I am a vegetarian since birth, it is not strange as my parents are also vegetarian, they raise me and my siblings as vegetarians. When we got older, peer pressure (or so we thought) from high school friends made us feel we were different. My parents explained their strong religious, personal and ethical beliefs with us, and strongly suggested benefits of being vegetarian but never really forced us. In a way, it helped me remain vegetarian.
I really never missed not eating meat, although I have eaten it by mistake on a few occasions and my taste buds did not care much for it. As a lifelong vegetarian and aspiring vegan (I eat yogurt and cheese occasionally, no milk, honey, eggs) I have learned to ask ingredients before ordering in restaurant and seeing labels when buying things in a store.
When I got in college, there were fewer of my friends were vegetarian, somehow peer pressure happened to me again. No, I did not started to eat meat but I became silent vegetarian. Meaning, I just ate what I wanted and passed meat around hoping my friends thought I was picky eater instead.
When I was in college, I was invited to thanksgiving party at my friend's parents, when I could not visit my own family during the holidays. I went to my friend's house without telling them my being a vegetarian, hoping it will turn out fine. Unlike my childhood gathering, this gathering had huge selection of turkey and other meat dishes. As a silent vegetarian at the table, I passed everything and took and ate a few side dishes and dessert dish only. I was starving, host saw this and ask why I was not eating much and if food was not to my liking. Very quietly I told I am a vegetarian,
My friend's mom told me to wait and she made some quick vegetable dish for me, I was so thankful. No one there judged me or lectured me on being a vegetarian, even though I was the only vegetarian there. I felt normal and accepted. Since then I have changed and I tell people I am vegetarian and partial vegan before going to gathering and I bring a dish to share, even when gatherings are not potluck. It has two benefits, one I will always have something to eat and often time, my friends actually love eating tasty vegetarian dish.
Why I am telling this story now, after many years? One, if you are vegetarian or vegan or have any other special diet, speak up when you are invited to thanksgiving or any food gathering, or bring a vegetarian/vegan dish to share. If you are hosting thanksgiving party, make sure every one have something to eat. Most meat eaters/omnivores can eat vegetarian or vegan dish, but not the other way around.
When I host any gathering, I ask everyone about their diet choice by phone beforehand. In my circle, some are vegan, some are meat eater, some have diabetes, some have high blood pressure (meaning less salt food), some have nut allergies and some are just plain picky. How do I deal with it all? It is not hard, I make my meals all vegetarian. I use less salt, no nuts in anything, and I use pure molasses as a sugar or splenda for dessert so all of us can eat most of the things. If someone new is coming, I generally call to make sure about them too. My meat eater friends are fine with vegetarian meal for one evening, and some share their mock meat dishes, so this works.
Even though I am no longer silent vegetarian, I am not loud vegetarian. Meaning, I want to respect my own beliefs while maintaining respect for other's beliefs.
Do you have your story to share? I would love to hear if you have suggestions.