Food rudeness

I’m a diplomat and a people-pleaser, so it’s not in my nature to assert my opinions unsolicited or rock the boat in any way.

Yet I also have a slight know-it-all streak and I get enthusiastic about things I learn, so I have to keep myself in check when people just don’t want to hear it.

I read this xoJane column today about “food rudeness”: when people decline food that is politely offered to them and qualify it with “carbs are evil”/”that is so fattening”/”x causes cancer,” etc.

It made me reflect on my food manners now that I’m a veggie hippie.

Your dietary choices are personal and you’re navigating what’s right for you. However, I think what vegans tend to believe — making choices that they feel are good for their health as well as good for animals and the planet as a whole — is that their lifestyle is good for society, too. I mean, yeah, I think I’m doing my itty bitty part to curb greenhouse gas emissions and support vegan foods, but I also know that I’m not going to convert anyone by qualifying my choices out loud to everybody.

I often just say, “no, thank you” when non-vegan food is offered to me and rarely qualify it with an “I’m vegan” unless I feel it’s necessary (like fending off additional offers for non-vegan food). I just don’t want to make a big deal of it and I don’t want non-vegans to feel guilty about what they’re cooking/baking/buying/eating. It is not my place to judge, even if I have standards for myself.

Even going out to eat, friends and loved ones fret about whether I’ll have something to eat and I assure them that they don’t need to worry about me. (I can get a pile of lettuce, a hummus plate or a baked potato most places if nothing else.)

One of the hardest situations is when my office goes to happy hour at this Irish pub nearby. It has just about no vegan options. Everyone gets fries covered in cheese and bacon, loaded potato skins, chicken quesadillas and chicken wings. I get … IPAs. I sometimes forage on the fries that aren’t touching any cheese or bacon because after a couple IPAs, I’m tipsy. People are like, “here, share this quesadilla!” I’m hungry and it looks good at the time! In my omnivorous days, I would have loaded up on a little bit of everything. (Poor journalist feasting on the company dime? Hello!) Instead I just say, “I’m good, thanks,” sip on my IPAs, and complain about Seattle traffic with co-workers.

Visiting home, my parents thoughtfully make sure I have some control over my food choices and are always concerned about me having something to eat. Hell, my dad makes me vegan pancakes while whipping up eggs for the rest of the family. They’re super generous. When they express interest in my diet, I want to tell them why I make the choices I do, but I just bite my tongue because I know there’s no point and I don’t want to be a smug vegan. So I just talk up the awesome dishes I tried out that week and when they worry about “don’t you miss ice cream?” or whatever, I plug the other great options I have.

In addition to the “no, thank you”s, I think the best we can do is just love the life we live and be positive ambassadors of our choices.

It’s not about what we “can’t eat,” but what we choose to eat.

No reason to be rude about that.

Have you dealt with food rudeness, as a perpetrator or victim? How do you handle making vegan choices in an omnivore’s world?

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Health Room
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 14:45:08

    Great article.

    I completely agree and i’ve always thought that the in your face approach usually only turns people off finding more about a plant based diet. I feel more comfortable just doing my own thing, without justifying it all the time or preaching to people.

    Also love that line: It’s not about what we “can’t eat,” but what we choose to eat.

    Good stuff.


  2. amy
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 09:38:28

    People are incredibly rude about food. They view it so personally, and tend to take it very personally when you reject their choices or offers, whether it’s for diet or you’re just effing full. There are a lot of articles and op-eds about this, especially around the holidays. It’s usually best to say “No thanks, I’m full” when asked. However, when that doesn’t work … it’s hard. People can be jerks.


  3. cookeasyvegan
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 13:11:49

    I would never say, “that causes cancer” or some other disparaging remark about food offered to me. I agree that a polite refusal is best, and I don’t say any more unless I’m pressed. Also, I won’t discuss why I’m vegan during a meal but offer to discuss it later if the questioner is interested. The other day I happily accepted several food gifts from a good friend who knows I’m vegan, but who must not have read the labels carefully, because two of the items contained things I don’t eat. Oh well. However, I really prefer to eat out in restaurants where I can get a decent vegan meal, and am grateful when friends suggest places where we can all be happy. It’s not that hard to have at least one plant-based menu item. I would ask the Irish pub if they can make one vegan thing. When our office had pizza parties, I asked if some of the pizza could be ordered without cheese. It was an easy solution and it worked for me. The only problem was that other people kept trying to take the cheese-less slices!


    • Lynsi
      Feb 21, 2014 @ 14:30:42

      Totally agreed with you about not discussing veganism at the dinner table – it just feels uncomfortable.

      As for gifts, yes, people don’t read labels (read: my parents), but I don’t blame them because it’s not a habit for most people to check for things like “dehydrated egg whites.” I just pass dairy-laden candy, etc. to friends.


  4. Rikki
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 21:05:17

    Oh yes, when I was veggie, it was years of people just shoving things in my face that I did not want and then asking me awful inane questions. I don’t miss that.


  5. Richa
    Mar 13, 2014 @ 13:04:59

    exactly. i think i end up on the other side of this on the blog like people commenting that i wont eat this because it has soy or has enough oil or something else(even though it is vegan), calling it gross or something else.
    when outside i just ask for something that is vegan on the table, and take more of that.


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