Embracing Veganism for the Holidays
At one of this year’s Christmas parties, I managed to wear my ugly Christmas sweater for about 5 minutes as I walked from the venue to my car, long after my regular bedtime - yet another reminder that some of our seasonal traditions at this time of the year are woefully discordant. While I watch our northern hemisphere friends set up their holiday decorations and dust off their coats wistfully, I still feel defensive when someone insinuates that we don’t have ‘real’ holidays here. I will happily trade a mulled wine for an iced tea any day and can’t wait to enjoy some sunshine with my whānau and friends.
Like many others, my family has chosen to do a barbecue. Meat will be provided but BYO is optional for omnivores and essential for the vegans. There is often a fear of getting it wrong - it can be tough to add another stressor in the lead up to the holidays and no one wants to see a guest go without. This fear is valid, as most vegans themselves have been caught out by some sneaky egg hidden amongst a long list of ingredients on packaged meat substitutes. If you are in charge of hosting this year, and wondering where to start, check out this blog post about how to be an inclusive host this festive season.
I can’t remember my first few Christmases after going vegan, maybe I intentionally blocked them out. I am lucky to have a big family, who celebrate every occasion with a table full of food, a cherished time where we all come together. It felt scary to potentially be abandoning these traditions which span generations. I was terribly scared of being the odd one out. But as the years have passed, being vegan has gained huge visibility, and thus a whole lot more understanding.
While I’ve got my daily meals down, coming up with things to take to a potluck (or in this case a barbecue) can still feel daunting after all these years. I don’t like mushrooms, which is like a curse for a vegan – every festive meal seems to be centred on those versatile little crowd-pleasers. This year I’ve decided I am going down the tofu route instead. Many of your favourite meat marinades can be used to elevate your tofu game, (teriyaki will always be my preferred option.) If you’re stumped for ideas, Nadia Lim has some incredible summer barbecue marinades for you to impress even the most veggie hesitant.
If tofu isn’t for you (it wasn’t for me for a long time), you could also do something similar with vegetables like eggplant or courgette. These can be sliced into steak-like pieces and thrown on top of a salad, or cut up into bite-sized cubes for skewers. One of the benefits of a summer holiday season is all the incredible seasonal vegetables, like asparagus and capsicum, as well as year-rounders like broccoli which grill nicely with a dash of oil and a sprinkle of virtually any classic seasoning.
Whether you are the host or a guest bringing a plate, the key is confidence. Try practising your dish before the big day, so you can experiment with the recipe and even the timing – just like any other meal, some dishes need time to sit, while others are served better fresh. While this time of the year often sees us returning to the tried and true, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Most importantly, try to remember that your best effort (perfect or not) is the easiest way to show your loved ones that you care.
Chanelle is a vegan, amateur athlete, social advocate, environmental enthusiast and blogger at mynameischanelle.com.