I’m Still Vegan – the Ultimate Test
This video and blog post are partly a reflection on my recent visit to the US to visit my grandparents, and partly a response to Krist & Yu’s recent video, “I’m not vegan”.
In the video, YouTuber Krist talks about how she’s no longer vegan. She appeals to Korean culture, and says that her grandmother doesn’t understand what veganism is, and that Korean’s show their love for each other with food.
I really do understand what Krist is talking about. I was a “cheegan” back in University for several years. I didn’t eat animal products unless I was with family, which was just a few times a year. At the time, I genuinely thought my grandparents wouldn’t be able to understand what veganism was. I adore both my mom’s parents, and I didn’t want to inconvenience them in any way. So, I sacrificed my principles when I was around them to fit in better.
I never stopped believing that veganism was the most moral way to live, but I eventually bought into the idea that I’d worry about cruelty to animals once human suffering was ended.
Krist talks about the social anxiety of being vegan, and how it made her feel like an outsider.
She’s right that it’s not easy. It is hard. Especially at the beginning. But I think she majorly underestimates her family.
My trip to the US
Last week, I flew to the US to visit my grandparents and to be with my grandfather before he died. When I went, I have to admit I was more than a little concerned about how my family would feel about my being vegan. I was afraid my grandmother wouldn’t understand, and that it might upset her. But I also knew that this time, I wasn’t going to eat animal products, and I resolved that I would find a way to work around it.
When I arrived, we went to visit my grandfather and had dinner the first night at a Thai restaurant. It was great. I had a vegan curry with tofu. The waitress was extremely kind when I asked about oyster/fish sauce, and my mom was grateful I asked, because she’s actually allergic to bivalves, and was relieved to know that it wasn’t included in any of the curries.
That night, we went to the local Safeway and bought some groceries for the next few days. I picked up some cool products that aren’t available in Canada (like Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge Dairy-Free ice cream, which was AMAZING).
The next day, I went for a morning run, and stopped at a local coffeeshop that served soy milk, and had a cup of tea while I took advantage of the wifi.
Back at my grandparents’ home, I reassured my grandmother that I was elated to have the chance to eat peanut butter toast for breakfast (at home we buy peanut-free alternatives, but I love peanut butter and was thrilled my grandmother had some in the house). She laughed and said I was a very easy house guest (which I think was her way of letting me know that she understood my being vegan and was cool with it).
We spent most of the day with my grandfather. Late in the afternoon we had lunch at Village Pizza in Anacortes. It was fantastic – they had a vegetarian pizza on the menu, and I just asked for no cheese, to which the waiter didn’t bat an eye. My grandmother, aunt, uncle, mom and I enjoyed our meal and my mom was curious about how pizza was without cheese.
The next morning, after my run through the lovely Anacortes countryside, grandma and I made breakfast. I prepared some toast with peanut butter, and had some coffee with soy milk my mom had brought.
That was a hard day at the rest home. My grandfather passed away in the afternoon, and we spent time comforting each other.
When we got home later that night, I volunteered to cook dinner. Grandma was understandably exhausted, and happy to have someone else cooking. We’d taken home our leftovers from the Thai restaurant, and had lots of fresh vegetables to use. I made rice, cooked up the veggies, and then heated our leftovers up separately. I even added cashews to my dinner, since I had eaten all the tofu at the restaurant.
My grandmother loved the meal, and I could tell it made her feel loved to be able to relax for a minute and have someone else prepare it. She could have cared less whether or not I was eating animal products. In fact, she asked a lot of questions about veganism. I think it was a relief for her to talk about something besides what happened at the hospital that day. She asked if she could help me prepare for my upcoming radio interview by asking questions about veganism, and I happily said yes!
For dessert, I ate the Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge ice cream, and it was so good. We watched a documentary about animal intelligence, and both my mother and grandmother had a lot to say about how smart animals are. We also talked about my grandfather’s lifelong kindness to animals (he was rather selective – garden moles were not included in his circle of compassion- but he definitely cared a lot about dogs, and was disgusted by animal cruelty). It was really neat.
I had to fly home Friday, but we at least had time to enjoy breakfast together before we left. My grandmother asked if I could eat eggs, and I responded that I could, but I don’t, because vegans don’t eat eggs either. She understood, and said as long as I didn’t mind eating peanut butter, it was fine with her! We laughed and talked a little bit about the latest health recommendations (grandma studied nutrition in the 1940s, when cholesterol was just becoming an issue. She’s always been careful about limiting her egg consumption, and she acknowledged it was a concern how many eggs people eat today).
As I said goodbye, she commented again on how I was an easy guest, I think to reassure me that she didn’t find my veganism inconvenient.
I’m Still Vegan
If my 87 year old grandmother can understand and accept my veganism, the age of relatives is not a good excuse for cheating on your veganism. I think it does older people a huge disservice to assume that they are incapable of understanding ethical decisions. I even explained to my grandmother that although veganism is a healthy lifestyle, my reasons for being vegan are primarily ethical.
My grandmother has always been extremely committed to living what today would be considered a “zero waste” lifestyle. She’s a great example in so many ways, not least of which is her gracious tolerance and loving acceptance. So yes, I’m still vegan. And no, my family would never be an excuse for abandoning veganism.