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12th December 2017

Going home for a vegan Christmas

Adapting to family life at Christmas is becoming easier, with supermarkets adapting to growing amounts of vegetarians and vegans

The christmas holidays are often rife with excitement, but for many, the promise of free, home-cooked meals, a warm, clean house, and some down-time is almost too much to bare.

After nearly four months of working — whether that be studying, for real life money, or both — iron levels become low, the fridge empties, and the zeal with which you and your housemates cooked food together in an evening, before tidying up and snuggling down to a film, has withered to the point of: “what you having?”…“beans.” “What you having?”…“Beans.”

Returning home is rarely plain sailing, however, and it can be difficult to have to adjust to family life quickly. For some, this will be barely noticeable. For others, this might involve all sitting down for dinner at the same time and bickering with siblings.

Unless you’re part of a free-spirited bohemian family set-up, one has to concede small living habits (eating out of the pot you cooked in) for the sanity of the rest of the parents who live under the same roof. Yet, there are parts of one’s lifestyle that are slightly more difficult to give up, and dietary choices, those not made for health reasons, can often be something to cause a stir in the convivial homely make-up.

This is more likely than ever in 2017, when vegetarianism and veganism are experiencing newfound popularity. Reports from the Vegan Society show that in the last ten years, the number of Britons who consider themselves vegan rose from 150,000 to 542,000, and that between 2012 and 2016, there was a 185 per cent rise in the number of vegan products launched in the UK. While the numbers are still relatively small, things are moving in the right direction if we want to reduce the effects of climate change. This isn’t a conversion piece, however, and so I shall leave it there.

Managing the reactions to a drastic change in diet upon arriving home can sometimes be difficult, not least because something like veganism is more complex than simply cutting out animal products.

Reactions are often likely to include: confusion, potentially initial refusal, “You can cook your own food, then”, moving to a more understanding, “I’ll buy you some vegan mozzarella”. It’s difficult to know how it will go. This is even more pertinent over christmas too, where families come together to celebrate (themselves nowadays), indulging in a traditional “carnist” feast.

If my family is anything to go by, the holiday is one almost regimented with tradition: from the decoration of the tree (as a family), to going to midnight mass (as a family), as well as sending christmas wish-lists up the chimney (as a family, an archaic one at that), and sitting down to a christmas dinner and pulling crackers (as a family), people get upset if things deviate from the usual fun (plan).

Therefore, if someone dropping a favourite bauble upsets quaint convention, then the announcement that one family member no longer wanted to eat meat, milk, cheese, and eggs, is akin to the news of a favourite pet going missing on christmas day because all it wanted was some time on its own…

But alas, have no fear! The recent news that “Britain’s supermarkets roll out their biggest range of festive vegan and vegetarian food to date.” should sooth worrisome vegan returnees, who can now retort “Tofu turkey from Tesco”, or “Turmeric spiced cauliflower wellington” to the initial, “what the **** am I going to cook you?”

As the supermarkets cotton on to the growing buying trend, with the Vegan Society reporting that more than half of UK adults are now embracing “vegan buying behaviour”, and a growing media interest in Vegan cooking — Meera Sodha’s recipes are a shining example of this — the destruction of family dynamics at christmas is now less likely to be caused by dietary change.

So rest easy on your tasty laurels if you’re mainly eating plants these days, things don’t have to change.

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