Holidays are tricky. Family is one of the biggest influences when it comes to food... especially parents who were raised in a generation of very different food ideologies. When I became a vegetarian at the age of seven, I experienced the fear that grips well-meaning adults about diet. The ever familiar, "Where will you get your protein?" was a common question, as was the statement from more distant relatives of, "It is only a phase." I was considered picky, although I would eat just about anything that wasn't meat. While there was a great concern about my protein (which resulted in lots of cheese, beans and tofu), there ought to have been more focus on me eating enough vegetables instead of dairy-heavy carbs. The point is that my family had genuine concern for my well-being. If I had been older or more self-responsible I may have been better at directing this concern.
Now that I have been eating raw foods these past few months, holiday gatherings are reminiscent of what it was to be a vegetarian child in the eighties. So I came up with a few survival tips, which should be helpful for any diet which may be different from the rest of your family.
1. Educate. We live in an amazing information era. In the eighties I wouldn't have been able to address someone's concerns of my diet by instantly pulling up articles on the health benefits of avoiding factory farmed meat on my smart phone, but now that's a synch! Make sure you are discussing these topics non-emotionally, and are not attacking someone else's diet. Remember, the best way to lead is by example. If someone notices you are healthier as you are explaining your diet, it may make it easier. Also, listen to your family members as well! Everyone has areas they can improve upon. Maybe if Aunt Gladys read an article about how important B-12 is, it is worth monitoring your intake too. Just make sure you do your research!
2. Prepare. Do NOT expect to be catered to. Just because veganism has blown up in your metropolis does not mean everyone on the country farm is cooking that way too... especially if you have gone raw! Make enough food for your own complete meal, or at least bring a ton of snacks. Even if Uncle Joe has assured you there will be a huge salad you can eat, you might get there to find out it is covered in bacon or ranch dressing. Make sure you bring enough to share too. Just because you have a different diet doesn't mean other people won't want to try what you are having!
3. Communicate. If you want to avoid hurt feelings let your family know right away that it isn't THEM, it's YOU. Your decision, your diet. Explain what your diet means and why you are eating that way. Reassure them that it is not a critique of their cooking, but a lifestyle change you have adopted for yourself. Your family might even surprise you... nowadays raw vegan items are popping up at Target and Safeway. Instead of being "that weird diet", your family might see some kale chips or raw truffles and buy them up thinking of you!
4. Let go. Just a tiny bit. Okay, obviously you need to know your limits, but you cousin figured out how to make nut cheese, but the nuts weren't truly raw? Eat it. Your mother-in-law made a salad but the lettuce wasn't organic? Eat it. Your dad cooks a large steak... no, I am just kidding. You don't have to do that obviously, but be just a little flexible. The point of your diet is to be healthier and create a better environment. Don't you think it is worth the mental health of your family and the saneness of your home environment just to let the little stuff go?
5. Love. Love your family, despite your differences. Love the earth that blessed you with a gorgeous bounty of fruits and vegetables. Cook with this love, not the stress of making things perfect, just making things good and wholesome.
Oh, and as a back up plan, bring enzymes.