I was recently at a family reunion of sorts. The traditional kind of summer picnic where the only thing available for us vegans is fruit salad, potato chips, and the standard burger topping sandwich: a bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mustard. Who hasn’t resorted to this meal at a family picnic before?!
This picnic honored my grandmother and her wonderful talent for creating baked goods. There were all kinds of sweet treats: cookies, cakes, and several flavors of good old fashioned Jello fruit salad. Determined to consume a rare dessert in my grandmother’s honor, I chose the Jello salad with pineapple, so as not to consume the dairy-based cake frostings and egg-filled cookies.
As I finished the last bite, I remembered with horror that Jello is made from gelatin, an animal-derived product. Here I was, queen of nutrition, and I was so distracted with visiting my family that I completely forgot this dessert was animal-based. I exclaimed out loud, “OH NO! I just ate gelatin!” to which my mom replied, “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” It’s such a mom instinct, protecting your kid’s feelings above all else.
Problem is, I kind of hurt my own feelings by eating the Jello by mistake. I might have preferred it if mom had spoken up and stopped me. Looks like I lost my vegan card…AGAIN. At this point I realized that I also forgot to check the sandwich bun ingredients for milk or eggs, so there were likely more indiscretions that day.
My perceptive mother could sense my internal battle, so she reminded me that health was not about perfection. I agree with her, but I also think the animal who gave its life for that gelatin is not feeling so healthy thanks to my choice. We all deserve health and happiness in my opinion.
I wanted to share this story because I think it is easy to slip up when you are starting a vegan lifestyle. It is also easy to slip up when you have been vegan for years. It happens, especially during travel and special events, when food ingredients may be less under your control. I argue that to give up on travel or family is to compromise your health and happiness in other ways.
So if you slip up, just renew your vegan card with the next meal. It never expires as long as you continue to feel committed and compassionate towards yourself and towards animals. Remember, you are an animal too, so give yourself the same love you show all other living things.