DEAR ABBY: I am writing about the letter from "Turkey Eater in Texas," who resented having a vegan Thanksgiving to accommodate two family members. I think your answer missed what being a gracious host is about. The entire meal shouldn't have to consist of vegan items. However, it wouldn't be a big deal to serve a vegan main dish and have those individuals also bring their favorite items. Making them bring a complete meal excludes them from a family gathering, and what fun is that?
After your column ran, my father called to tell me that holiday dinners would no longer accommodate my daughter's celiac disease. She's 9 and struggles with being "different." When she ingests gluten, she has cramps and vomiting, loses weight and risks significant long-term consequences.
Next year, we will host the holiday dinners. Our extended family can join us - or not. The bottom line is that if you exclude family (for being vegan or having celiac disease), you've done the opposite of what holidays are about.
- Kaye in Alabama
DEAR KAYE: That's true. What bothered me about the letter from "Turkey Eater" was the idea that his brother expected him to cater the entire Thanksgiving dinner to his nieces' preference to eat vegan. If the writer had said he had been asked to ensure there were dishes that would not inflame (literally) his nieces' serious medical condition, I would have answered differently.
What has surprised me about the comments I have received from readers about that letter has been the amount of prejudice and anger expressed against vegetarians by more than a few. But read on for some responses from vegans:
DEAR ABBY: I am a vegan in a meat-and-potatoes family. For 15 years I have spent every holiday and family gathering listening to them degrade my food choices and try to "convert" me back to my "senses." I have never expected them to cook for me. I always pack my own foods since they are unwilling to branch out and try new foods. When I have brought a dish, they all loved it, as long as they didn't know it was vegan and that I had prepared it.
I find many people are resentful if we host a dinner party with only vegan food. They expect us to accommodate them by cooking meat but feel we should fend for ourselves at a function they hold. I encourage people to please get over the stigma of vegan/vegetarian and sample something new once in a while. If I can endure every family gathering taking place at a steakhouse, I don't think it's unreasonable to have one night when they experience how tasty food without meat in it can be.
- Rachel in Seattle
DEAR ABBY: I chose veganism for many reasons, none of which is to be a pain in the keister - either by lecturing/scolding others, or by having high-maintenance expectations. I feel it's important to be flexible, especially at get-togethers. What I value most about holidays is sharing a meal with people I love. If I want a completely vegan Thanksgiving, it should be one that I host and prepare. To expect that of nonvegetarians is not only unreasonable, but also difficult, since many people are inexperienced in how to cook vegan.
My family Thanksgiving has an array of omnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Dad loves to cook and makes sure there's something for everyone. I help bake pies, others bring a vegan dish and everyone is content. Sometimes the vegetarian dishes are so delicious, the omnivores salivate.
Mutual respect is of utmost importance. Being militant or demanding can bring a negative perspective to vegetarianism. If we want others to empathize with us, we need to do the same.