I became vegetarian at age 12, right after my family spent the summer in the south of France. That trip, I remember my family ate lots of dead animals that were often served in forms that did not try to hide what these animals had looked like while alive: fish and lobsters were served with their eyes bulging out of their poor steamed heads, cooked frogs were served in frog shape, etc. In the United States (and elsewhere) our food culture tends to disassociate meat consumed from its living animal origin. Carol J. Adams, one of my personal heroines and author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, points out in SPOM that our culture has specific language that renders dead animals “absent referents,” and thus keeps us from acknowledging the life and creature who suffered before reaching the dinner table. This defense mechanism keeps people from feeling what I felt in France–uncomfortable with eating animals after realizing the connection between what was on my plate and the cruelty it endured to arrive there.
After one particularly creature-filled meal eaten while traveling in the Loire Valley, my brother took me aside and told me why he thought I should become a vegetarian like him. My brother became vegetarian at age 11. When I was 12, he helped me realize that in order to live in accordance with my beliefs, I needed to be vegetarian (Note: later, I realized that for the reasons I became vegetarian, it was hypocritical for me not to be vegan. I wrote a post about this, if you want to read it here.) My brother became vegan around the same time I did, and now our parents largely eat vegan, too. He and I have both been vegan for more than six years, and our parents eat almost 100% vegan when we, the spawn, are visiting them, which I think is just about the most respectful, kind thing a family can do to support their vegan offspring (and animals, and the planet!)
This weekend, my brother hosted an engagement party dinner for two of his lovely women friends who just proposed to each other a little over a week ago. Eight of us vegans and vegetarians enjoyed an entirely vegan, delicious home-cooked meal. I met a vegan fashion blogger who was as worldly and interesting as she was kind, and shared great conversation and laughs with some old friends. While our gay friends can’t yet get married in California at the time, they have been together for more than three years and are committed to being engaged in the hopes that one day the government will honor their union and right to equality. In the meantime, they will be honored by the friends and family who love them.
It felt fitting, this vegan lesbian engagement party. On this blog, I attempt to illuminate some of the connections between human- and non-human animal rights and welfare, and so it made perfect sense that a night of celebrating our hope for equality for our friends naturally involved compassionate cuisine. As I sipped kombucha out of a champagne flute, and later ate the delicious braised kale-beet salad, white bean mash, pan-seared citrus marinated tofu strips and Kind Kreme vegan ice cream that my brother so lovingly prepared for us, I felt deep gratitude for the family and friends and compassion this meal represented.
Whether our vegan family is blood-related or otherwise, the connections we create and sustain with those around us have the potential to elevate our activism, and inspire us to live truthfully and earnestly. I am so proud of my extended vegan family. Whether individuals are totally vegan or not, it helps animals and the environment to seriously reduce animal product consumption. I am totally vegan (Note: I am 100% vegan to the best of my ability–I recognize that by driving cars I support animal products in the tires, etc. but I choose to not use animal products in anything I wear, consume, use or own to the best of my ability), but I also honor those in my life who are not fully vegan but support the vegan cause through eating mostly vegan and supporting the vegans in their lives.
May we all be blessed to be surrounded by folks who really understand and appreciate our mission and purpose to spread compassion for human- and non-human animals! I would love to hear about your family, vegan, blood-related or not, or whatever group supports you on your path in the comments.