Vegan campaigner Clea Grady, from Veganuary, offers her top tips for getting through this Christmas unscathed…
Ah Christmas! A time of joy, happiness, companionship and laughter. Or a time of arguments, tension and not being able to exit a room fast enough? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Christmas-hating Scrooge (it’s actually one of my favourite times of the year), but I am realistic and life isn’t a John Lewis advert. When something that sets you apart from the rest (like being vegan), especially around that ‘holy of holies’ (the dinner table), there’s potential for things to feel a little fraught…
That pre-Christmas worry is something that all vegans understand and sympathise with, so I’ve put together a few tips to get you through the big day, and hopefully make the lead-up to it less stressful as well. (And these come from someone who married into a family where a ‘turducken’ was previously on the menu – that’s a chicken, stuffed into a duck, stuffed into a turkey!)
IT’S JUST A DAY
Like a wedding day, or a birthday, or any other day in your life that gets built up into something ridiculously big, Christmas Day is just one, single day. When you look at it like that it seems easier to navigate. Despite the inevitable family politics, you can and will get through it. And with a little planning, you can enjoy it. Plus, I’ll be sharing a recipe at the end of this article for vegan eggnog, so at least you’ll have that!
Like a good Boy Scout, you need to tackle this Christmas thing head on. There can be no head-in-the-sand scenario when you’re vegan. Christmas Day is all about The Food (well, that and watching Die Hard, having wrapping paper fights, and a glass or two of something nice under the sparkly lights), so there is literally no getting away from it.
If you know what is going to happen on the day and how, you’ll feel a lot more in control and actually get some shut eye on Christmas Eve.
OFFER TO HOST
Bring everyone into your ‘zone of power’: offer to host the Christmas meal and you’ll have control over the menu. Treat your family to a vegan Christmas and they won’t need to worry about a thing. If you’re concerned about certain family members, play up the novelty factor. You may find that whoever is normally in charge of the cooking becomes a valuable ally – a year off! If you’re not fond of being in the kitchen, this option may send you into a panic of course!
POT LUCK STYLE
This has worked really well for my family over recent years, and we’re meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Divvy up the dishes between you, leaving no one person responsible for the entire thing, and it doesn’t matter who actually hosts. It’s great for preventing those panicky phone calls the night before, or embarrassment at the table when someone lets it slip that the roast potatoes have been cooked in duck fat. You can also introduce dishes that wouldn’t otherwise feature – great for showing people how diverse and tasty vegan food can be. Find ideas at Veganuary.com/recipes including one of mine for a vegan roast dinner with all the trimmings.
If tradition is the name of the game and the mention of a potluck goes down like a lead balloon, offer to be sous chef on the day, or at least assist in meal planning. Panic often ensues at the mention of the ‘V word’ due to a lack of knowledge, so offer to help and make it easy. Explain what being vegan is, what you can eat, and focus on the positive – most of the meal is vegan anyway!
Be the vegan you wish you’d met before you went vegan.
It’s tough to be surrounded by lots of meat, the smacking of lips and a level of gluttony seen at no other time of the year, but the truth is that you will only conform to the stereotype of the grumpy vegan if you are, in fact, being a grumpy vegan. You will get questions about what you do or don’t eat, so be prepared for this and have ready-made answers up your sleeve.
We have an FAQ section on our website to help. Veganuary.com/myths has answers to all the questions we’ve been asked, and you’ll feel more confident if you know you can respond to anything quickly and knowledgeably. Most people will take the lead from you, so if you keep things light-hearted and relaxed, it’s likely they will too. And don’t forget to keep everyone’s glasses nicely topped up!
Christmas Day is your day too, so enjoy it! Make your own traditions, have fun finding ways to veganise the usual Christmas fare to show your family that being vegan is normal and natural. I love planning my dishes and am ridiculously happy when everyone tries a bit. Last year I made dauphinoise potatoes using a cashew cream sauce and I’ll never forget how I felt when my meat-eating niece asked for seconds. Some of the best animal activism involves no words at all; good food speaks for itself.
VEGAN ‘EGG’ NOG RECIPE
- 470ml (19fl oz) cashew milk
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- ground nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste (usually a good couple of pinches)
- dark rum or bourbon (amount to suit your mood)
- Add the milk, maple syrup, nutmeg and cinnamon to a saucepan and heat.
- Taste when starting to bubble and add a little extra of the spices if desired. Stir in the alcohol just before serving.
- Pour into mugs and enjoy!
- Best served beside a roaring fire and in the company of a rescued greyhound or two. Serve cold if you prefer.