Whether you’re struggling to understand your partner’s bacon sandwich habit or finding yourself cooking four different meals every night, Tiffany Francis has the answers for living in peace with your not-quite-vegan loved ones.
You’ve read the books, watched the documentaries and committed yourself to a joyful, plant-based future. But what happens when your loved ones don’t share the same views? Try these simple hacks to nourish a flexitarian family without giving up on your principles…
Claim a space
Create some boundaries by finding a shelf or cupboard for all your vegan goodies. Clear a space and fill it with your favourite kale crisps, coconut yoghurt and dark chocolate slabs. Your treats will, theoretically, be safe from prying eyes, but with any luck the family will prefer your snacks to the old favourites and you can quietly change what you stock. It’s also a great place to stash freshly baked cakes and biscuits!
Nobody wants to cook two different meals every evening, so try suggesting a compromise of two or three vegan nights a week. It’s a great way to ease the family into vegan cuisine without fear of change, and in the end they’ll probably love what appears in front of them. Add a vegan garlic bread or bowl of chips if they need something familiar and reassuringly stodgy.
Going vegan is the fastest way to improve your cooking skills. There’s a whole range of new ingredients to experiment with and different ways to use them, so get the family in a competitive mood and create a cookery challenge. Channel your inner Ready, Steady, Cook! and offer up a handful of ingredients for your loved ones to get creative with. See who can make the most delicious meal and encourage everyone to experience the joy of plant-based eating.
The half-way house
Sometimes even your best efforts won’t convince others, so if you can’t completely remove animal products from the household diet, you could try the vegetarian ‘half-way house’. We all know dairy and eggs come with a range of ethical and health issues, but if it’s a choice between reducing meat or not reducing anything at all, a little goes a long way. Most vegans start out as vegetarians, so this could be the best way to start opening minds and fuelling ideas.
Fill them up
Can’t fool the kids with meat and dairy alternatives? Try baking a lentil shepherd’s pie, creamy mashed potato, macaroni with nutritional yeast, parsnip hotpots and delicious, crumbly pies filled with their favourite vegetables. Gone are the days when veganism meant a feeble salad – embrace the power of pulses to give them all the nutrients they need, and they won’t have room to think about meat.
Make time to get out into the real world with your family. It can be difficult to talk about the importance of veganism within our own four walls, but a walk in the sunshine, listening to birdsong and saying hello to grazing livestock can remind us of the good intentions behind our actions. Sometimes it takes meeting domesticated animals for others to recognise their intelligence and beauty, and by spending time in nature we can remind each other how beautiful the world can be with a little more kindness, compassion and ecological thinking.
Sneak it in
It’s easy for omnivores to enjoy a meal these days without even noticing it’s vegan. Try making a plant-based dish without announcing it – and see if they notice. Meat alternatives are now so delicious they work wonders in curries, stews, fajitas and pasta, but often a vegetable dish is so tasty, nobody misses the meat anyway. Swap in veggie sausages, almond-based ice cream, oat custard and coconut mozzarella – they’re so good, nobody will notice the difference!
While we may find it easy to ditch meat, dairy and eggs, for others it’s a big step and even the smallest efforts should be recognised. For every butternut squash they chop, every drop of oat milk and sprinkle of nutritional yeast, that is one step towards making the world a better place. Save your energy for the bigger issues and don’t hold others to your own standards. It’s easy to be annoyed by a loved one devouring that Sunday hangover bacon sandwich, but try to remember all the effort they put in and recognise they are trying their best.
Once you go vegan, it’s hard to see how you didn’t do it years ago – and why others don’t do the same. But the best way to make an impact on the world is to inspire others into a better way of living, rather than pressuring or judging those who don’t share your views. Be genuine with your beliefs and talk freely about how veganism makes you feel, but respect other people’s opinions. Engage in conversation, answer any questions and give them time to understand your way of life, but they must be allowed to make up their own mind. They say ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ – you’ll be surprised how much your actions can inspire change.
Tiffany Francis is an author and artist. Her first book, Food You Can Forage, was published in 2018 by Bloomsbury. She also writes and illustrates her own vegan zine called Rabbit Food. Find out more at tiffanyfrancis.com.