Dear free thinkers,
How are you all feeling this week? I am writing to you now–after a week of a “cool-down”–because I wanted to tell you about a recent confrontation that, in its aftermath, left me dumbfounded as to what had just occurred. So much so in fact, that I reached out to a former colleague to not only commiserate, but to share my tale, as I knew that she too has been put in the same, uncomfortable and unnecessary position as I. After realizing the umbrage I took at this unpleasant encounter, I knew I needed to write about it in a more public manner. I understand that what I’m about to describe is not an isolated occurrence, and its meaning weighs much more heavily in my mind with respect to human rights than I think was ever intended.
A little background. I attend catered events, and being someone who does not eat within the boundaries of the typical diet, oftentimes it behooves me to speak up about what my dietary “restrictions”–as they are often referred to by many–are. Otherwise, I’ll be politely drinking 6 cups of water and making percussive noises with my utensil set all throughout the dining event, just to distract myself from the hunger pangs. Knowing my grub circumstance, once a formal invitation is sent out, I typically send a notification to the necessary party, informing them of my food needs. However, this time a chance was not given.
I was approached directly. This dialogue, if it can even be called that, quickly took a turn for the worst. Upon approach, a feeling of guilt was implied by the turn of grammatical phrase from this person and soon I was compared to another individual who, by her own demure nature, did not stand up for herself when approached, but merely avoided confrontation by yielding to the antagonist. Soon I felt myself being verbally sabotaged with nowhere to turn but my own–what I hope was graceful– verbal sortie.
Yes, I follow a plant-based diet. I am a person who eats, and its’ selective, yes, but it’s my choice, and I make this choice with love and care.
person planning event: “Is this a medical choice or just a personal choice?”
me: “It’s a personal choice (inside my head, “as if it even matters!!!”), I’ve been vegan for years and it’s important to me.”
I won’t say more about the actual remarks of the circumstance as that defiles the meaning of this post.
When being asked about why I have chosen to eat a certain way, which is, in essence, asking me why I have chosen to live my life a certain way, I endeavor to have an open heart and mind. In all honestly, it’s often strange to me that dietary choice, if you’re fortunate enough for it to be a choice, is not considered with more brevity in defining your lifestyle. Of course in today’s world, the idea of foodies and following food-trends is socially acceptable, which has engendered a more accepting community to the many dietary limitations out there, but I don’t think this foodie world has given much reverence to those on the fringe. In an ideal world, people wouldn’t reproach at the very thought of my decisions in regards to comestibles, but would converse with humility and acceptance. Instead, acerbic rhetoric that was aligned to make me feel nothing but disrespected and discouraged about my choices was hurled in my direction. I would like to note, that I don’t think this was entirely the intention of this individual, just the unfortunate outcome. It is often the case that as humans, we react in defense of our own insecurities or ignorance, for this, I cannot fault anyone, as I’m sure I too have been guilty of such an affront at some point in my life.
Additionally, and as eloquently pointed out by my former colleague, would I have been approached in the same accusatory and dissatisfied manner were I a man? I think not. A male counterpart, I’m certain, would have been confronted with a much calmer and appeasing tone, or not at all. Not to dwell in gender, but I find this to be incredibly disconcerting. HeForShe!
Food choices don’t have to be approached with a confrontational tone and our reactions shouldn’t be that of a defensive nature, either. And this is why I write to you today. It’s not to rant about something you may find trivial; something like food choice. I write to implore you to take a look at how you’re approaching others in your day-to-day. I entreaty you to take a moment to STOP and ask yourself why you’re approaching a circumstance a certain way. Be mindful.
Here are some ways you can feel more prepared when you’re sitting around the table with family and friends this coming holiday season.
I’m sure there are some of you out there who think, “GET OVER IT”, and you don’t want to tread lightly for others. When you’re feeling this way, think of any situation in life where you, as a functioning member of society, have been taught to have manners, integrity, and respect for other people’s choices. Food choices are no different, and they are a human right that’s being denigrated, not uplifted, even with the foodie movement. Help be a part of the acceptance and change!
Joining together in conversation about food and our choices is crucial, but remember to be tactful and considerate. The idea of reaching harmony can come to us cloaked, and that cloak may be in the form of a meal with someone you know or love or both. Be tender if you can. And remember…bite responsibly!
p.s. My catch phrase lately, “I choose my choice!” #ichoosemychoice
Kitchen Letters from the past.