Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Celebration Activism

Celebrations mark the moments in our lives that are important to us and they're usually spent with family, friends, and food. Why not throw one more element to the list with a little AR.

I'm not suggesting you take the podium to give a speech on the horrors of factory farming after the champagne toast has been made. In fact, please don't. Celebrations should be fun and happy, and though we all know about the grisly reality, your pals are going to think you're a drag all the time, and veganism is not like that.

In fact, I love events where I can show off that, in addition to a lovely sense of humor and charming banter, I make the best treats in town. Yet the party-goers never know that beneath those treats lurks a message of peace, love, and respect for all animals.

So short of passing around popcorn and tissues during a screening of Earthlings, how do promote an AR message at a gathering?

Focus the fun and the food, not the politics.

I'm not a big party-thrower, but I did have dinner with my parents recently to celebrate my birthday, and of course, I chose vegan-friendly restaurants to patronize. I knew everyone present would order all vegan, but if omnivores were in attendance, I would have chosen an all-vegan restaurant.

Before anyone even starts to wonder if that's me forcing my views on someone else, let me point out that it's no more so the case than if I, as the guest of honor, chose a Thai restaurant or a fast food joint. To celebrate the event, I would choose something that best reflected what I liked.

It's a great opportunity to expose people to new foods and challenge stereotypes, but if you have that one curmudgeon in your life who refuses to give vegan food any consideration, well then I encourage you to pull the My Special Day card. That person can suck it up for one meal.

Weddings, birthdays, baby showers, retirement parties - if you're inviting people to come eat in your honor, invite them to eat some stellar vegan food. Even better, invite them to make some stellar vegan food.

Hosting a vegan potluck is easy and much cheaper for the party-thrower. I'm the only vegan in my movie-night group, and yet all of our get-togethers have been all vegan. I hosted the first one and sent out an email that my home is a vegan one. I included links to party-appropriate vegan recipes, but told them to make what they wanted. They all ignored my links, but brought awesome vegan foods, and now, no matter who hosts, everyone just defaults to vegan cooking.

I'm blessed to have open-minded and adventurous friends, but remember that idea of cooking vegan foods is scary to some people. Provide ample resources without overwhelming. Choose simple recipes without ingredients that are probably unknown to them. Remind them that if in doubt, tortilla chips and salsa or a package of Oreos (in the US) is a great vegan contribution.

Besides, there are other vegan contributions people can make, if the food is too scary. Like food, gifts are often associated with celebrations, but maybe you have enough junk around your home, or maybe you don't trust people to get you something that you actually want. In that case, why not choose an animal organization and ask for donations in your name, or for an animal to be adopted in your name? In addition to the money helping animals directly, you'll be guiding someone to a website or organization that may teach them something new.

Now if you really want to teach someone something new, why not ask for a serious gift? Ask someone, or several people, to go vegan for your birthday month. Obviously, this suggestion is open to all sorts of tweaking. You might ask for one vegan meal a day, vegan until 6:00, or a totally vegan diet - do whatever you think they're most likely to stick with.

Also, you have to have done some groundwork on this one. You can't very well go to someone who abhors veganism and demand the change, but you can ask someone who is familiar with it and with how to eat. Pick someone who you've been priming for a bit and please support them as they do it. Check in with them, ask them how it's going, share meals and resources. Asking for this gift has the potential to be a great bonding experience in addition to the potential for creating a new vegan.

January 5th was my birthday, so I probably should have posted this then, but no use crying over spilled almond milk. Now I just need to decide to ask to go vegan.

If you're nothing like me, and love throwing a good do, there are plenty of good books to help:

Party Vegan

Vegan Table

Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.

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