Updated: Jan 13
Word of advice: Never tell your mother that you don't want to eat her cooking. Believe me, it'll only lead to side-eyes and perhaps a slap over the head.
One of the hardest things I've had to do as a vegan was tell my parents their food was delicious but I did not want to eat it. My mother, scratched her head and looked at me with her signature side eye. My dad bunched up his face and said, "Girl, are you crazy?" Telling parents who raised you on chitlins, collard greens, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese that you don't want to eat their food anymore is a proverbial slap in the face. To them, your ancestors did not fight for you to up and say you don't want to eat soul food. Grandma is probably turning in her grave.
Even though it was challenging to tell my parents I was a vegan, it was one of the best things I've ever made. It liberated my body, mind and spirit to be honest with them about my dietary choices and my desire to live a long healthy life free of diabetes and other ailments that affect the Black community. Telling them wasn't easy. My parents had quite a few reasons to pop me upside the head and remind me that veganism was never our family tradition.
1. Oh, what, my food isn't good?
Black parents will remind you that they raised you on meat, milk, cheese and eggs and that they worked overtime to put some meat on your plate and you're a damn fool for saying their food doesn't taste good. I've attested to my mom time and time again that her food is the bomb-dot-com but if I don't touch it, she crosses her arms and has an attitude.
2. You used to LOVE McDonald's
My dad never ceases to remind me that I used to jump up and down, sing, dance and damn near choreograph a play on Broadway if he took me to McDonald's. I loved the Happy Meals, the toys, the playground, and everything in between. He reminds me that McDonald's was a treat for me. It stopped being a treat when I was 12 years old and my body weight had gotten so out of control that I could measure my stomach on the wall like I was pregnant. Shortly after the realization that it is not normal for a 12 year old to be this heavy, I ditched the fast food and ran around my local park everyday at 5am for a month. I lost 10 pounds that month and really haven't picked up fast food since.
3. I hate that fake cheese!
My parents are always giving me the side eye when I put some Daiya cheese on a morning bagel or make some nacho cheese for a movie night. "How can you stand that fake cheese?!" they exclaim. Well it's not "fake", it's just different. As much as I don't enjoy vegan cheese, I still use it to replicate the many things that require some sort of cheeziness like Mac N' Cheez and grilled cheese sandwiches. My parents think vegan cheese is an abomination to the planet and the fakest thing they've ever seen. They are always happy to tell me that the real cheese is still out there and I can stop pretending now.
4. That's a white person thing
Black parents along with the rest of the world associate veganism with being a white person phenomena. Like putting raisins in the collard greens. We know damn well that ain't how you do it. Somehow wanting to eat healthy vibrant plant food makes you a bougie a-hole that is disconnected from their heritage. I cannot tell you how many times I've been called an inside-out oreo for simply engaging in things I enjoyed. My parents are quick to tell me that I've sold out the black race by eating kale and drinking green tea.
5. So you think you're bougie now?
There's a common misconception among black people that eating vegan is too expensive. Believe me, I understand that not everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables but I stand firm that black vegans are not trying to act bougie. There are a number of ways I've managed to get fresh food (volunteering, farmers markets, potlucks with friends, etc) that have allowed me to eat a very healthy vegan diet and not have to be wealthy. Many folks in the black community associate healthy food with status and I think there is much truth to that. But I want to repeat for the folks in the back, BLACK VEGANS ARE NOT BOUGIE. We're folks with political, environmental, and health reasons for doing what we're doing. Irregardless of your opinions of us, we still love you, fam.
Despite all of the misconceptions black families project on their vegan family members, it's important to allow us to make our own choices. We're not ungrateful for the many years of eating animal products that helped get us here, but we're grown enough to make different choices. Regardless of what our parents say, staying true to ourselves will always win in the end. Fam, it's never too late to jump on the vegan train.