Here’s How I Learned To Adapt To Being Vegetarian Despite Living In A Family That Craves Carne
I grew up eating a lot of red meat in my family. As a Cubana, it was not unusual for all of our meals to consist of the basics: rice, beans, fried sweet plantains, and some kind of carn. Of course, sometimes there was pollo or lechon or pescado, but mostly bistec. As I grew up, however, I began to explore my options. I started eating salad and, slowly, decided to drop a lot of my meat consumption to become a flexitarian (a flexible vegetarian, meaning I only ate meat a few days a week). Eventually, though, I took it a step further and became a vegetarian. And that’s where the weirdness with my family began.
There’s no doubt about the fact that many Latinx families come with a lot of meat in their diets. We grow up on the stuff, whether you’re from Cuba or Mexico or Argentina or Colombia. Meat is a staple and, in fact, meat is the basis of our diet. My family always focused on eating meat, so when I went vegetarian, they simply weren’t sure what to do with me. It made for a lot of awkward conversations and many, many months of weird dinners… But, eventually, they came around. Still, I learned a thing or two about what it is like to be a Latina and a vegetarian, so here are 20 things that happen when you stop eating meat in a Latinx family.
Still, I learned a thing or two about what it is like to be a Latina and a vegetarian, so here are 20 things that happen when you stop eating meat in a Latinx family.
1. You have to tell to your entire family.pattiecordova/Instagram
It may sound silly, but telling your Latino family that you’re a vegetarian can be tough. It’s a weird thing and they will most definitely be confused at first.
2. You have to explain to your family what a vegetarian actually is.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
For one thing, your family might not know what a vegetarian actually is. “You don’t eat meat?” they will ask. They will ask more, too, like what it is you’re actually eating… and how you plan to get your protein.
3. You have to say, “No, abuela, I don’t eat pork either” several times.soynotsorrymomma/Instagram
Abuela, and all of your other older relatives, simply won’t understand the difference between meat and, um, not meat. They will ask you whether you still eat fish or pork or chicken. No, grandma, those all count as meat. They won’t get it, though.
4. You explain to your mami that you can now eat all the frijoles she will make.limonysalventura/Instagram
Luckily, you can tell your mami some good news: Frijoles! Beans of any and every kind are definitely on the menu when you’re Latinx and vegetarian, so go ahead and indulge.
5. You tell your family the differences between a vegetarian and a vegan.vegansazon/Instagram
Whether you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, your family will ask you what each term mean. In fact, if you’re anything like my papi, they will ask you over and over again. “So you still eat cheese?” he says. Yes, dad, I still eat cheese. And eggs. “I’m not a vegan,” I remind him.
6. You show up to your first post-vegetarian fiesta and realize there’s nothing vegetarian to eat.pattiecordova/Instagram
After all of your months of explaining what a vegetarian is, you show up to your first family party only to find out that nobody was actually paying attention. It’s kind of sad, honestly, and you’re not sure what to do. This happens to all of us, trust me.
7. You get redirected to the chips and salsa at this fiesta, but seriously. Nothing. Else. At. All.julesdroolz/Instagram
The chips and salsa are pretty safe, thank goodness. But that’s pretty much it. There isn’t much else you can be having at the party, since even your tia’s special beans are made with bacon and lard. Whoops.
8. You have to smile politely when tia asks you why you aren’t eating.dania_alexandrino/Instagram
Why are you not eating? Gee, what can I say? It’s impossible to not feel a little annoyed when, at this first fiesta as a vegetarian, your family continuously questions why your plate is empty. Do you really have to explain… again?
9. You stuff your face with dessert.bemariel2/Instagram
So, since you can’t eat much, you decide to go for dessert. Don’t mind me, tio, if I have a third and fourth serving of flan. Seriously, it’s basically the only safe thing on the table so indulging is quite okay.
10. You tell your family, again, what a vegetarian is.un_erika/Instagram
After this disappointing party, more questions arise. You have to tell your family once more what a vegetarian is. You remind them that they don’t have to put bacon in the beans and that they can leave the chicken off of the salad so that you have some options too. They listen. Sorta?
11. You promise yourself that you will just bring a dish next time.itssophialike/Instagram
You realize that the best way for you to ensure that you have a good time at the next party is to just bring your own dish. It sounds challenging, sure, and you don’t think you can ever top abuelita’s pernil, but you vow to try.
12. You spend hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect vegetarian Latin dish.mzzcin/Instagram
Thanks to the power of the internet, being Latina and a vegetarian is much easier these days. I can spend hours on Pinterest (and often have) looking for the perfect recipe. It’s a difficult and delicious job, but somebody has to do it.
13. You spend hours making the food. You even do a practice run first.miss_lady_tita/Instagram
One sure-fire way to make sure that you bring a good dish to the best party is to do a dry run with it. I spend however long I need to spend mastering a recipe, then bring it to friends for a try. If they like it, I make it a few more times to make sure I have it perfect. After all, it needs to be perfect before introducing la familia to it.
14. You show up with your fantastic dish… that nobody eats.eatyourhealthyout/Instagram
You finally did it! Your dish is the best, and you’re sure that your family is going to enthusiastically try your Latin-inspired vegetarian dish. It’s delicious and you know it, so you bring it to the party… only to find out that it’s not really as well-received as you thought. In fact, other than your cousin/BFF, nobody else tries it. Whomp whomp.
15. You spend several months doing this, over and over again.renegoesazuls197/Instagram
But you know that you can’t give up. Your family won’t accept your vegetarianism in one go, so you have to just keep going. Instead of moping around, you continue to eat vegetarian and continue to cook Latin vegetarian dishes. You learn more, you cook more, and you master a few more recipes to have in your back pocket.
16. You delight when some family members slowly begin to try your vegetarian dishes and do NOT hate them.pattiecordova/Instagram
At some point, realizing that you aren’t going to easily give up this whole vegetarian thing, your family starts coming around. Mami finally tries your deliciously weird vegan dish and papi even promises to give it a try next time. I mean, okay, not this time… but that’s still progress, amirite?
17. You get nervous about the holidays.panjabgrill/Instagram
However, the holidays are around the corner, and you know that this spells trouble. It’s not going to be easy to be a vegetarian in a Latino household over the holidays. Between the pork and the pork and the pork, you aren’y sure what the meal will bring. You brace yourself to starve all night.
18. You plot out how to say “no” again. And again. And again.vio3tx/Instagram
But before you even get there, you have to get ready for the emotional warfare that is going to go on as you gather around the holiday dinner table with your non-vegetarian family. It’s going to be tough and you are going to have to really put your foot down here. It won’t be easy.
19. You get ready to disappoint your family because, yes, you’re still a vegetarian.bowlofbeans/Instagram
You know that the holidays aren’t going to be easy. Not only are you going to have to say “no” a lot, but you might even be disappointing your family because you can’t eat your abuelita’s specialty or your mami’s famous dish. How do you overcome that? Well, you just have to try.
20. You are shocked to find out that they finally have accepted it. Sort of, anyway.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Thankfully, though, after months and months of trying, some of your family actually comes around. Your mom admits to liking some of your vegetarian food and your dad even says he’s dropped a few pounds since he started eating salads. It might take a while before they’re full into it but, well, they’re finally ready to support you. Most of the time, anyway.
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