Lunar new year (Chinese new year if you don’t care about being politically correct) is something I really appreciate about my culture. The festive season was much more exciting to me when I was younger but I still look forward to it now as I get to spend some time reconnecting with family and relatives again (it ain’t always about the money money money). This opportunity is especially special to me since I study Australia and only return to Singapore once a year during this period.
The first time I went back home for LNY as a vegan, I knew I was gonna get many non-vegan comments from my mum and aunties. They tried to persuade me to eat meat dishes. “See we cook for you one leh…” (well, not specifically for me right…), “don’t eat meat no energy…”, “aiya… just one time only, no one will know!” (but I will…). I was strong in the beginning, I was going to weather the storm of non-vegan persuasion. Although they said it jokingly, I did feel bad for rejecting their food at reunion dinner, so I did eat the veg from some of the dishes that were cooked with animal stock. I faltered, but I did my best for the first time.
The next year I went back and I was determined to be stricter this time. I thought my mum was getting closer to understanding that this is not a phase I’m going through, that she knew what I could eat and not eat as a vegan. Thus, I thought it was going to be easier for me to enjoy the food during LNY because she could veganise dishes for me. Initially it was all good because I made my meals with my mum, and advised her on what I wanted and didn’t want in my food. I later trusted her when she made meals for me without me looking over her shoulder. However, one time I was eating a dish she served and felt that something didn’t taste right, I questioned her and later found out that it was actually cooked with meat but she simply took it out and served it to me. I felt so betrayed and disappointed. I thought she would have known by now how serious I was about being vegan. I know I couldn’t entirely be mad at her since she made the meal for me and I should be grateful. Maybe it should always be my own responsibility to make sure what I eat is vegan, but I was just so hopeful then that I could enjoy my mum’s cooking without the fear of being fed something non-vegan.
This year, I was certain that I could trust my mum again because she came to visit me in tassie and lived with me for 10 days. She saw how I ate, and did grocery shopping with me, she knows the deal by now. The number of times she told me I should drink milk for strong bones (-_-) had also significantly reduced. MILK MAKES YOUR BONES WEAK! Then came reunion dinner, I didn’t expect much, and I forgot now last years went. I decided to eat my own meal at home before going for the family reunion in case I couldn’t have anything there. If I get really desperate for food at the reunion dinner I’ll just have rice and soy sauce, cause you know, this is Asia. My family uses abalone for yusheng, though it’s an invertebrate, I still don’t know how I feel about eating shellfish, but for this famous LNY dish in Singapore, I didn’t mind picking out the abalone from it. To my surprise my aunties actually prepared a separate plate of shredded veggies for me to “louhei” for myself. Plus, they also cooked a veg stir-fry dish for me, prepared a plate of chopped raw veggies, and a punnet of cherry tomatoes.
Me: Wah! Are these for me? What did I do to deserve this? *touched*
My brother, jokingly: Yeah man, you didn’t even do anything!
Me: But my food was the easiest to prepare!
Such a simple gesture, and it was totally unexpected. The next day when we visited my relatives’s houses, my aunties were always looking out for me, serving me fruit, raw veggies and other vegan snacks that they already had because the most common LNY goodies are non-vegan. I was really impressed. See, it’s so easy to make vegans happy! Just chop up some veggies, and serve them raw, .
One of the challenges of being vegan is handling social situations where you are eating with non-vegans, especially at family meals. There’s always the pressure to fit in and not inconvenient others at the expense of your own ideals. But sometimes you gotta think for yourself because it’s your life. The first time is always the hardest; you gotta push the boundaries if you ever want to see them change. Eventually your friends and family will understand, they’ll see you as their weird vegan friend who eats the way she eats. But it won’t be new to them anymore. Man, I feel so encouraged that even my Asian relatives understood what vegan meant and took me seriously. There is hope!