend our time enjoying the company! Relationships are what it’s about in the end anywayJ!

So the question is…

Do you tell or not tell? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks, as always, for all the support and encouragement so many of you have sent our way!

Susan

 

 

9 thoughts on “To Tell or Not To Tell

  1. It is indeed a dilema faced by many who have different life choices than what is considered to be the norm. I have experienced this very often and can relate to your “problem”. I’ve had people tell me upon learning of my eating habits that they would never invite me to a gathering, that accommodating my eating habits are an impossible task.
    What I have learned from these experiences is to avoid giving myself labels. People take differences a lot easier if it is given to them in a language they can understand.
    One thing is for sure, by being vocal of my lifestyle choices my dinner invitations have decreased, but I don’t mind hosting;)

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    • Love that, Armenia. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think we also stopped hosting as much both because our house was on the market, but also, we hadn’t developed our go to vegan entertaining dishes yet. I’ll make an effort to host more, too! I love the recipes you share on your blog!

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  2. My husband’s cousin from Ireland and her boyfriend recently dropped by for lunch with little notice. Only when I inquired, did I find out that they were gluten-free pescatarians that prefered goat-milk products over cows milk. A little daunting given the short notice and the fact I had only met the cousin once before, but Trader Joes saved the day! Went there first thing in the morning and bought pre-cooked lentils and bruchetta to throw together a lentil salad people have been raving about (it was awesome!), smoked salmon, a couple of goat cheeses, hummus, gluten-free crackers and and gluten-free, brown rice/quinoa fusilli to make a pasta salad. Even though they were visiting for the chat, they thoroughly enjoyed the meal – and it was so easy 🙂

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  3. Yes – I was definitely glad I asked! Even though they would have made the best of it with whatever was served, I felt so much better knowing they enjoyed the meal as well as the chat. And now I have a new go-to vegetarian meal that even non-vegetarians love 🙂

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