After reading an article in the newspaper in response to this question about holiday meals, I wrote my own response because meals are more than simply nourishing our bodies. They nourish our family's soul.
My husband and I are looking forward to hosting our children and grandchildren over the holidays — or were. We were recently informed that our 30-something daughter and two of her children have decided to go completely “vegan” and gluten-free and will only eat food that is devoid of any and all animal and wheat products.
I have always cooked for omnivores. Now I’m informed that I must prepare one meal for 10 people and another entirely separate meal for three people.
Furthermore, my daughter has informed me that should I regard cooking two meals as a hassle, they will bring their own food. Am I right in thinking that there’s something very self-centered about telling someone they must cooperate in your dietary choices or you will bring your own food? If so, what is your advice?
Food is not only a life-sustaining necessity, but it also comforts and connects. That is particularly true with meals prepared and shared during the holidays. We wrap memories around our holiday meals, so changing the way we eat has an impact on everyone. Three decades ago, my husband and I decided to become vegetarians, and I remember our first Christmas with my family after our big decision. I felt a deep pang watching everyone eat my mother’s turkey and dressing. It wasn’t about missing the taste, although it sure smelled and looked great! It was about missing out on sharing the food that my mother had so lovingly prepared for everyone. It was missing out on a part of the holiday ritual.
There are steps that you can take to have a wonderful holiday with this big change. First of all, know that that their decision to eat differently has nothing to do with the beautiful food you prepare or how well you take care of your family. This awareness can assist you in honoring their decision to eat more consciously without taking it personally. Secondly, become more curious about their decision. This can assist you in shifting from it being a burden for you to being something to learn about and share with your family. Whether it is for ethical, ecological, or health reasons, your daughter and granddaughters have decided to eat differently. Although that decision is more mainstream than it was three decades ago, it still sets them apart in your family. If you focus on the connection – which is what the holidays are all about – you will feel more serene.
You have the job of setting the boundary that feels best for you. Boundaries are self-respecting and they respect others. Your daughter has offered to bring food. Say “Yes!” Let her know your menu and see what dishes they can eat. Ask them to bring gluten free pie crusts or to prepare desserts to share. Make their decision the beginning of a conversation rather than simply a “declaration” that you have to handle.
On that first Christmas with my parents, we brought vegetarian dishes that we could share with our family, and we ate the vegetables that my mother had prepared. My family really loved what we brought and asked that we bring it back the following year. We created a new ritual, new comforts, and new ways to connect. You can do that, too, and thoroughly enjoy your family over the holidays!